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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 4 years ago

Too hot to handle? Seabreeze grad throws, twirls fire at local luaus

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Seabreeze graduate Chuck Morel performs as Samoan fire-knife dancer in local luau shows.

BY WAYNE GRANT | STAFF WRITER

Chuck Morel, a 1993 graduate of Seabreeze High School, knew music would be his life’s calling when he was a kid, growing up in Hawaii.

“A friend of mine played the guitar really well, and it was songs that I knew,” he said. “I started to sing along. It amazed me. I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

Fulfilling his dream, he is now a full-time musician. But “full-time” might actually be an understatement: He also performs a solo act with an acoustic guitar, playing at bars and restaurants all over town; he’s the lead singer in a reggae cover band called Click; and he’s a singer, guitarist and master of ceremonies in the Ohana Luau Show at the Hawaiian Inn, in Daytona Beach Shores.

During the summer, he’s in the luau show four nights per week, and he often plays a late-night gig with Click after a solo performance at a restaurant happy hour.

“I can take it easier in the winter,” he said.

But overall, he's not taking it easier. He has expanded his act in the luau, performing as the Samoan fire-knife dancer.

Although Morel was born in Honolulu, he actually learned how to fire-dance in Daytona Beach. He started as a guitarist in the luau and learned the dance from another performer.

“At first, the fire was scary, but I said I would try it,” he said. “I was performing onstage a few months later. I ended up loving it. The effect of the flame makes it very cool,”

Using skills he developed when he studied martial arts as a kid, he spins, throws and catches the knife in an acrobatic, fast-paced dance on a darkened stage.

Patti Santiago, of Ormond Beach, who runs the food and beverage for the dinner show, said the show “builds a lot of excitement.”

Morel learned to twirl swords in martial arts when he was younger. At age 9, he was a Taekwondo black belt and, at age 11, he was named grand champion of Louisiana in kung fu and Taekwondo in championship matches at the Superdome,  in Louisiana.

In addition to performing the dance, Morel also emcees, teaching patrons how to hula onstage.

“We have a lot of fun,” Santiago said.

Morel was also in a band called Seven Sisters that played around Central Florida, including at the House of Blues and Hard Rock Life in Orlando.

After first learning the fire-knife dance, he said he “got cocky.” He had a trick where he let the knife rest on his foot and then flipped it up. One night, he flipped it up to his face and gave himself a second-degree burn. That's when he got a new respect for the dance.

“It humbles you real quick when you get burned,” he said. He does even more hazardous tricks these days, though, but his skills have also improved.

And don't worry: The night he got burned, he made sure to finish his act.

“It’s show business,” he said. “You have to just grimace and keep going.”

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