Erin Hunter is quite the daredevil.
The belly dancer from Edina, Minnesota, USA, can balance 30 swords on her body and has achieved the record title for the most swords balanced on the body in one minute.
There was a very specific reason Erin wanted to attempt such a feat.
She first learned how to balance swords on her body in 2004 when she began taking Middle Eastern dance classes.
“I’ve struggled with a critical and downright mean inner voice for many years now and I really wanted to prove to myself that I am capable of doing big, scary things,” said Erin.
I felt if I could break a world record that would be further proof to myself that I am determined, committed, and capable of just about anything. And if I couldn’t break a record, I still had focus, passion, and resilience.
Erin usually balances one or two swords on her body at the most while she is dancing at stage shows, renaissance festivals, or private events.
But for the record attempt, Erin decided to try her hand at balancing 30 at once.
“Balancing 30 swords was more difficult than I originally thought,” she said.
“When I dance with one or two swords balanced, they are usually on my head which is difficult in itself – a dancer must work with hair texture, the performance space (outdoor performances seem to summon the wind once swords are balanced) and the body movements and choreography.”
During her time as a performer, Erin has heard many theories from audience members.
People seem to believe the dancers have magnets on their heads so that the swords stick to them, or that the performers wear clips in their hair to set the swords in.
“I can tell you that this is false, and I’ve dropped many a sword off my head while dancing,” said Erin.
Balancing 30 swords to break the record brought in new elements I’ve not worked with before.
Erin says she faced battles such as how dry her skin happened to be that day or being careful not to flex muscles and tip the swords off.
“The position I held my body in to create optimal balancing conditions and the domino effect one sword slipping off would have on the others,” she said.
“I truly realized I could achieve the record once I had all 30 swords in my possession and gave it a shot.”
Erin trained multiple times each week for 15 to 30 minutes each time.
Each training session consisted of her and her husband setting up the swords on high stools, getting her seated position right, and timing each attempt.
They would then briefly talk about what went wrong or what could have been improved for the next attempt.
She says the position she has to hold her body in while balancing 30 swords is pretty tough on her hips in particular.
There isn’t a lot of room for movement to keep the swords from teeter-tottering so once she begins balancing the swords, her hips are prevented from shifting even slightly.
If something hurts enough that she needs to stop and readjust, it can take some time to remove all the swords, even with help from someone.
Balancing a sword or two while dancing can be tricky for Erin as well.
“Certain muscles need to stay relaxed so as not to bump the swords and increase their likelihood of slipping,” she said.
I’m also aware of where my hands and arms are moving through space, so I don’t knock into a sword.
Although it may seem like quite a daring feat to many, Erin isn’t necessarily scared of performing it.
However, she does think about the feeling of the balanced swords during her choreography and has some short-lived tense moments if she feels even the slightest shift in a sword.
Although she has never been seriously hurt while attempting to balance swords on her body, she did sustain a papercut-sized scratch on her arm during a performance this year.
“The swords are not battle-ready sharp, but they are still swords,” said Erin.
“They can certainly cut things given enough force, but I always make sure that I’m not working with a blade that can easily slice anything, even if it means I have to get my dremel out and dull some edges.”
Erin says she felt a sense of accomplishment after learning she had broken the record.
She set the goal almost a year ago and followed through with it, even though there were many times she wanted to quit.
“It was an incredible feeling! I perform in the company of other record holders and wanted to ‘join the club’ as it were,” said Erin.
It still feels a little surreal to know I’ve broken a Guinness World Records title.
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