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Detroit Fire Guild heats up with new show

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to hang out with The Detroit Fire Guild, a collaborative group that performs with fire, during an open practice. They’re a pretty amazing group of people; I was warmly welcomed and invited to play along.

While I didn’t get to see any fire that day, their community spirit and talent was inspiring. I can’t wait to see their new show, Fires of Beltane, at the end of the month and pop by a few more open practices and play.

Below is a conversation with Chrissie Bingham (stage name: Majic), one of the organizers of DFG. I didn’t want to mire the great things she had to say, so I left it in an interview format.

DFG member Stephanie Colasanti during open practice. Scroll down for more photos and event info.

DM: Would you say that you are performers at heart who happen to work with fire?

CB: Most definitely! While many of the people we play and work with do fire arts for a hobby or for meditation, I feel like the majority of us play with fire to inspire others. Many of us come from theatrical, art or dance backgrounds and fire is our common thread. We use fire to accentuate our dancing and to add an element of danger and wonder to our performances.

DM: What are the different toys & approaches to fire art?

CB: The list goes on and fire arts are evolving so fast that it's hard to keep up. When it comes to fire dancing I believe there is the technical approach and a dance approach. The technical approach is all about perfecting the geometry of the tools we use. If you look at a picture of a fire dancer using a slow shutter speed you can see geometric patterns that come alive—we are live models of physics. The dance approach is more about self-expression, letting the fire move you. When someone unifies both approaches, mixes geometry with passion and movement we like to call that "flow", which is kind of the mantra of every great fire dancer.

DM: Is the danger of the fire part of the attraction?

CB: I think danger is part of the appeal. There is a different state of mind when one dances with fire compared to just dancing with your body. You are more aware of your movements, there is almost a mutual respect between you and the fire. What we do is dangerous, which I think somehow makes it more beautiful.

DM: Everyone that I talked to when I visited mentioned fire safety. Obviously that has to be of high concern. What safety training do members have to go through?

CB: Before someone in our community burns, they must go through fire safety first. Many of us have had training at fire performance retreats, and a couple of us were lucky enough to meet with Dave X, the fire safety lead of Burning Man. We have taken that knowledge and shared it with our community so no one gets hurt doing what we love. We realize what we do is dangerous and being a fire performer means you represent the entire fire community across the world, therefore safety is the most important part of what we do.

DM: I haven’t been around such a welcoming group of people in a while. So many people came up to me and introduced themselves. You seem to really have the community part down. What’s your approach to building a great community?

CB: Sharing what we love with the world. To many of us, especially me, fire dancing changed our lives. It has opened new opportunities to meet amazing artists, travel to art festivals around the country, and to create a community in a place like Detroit—a city that the country seems to have given up on. Many of us live our lives by Burning Man principles. (They include radical inclusion, gifting, and participation.)

DM: If you could perform in any space or at any event in Detroit what would it be?

CB: I would love to perform at the Movement Festival.

DM: How do you describe the Detroit Fire Guild to new people?

CB: A loving community of misfits who have come together to create something breathtaking, and for many, life changing.

DM: How do you get up the nerve to say, “OK, I’m ready to put fire in my mouth” or spin fire?

CB: First, you educate yourself. You get used to holding a tool that's on fire, you get used to putting it out. We offer monthly safety training so people know what kind of fuel to use, what kinds of costumes are okay to use, and what to do in an emergency. Next, you practice. A lot. I didn't burn until I had been practicing poi for a year. You have to respect fire—it’s a dangerous element. And lastly you surround yourself with a knowledgeable community so that when you are ready to burn you have people to watch your back, to show you tips and tricks, and to give you support.

When it comes to fire eating or fire breathing, I don’t recommend doing it. It is extremely dangerous and there's not much a safety can do if things go wrong. You must learn under complete professional supervision. However, I do fire eat and fire breathe with the knowledge that I am putting myself in great danger—and love to do it.

DM: What is the state of the alternative performance art scene in Detroit?

CB: It’s big and getting bigger! The range of people who hire us is across the board from corporate events, to children's birthday parties, rock shows to DJ events. And now that we are producing our own shows we get to be sure the audience is getting the immersive experience that we strive for.

DM: Tell me about the new show, The Fires of Beltane.

CB: Fires of Beltane is a show my friend Ely and myself are producing. It is a celebration of the coming of spring and the greening of the earth. We are taking much of our inspiration from the Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh and adding a circus twist. There will be two rock bands—Bride Stripped Bare and Otto Vector, with DJ intercom spinning dance music all night. Fire and circus performers will be entertaining throughout the evening. We hope to give people a tribal experience, getting them back to their roots to celebrate the earth!

Follow DFG on Facebook to find out more about the open practices, the next one is on Monday, April 25th. Grab your tickets to Fires of Beltane on April 30th at The Crofoot in Pontiac. It’s going to be amazing. Seriously, you don't want to miss this.

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Reader Comments (4)

Awesome! I have a friend who works with them sometimes. I love seeing the things they do.

My friend once had a fire-breathing guy at a party. It was really cool to watch!

April 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSchmee

Thanks for stopping by, guys. I can't wait to see them live.

April 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

These kids are so talented! I love Detroit so much, even though I no longer live there, Detroit goes with me wherever I roam!

May 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHarry

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