Blog

Fire as a Partner and Teacher

It took me a year, but I love this photo. I never shared it originally because I was self conscious of the wrinkles illuminated by the flames.
Traveling Circus 1

There’s nothing like a year of massive change, coming to terms with your past, and holding yourself more accountable for your actions to reframe your thoughts about growing older. It’s difficult to believe that I have been fire dancing for almost half of my life now.

As I mature with this element it continues to teach me about how I should exist in this world: how to be soft as well as fierce, how to respect nature, how to be confident in myself but always willing to shine a light on those areas I can grow. It has demonstrated the need to acknowledge the duality of lightness and darkness within myself and around me. Most importantly it is very real reminder that everything is always changing, that one day I will fade too. Dancing with fire is inviting both creation and destruction into partnership.

I love watching dancers in relationship with the flames twirling around them. During my first few burns there was definitely a connection, a fearful one! As I got more comfortable, especially as I started performing, I allowed myself to grow detached. I focused on how to impress the audience, seeing the fire solely as a tool for doing so. To my novice self, nonchalantness was a mark of a good fire dancer.

Maturing as a performer demanded I reframe my experience with the audience from a one way exchange of energy to a two way exchange. From a spectacle of talent to an offering within a shared experience. It wasn’t until much later that I realized maturing as a FIRE performer demanded I reframe my experience with fire in a similar way. It required that I stay present to interact authentically, to give and receive energy from the flames just as I do with the audience.

This all sounds very esoteric, but the practice of it can begin with real life observation during your next burn. Notice how you interact with the fire throughout the course of your burn. How does the size of the flame impact the way you manipulate the prop, the way you move your body, or even how you are feeling?

What is your awareness of the fire around you? When are the moments of synergy and when does it feel discordant? When are you less aware of the fire and what are you more aware of in those moments?

Notice right before, while lighting the prop, and just after. What emotions do you experience there? How do you begin to move the prop and your body?

How do you extinguish your prop? Do you let it slowly burn out or extinguish it quickly? There is an energy to each that can be explored. Once again how do you choose to move with the fading flames and how do you choose to move when they are gone?

These are just suggestions on how to begin the process. If you are a performer you can also begin to think about how you will invite the audience in on this drama.

As we grow in our fire dance journeys we should develop our receptiveness to the lessons of this partnership. Nature has so much to teach us and as a fire dancer I make beautiful art with a part of nature that determined the evolution of humanity. It has been one of the most powerful, humbling relationships of my life.

Hiring a Fire Dancer

Fire Halloween Burlesque
Photo by Amy Vaughn Photography

There’s no doubt a fire show makes for a memorable event. But how do you go about hiring a fire dancer and what things do you have to keep in mind? What follows is a list of common concerns that must be addressed when deciding whether or not this entertainment is right for your next occasion. The following information specifically pertains to me, but provides a good guideline for hiring similar entertainers as well.

Safety

The element of danger is what makes a fire performance so alluring. With over a decade of experience I have had the opportunity to perform with fire in a variety of settings. I am insured through Specialty Insurance Agency and am happy to send you a certificate of insurance or add you as an additional insured for your event. I have also received a fire safety certification through the Flow Arts Institute.

Depending on the size of the show, one or two fire safeties will accompany me. They have the same fire safety certification through the Flow Arts Institute that I do and have also attended several hours of in-person rehearsal with me. Many of them are fire performers as well. The safety of your audience and venue is their number one priority.

I will always provide equipment for extinguishing fires (duvetyne blankets, wet towels, and fire extinguishers) as well as proper holding and carrying equipment for fuel.

Permitting

Hiring a fire performer may mean you are required to apply for proper permitting. I am happy to help advise you through this process and can even fill out the application for an extra administrative fee. Please feel free to visit my contact page and reach out to me for any information on this.

Whether or not you need a permit varies depending on your location and the type of the event you are holding. I’m based out of Tacoma, WA and often send people to the City of Tacoma’s page for special event permits.

Give yourself ample time to apply for permitting. For example, in Tacoma you have to make sure your permit is turned in 14 days before your event. Really, just give yourself ample time even if you don’t need a permit. Coordination for a fire dancing performance is more in depth and the more time I have the better. Plus, my weekends fill up fast!

Space

Space is a huge consideration to take into account when you are planning to hire a fire performer. Without the proper space, a fire show cannot go on.

Yes, I can and have done indoor fire shows. Proper ventilation (I cannot stress this enough), proximity of exits from stage, ceiling height, nearby wires or outlets, and flammability of surrounding area/decor are just a few things to keep in mind. These are important to consider for outdoor shows as well. Pictures and/or a walk through of the event space will be required (possibly at an extra cost).

Regardless of whether the show is indoors or outdoors there needs to be at least 15 feet of space between myself and the audience, sometimes more. Physical barriers such as caution tape may need to be used depending on the venue and nature of the event so the audience cannot just walk through my performance area.

I perform rain or shine, but do take into account your audience and how they can enjoy the show if inclement weather looks to be an issue. I’m happy to plan options that work best for you. Winds above 15 MPH can be problematic, we’ll discuss on a case by case basis.

There also needs to be a well ventilated space away from the performance area and audience where I can fuel my props and store them while I am performing. This space needs to be secure.

Cost

Fire performing is risky and requires proper training, equipment, paid safety personnel, and a lot of rehearsal time plus continuing education. The booking process/preparation is more in depth, the logistics during the show are more complex, and even the tear down after the show requires a lot of work. Plus it takes a physical toll on my body, my equipment, and the environment. The cost of my performance has to reflect all this. Prices vary depending on the nature and length of the performances but starting price for a fire performance will never be less than $200, and it is often more.

Please be prepared for this and understand that these prices have been determined through a decade of experience. I am willing to work with people/organizations on a budget but if I feel that the quality of the performance will suffer or anyone’s safety will be compromised I will suggest one of my many fun performance options without fire instead.

And so…

I hope you still want to hire a fire dancer like myself at your next event! Despite the added complexities, the spectacle that I present will be unforgettable for your audience. It is a passion of mine that I love to share with others. Please feel free to contact me with any additional questions you may have as this article was only intended to address the most common concerns. Happy event planning!

 

Priscilla from Tacoma, WA

“…I take Hoop Classes with Catherine. She is absolutely amazing! Such a patient, caring and compassionate instructor. She does a phenomenal job at explaining complicated moves, and deconstructing them down so they are easy to understand and achieve. Catherine takes the time to work with each person individually and with a light and loving heart. Every class is so much fun! I can’t wait to take her belly dance classes next! Dancing can be a vulnerable art. To have an instructor you feel safe with is what keeps me going.”