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Fire-knife dancers head to Hawaii for championship juggling

Big wave surfers aren’t the only ones who face dangerous competitions on Oahu’s North Shore. In mid-May, fire-knife jugglers will gather there to compete in an international contest of skill and artistry.

The World Fireknife Dance Championships draw competitors from the Pacific islands and beyond to the Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore.

The competition, which draws contestants as young as 6 years old, is part of the We Are Samoa Festival. The roots of the tradition -- in which jugglers can get cut or burned -- started in that island nation.

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During three nights of heated (really) competition, contestants combine athleticism and cultural artistry as they perform to the beat of traditional drums. Wearing native costumes, they balance, toss and twirl two or three flaming fire knives at a time.

In 2015, Joseph Cadousteau of Tahiti won the championship for the third time, earning the $5,000 first prize. A local, Mikaele Oloa of Waialua, was first runner-up.

Visitors also can watch students from across Hawaii participate in the festival’s other contest, the High School Samoan Cultural Arts Festival. Held the morning of May 14, teens are quizzed on their knowledge of Samoan culture in categories such as coconut husking, dance and fire making.

Admission to the student arts festival requires a full-day pass to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Samoa is one of the countries represented at the tourist attraction in the town of Laie.

Tickets to the preliminary rounds of the fireknife competition May 12 and 13 cost $10. Entry to the May 14 finals requires purchase of a reserved seat ticket to “Ha: Breath of Life,” the center’s evening performance. Tickets start at $49.95. A caution: the event typically sells out.

Info: World Fireknife Dance Championships, (800) 367-7060

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