5 questions: Emily Quant | Upland Current

Garrison’s Emily Quant is a fire-spinning belly dancer. Later this month, she will attempt to set a world record in epee balance.

Was this the career path recommended by your high school counselor?
Nope! I was going to major in philosophy, you know, aim for the big bucks, then go into one of the sciences. But in middle school I realized how much I missed dancing – I had been dancing since I was 5. So I danced professionally, including with contemporary companies in New York. A few years ago, I didn’t play much anymore. I’m 41 years old; my body was changing. I wanted to keep dancing – I can be a philosopher when I’m 78 – so in 2019 I started my own company, The Pyro Department.

What prompted you to break the sword balance record?
I have a ballet background so balancing was easy. During the pandemic I had no shows, so for fun I started demonstrating sword balancing via Zoom. People got really excited. It took me a year to be able to balance 21 swords at once. It takes a lot of strength. The swords weigh 2 pounds each and at one show I balanced 61. It’s intense. They are dull swords, but they can still cut me when they fall. I started thinking about doing sword balancing as a show at Renaissance fairs. I thought I was onto something: it’s hard to find something that isn’t already a world record.

How are you going to set the record?
I go for most swords balanced in one minute and most in three minutes. I have to swing at least 12 in one minute and at least 30 in three minutes for it to be recognized as a record; it’s difficult! I can position myself however I want. An assistant will hand me each sword and I will place them on my body, one at a time. I need to document the attempt on video and have three witnesses. The rules are numerous: limitation of the size and curvature of the swords, no sticky substances, no drying agents for the skin. I will make the attempt in Salem, Massachusetts, at the end of this month.

What is the rotation of fire?
This is mainly what I do. You use metal or wooden props with Kevlar wicks soaked in white gas. They become fire accessories. It’s like having a dance partner without having to hire one. It’s like juggling. You learn movements and techniques without fire. With repetition, it becomes more relaxed, more fluid. I always have someone with me who has taken a course in fire safety. If someone in our field has an accident, it brings everyone down.

Where do you play?
Mainly in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. About 70% of my business comes from thebash.com, where you can book any type of artist, from fire dancers and balloon flyers to singing telegrams, cartoonists and aerialists. People also reserve me for pyrodept.com. We’ll be playing Kingdom Faire, the pirate show in Putnam Valley, on April 30th. I wanted to do this show because pirates and swords go so well together!

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