How does an oceanographer end up playing with fire?
If you want my wacky fire backstory, keep reading:
I started playing with fire around 2012, and it was so that I could perform something special at a friend’s wedding. I learned both the mechanics of spinning and fire safety from the amazing Claire de Luxe, who is an incredibly talented performer and teacher.
At that time, fire performance was still almost entirely an underground venture in NYC. Legal fire was rare, but fire sets in warehouse parties were hugely popular. My life was changed when Flambeaux, performer extraordinaire and fire pioneer, began The Calling.
The Calling is an immersive fire show. It’s a musical that played out over five episodes in about as many years. It happened in warehouses throughout Brooklyn, and it got bigger each time.
Immersive fire is pretty risky business, but it certainly does get your attention. I fell in love with the concept and went from working the door at the first episode to working safety, performing a bit, and eventually directing safety for the last two episodes.
I got involved because I fell in love with the art. But once I started, I saw that my background at sea was oddly helpful, because I was well prepared for doing very dangerous things that require a lot of close attention but also a lot of repetition.
Fire provides a playground for nerds of all types. I learned about fuel mixes under the guidance of fire legend Abby Hertz, and did some risk assessment on the earlier performances to present to the FDNY to help convince them we could do this safely and legally (which we did!)
Many people associate fire spinning with Burning Man, and for good reason. When the Man burns each year, fire spinners from around the world assemble to perform.
In 2014, I performed with the Empire Fire Collective. It’s a particularly intense way to experience the Burn!
Just For Fun (& Safety!)
These days, I mostly spin fire in my own backyard or at local parties (local meaning the Hudson Valley).
I’m still really in to fire safety, and still do a little fire safety consulting from time to time.
If YOU want to learn to spin fire, please do so responsibly by learning from experienced spinners and taking a fire safety class (ideally in person, but you can start with the excellent online course offered by the Flow Arts Institute). In NYC, I highly recommend learning fire safety from Tara McManus via Combustion Inc., which will also teach you how to get certified by the FDNY.