Playing with fire: Martina Fajkuska lights up the Vineyard

Fire dancer Martina Fajkusova. — Photo courtesy of Martina Fajkusova

Martina Fajkuska of Oak Bluffs loves to play with fire, and one of the many places this vagabond loves is the Vineyard. The 33-year-old Czech Republic native has taught herself how to dance with fire in performances that are dramatic and beautiful.

With wavy, sun-bleached blonde hair, the wiry Ms. Fajkuska is tanned from working outdoors this summer for Evangeline & Co. Landscape Design in Oak Bluffs. A fourth of July performance for a private party found her high above Nantucket Sound on Prospect Hill, spinning fire patterns against a backdrop of the Elizabeth Islands.

“Everything is through friends,” she says, explaining how she gets the word out. She wraps her equipment, which includes chains, batons, and hula-hoops, in Kevlar, the synthetic fiber used in armor, and uses lamp oil to light the fires she spins into artful patterns. No special clothing is necessary, she says. And, no, she’s never caught her hair on fire. “Everything must be safe, of course,” she says.

A perennial world traveler and adventurer, Ms. Fajkuska landed on-Island through a student visa in 2002. She had recently completed her Master’s degree in economics at the Technical University of Ostrava.

She liked the Island so much she stayed for the winter, working at Our Market in Oak Bluffs, and doing odd jobs and home care, like so many others who wash ashore and want to stay.

“It was different,” she says of the Vineyard. “It was beautiful and a good place to save money.” Her passion then was snowboarding, and she hoped to pursue it in Colorado.

She had seen fire dancers at techno parties in the Czech Republic and admired their skill. Then when she was visiting Las Vegas, she met two Germans who had the chains that fire dancers use to create spinning flame patterns in the air. They had picked up the chains in Thailand but never used them and decided to give them to Ms. Fajkuska.

A gymnast until 10 who studied judo until she was 18, becoming a member of the national judo team, she felt an affinity for fire dancing and began practicing after meeting Eric Shreck, who worked with her at Third World Trading Post in Oak Bluffs and also did fire spinning. The sport — or art — originated in New Zealand among the native Maoris, Ms. Fajkuska says.

She signed up for a three-day spinning and fire arts camp in Ashford, Conn., called Wildfire, which hooked her.

“You meet all these people,” she says of the camp. “It’s a community experience, very intense.” Each workshop demonstrated different styles and props — batons, hula hoops, fire darts.

When her mother became ill in 2006, Ms. Fajkuska returned to the Czech Republic, and by the next year, she landed her first professional performance in Bratislava, Slovakia, formerly part of Czechoslovakia.

“It was amazing,” she says. “I realized this is how I can make money.” The event took place in conjunction with a cruise ship going down the Vltava River that runs through Prague. She stood on shore spinning her flaming chains while those on the ship watched.

Always one to explore her talents and improve her skills, Ms. Fajkuska attended a juggling convention in Karlsruhe, Germany. A stint as a street performer in Barcelona, Spain, followed. With fire regulations tight in that city, she moved on to Morocco, performing for a wealthy Frenchman’s 40th birthday party.

Deciding it was time to settle down and try out the kind of career her academic training had prepared her for, Ms. Fajkuska returned to the Czech Republic to work as a project manager for the European Union. “I didn’t like office work,” she says.

One of the friends Ms. Fajkuska made while living on the Vineyard was journalist Jib Ellis, who had moved to Stewart, Fla., and now calls her his daughter. Florida became her next stop, but not for long.

Ms. Fajkuska took off for the Dominican Republic, this time to learn surfing. A two-week stay turned into six after she fell in love with the sport. When her adoptive father underwent back surgery, Ms. Fajkuska decided to stay and care for him.

2010 found her back on the Vineyard, followed by excursions to Morocco, Berlin, and the D.R. Now she has returned to the Island, landscaping by day and fire spinning at night.

August will find her performing at the Agricultural Fair, and she plans a series of events in Oak Bluffs.

The end of the Island summer season will take her first to Costa Rica for surfing, then Peru, where she plans to teach Peruvian girls how to fire dance. After that, who knows? At least until October of this year, she’s available for weddings, birthdays, and private parties.

You can find her online at, on Facebook by searching Firetripper, and You Tube by searching Fajkuska.