Fire Nation

Fire Nation

Top Row: Jon, Blake, Burdetta, Ashley, Elyse Bottom Row: Chow, Trei

Top Row: Jon, Blake, Burdetta, Ashley, Elyse
Bottom Row: Chow, Trei

Personal thoughts of the Fire Nation

Lisa and I first saw this group perform at Dark Harbor in 2016 on opening night. The grace and beauty that each member performed with was mesmerizing. We were instantly hooked and made it a point to watch this show each time we visited Dark Harbor. Throughout the season we were fortunate enough to get to know some of the members which made us fall in love with this show even more. Each member is not only a great performer, they are also amazing people. We stayed in touch with them during the offseason and were so excited when the 2017 Halloween season rolled around and we found out that Fire Nation was returning. During this past season, we visited Dark Harbor 5 times and we made sure to watch our friends perform each night we were there. The show was setup differently this year with a stage that could be viewed from almost a 360 degree view, which was a little hard to get used to but by the 2nd or 3rd time we watched them perform, we were completely used to the new setup. The performers really worked the new stage as well. They killed it each and every time as they always do. This is a very special group of people and Lisa and I are proud to call them friends. If you go to Dark Harbor in 2018 and you have never seen them perform, you must watch one of their shows. You will be hooked just as Lisa and I became after the first time we saw them.  

History of Fire Nation

Back in 2013, Elsye and Burdetta who had been friends for a couple of years answered an ad on Craig's List for Queen Mary's Dark Harbor. They were looking for fire performers for a first ever fire show. Elyse convinced Burdetta to go with her down to the Queen Mary so they could safety each other and kill the audition. They were the only two that brought safety equipment and were a bit concerned that no one else had brought any so they both stayed and safetied everyone that came to audition. The two of them were hired and were essentially allowed to pick their team. Burdetta took the lead on contracts and responsibility while Elyse took the lead on choreography and the layout of storylines. When Dark Harbor asked Elyse and Burdetta to be a part of the fire team they had never worked with fire before, so they didn't know about pulling permits for gigs and doing tool run throughs with the Fire Marshall. Burdetta became the team fire captain when she began talking logistics and letting Dark Harbor know all of the things that went into a public performance. From there Elsye and Burdetta built the first fire team. They are the only original members who are still with Dark Harbor. Itzel is the 3rd oldest member followed by Jon. 

 

Meet the Nation

Are you ready to meet the nation? Below each photo you will learn a little bit about each member. Some fun facts about them and how they got started playing with fire. Please enjoy and when you see these men and women performing next season during their shows, get loud for them and let them know how much you appreciate all their hard work. Remember as beautiful and as flawless as this group makes it look, what they do is very dangerous. Fire is nothing to mess around with. Please do not attempt any of what you see below without proper training or supervision. Thank you. 

The Voodoo Priestess: Burdetta Jackson 1)      When did you first begin playing with fire and what was it that made you want to start?  I first began playing with fire in 2004.  I was sitting down with a new friend of mine named Heather that I met at work (she is now one of my dearest and most loved friends).  After a night of laughing and having fun in her back yard she started telling me about the group of women she had begun performing with and who had become family to her.  When I told her I had no idea what fire dancing was, she promptly grabbed her tools, dipped them in some fuel and gave me a show.  I was astounded and so drawn to it.  I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  It's actually bringing tears to my eyes just thinking about it. When she asked what I thought, I told her that I needed to learn how to spin fire immediately.  A love affair had been born.  I started by meeting the women of Sirena Serpentina (her fire troupe) and then began taking lessons with them.  It just kind of took off from there. 2)      When and where was your first official fire performance?  I don't remember to tell the truth.  I believe that it was with my first troupe named Akasha.  We put on a show outside of a bar I believe.  At least that's the first show that I remember having to come up with choreography and music.  It seems so very long ago now.  It could of also been with the ladies of Sirena.  Once I became confident in my performance I began performing with them if they needed an extra dancer or if one of their members weren't able to make a performance.  Every now and then I'm still blessed with the opportunity to spin fire with those lovely ladies.  It's like going home.... 3)      What was the first apparatus you learned?  First thing that I learned was Poi.  I practiced and learned moves for 8 months before I lit up.  When I did light up I spun for maybe 30 seconds before I handed off my poi to another spinner.  I wasn't prepared for the noise the fire made.  There's this huge "WOOSH" sound that felt almost deafening to me the first time I spun.  It freaked me out!  Funnily it's now the sound that brings me comfort and makes me feel better about the world and my place in it.   4)      How many different apparatuses have you performed with?  Goodness... I spin poi, sword, fans, parasol, fire flesh, fire eat, fire breathe. 5)      What precautions go into each performance? I always check my tools and make sure that all of the fastenings are tight.  Fire is unpredictable but the tools are easily controlled if you take precautions.  The last thing you want is a Poi Ball head flying into a crowd when you're performing.  It's also important to me to make sure that my fuel station is set up properly and all tools are laid out for the performance.  There's no room for error when it comes to spilling fuel or getting to stage late for a cue because you couldn't find your fans.  And I ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS make sure that I spin with a safety.  The safeties are the most important people at a performance.  They are the first responders if we catch fire and are unable to put ourselves out.   I also, try to focus in on the task at hand as much as I can.  Whatever is going on in the outside world has to wait.  When I'm spinning it's just me, the fire and any partner I may have.  There's no room for any troubles waiting outside that world.   6)      What do you do to prepare for a performance?  For a performance like Dark Harbor prep begins about 6 months before the gig.  I begin talking with the DH production team about what direction the event is going into and how they see us fitting into it.  We then begin looking at the theme of our show and music choices.  All of this happens before we even go into auditions for any open slots we may have on the team.  From there we go into building and perfecting the show before opening day; this includes brainstorming sessions, rehearsals and so much more.  I like to come to the fire team with a basic skeleton of what the show will look like and then fill in the blanks together so that we all have something that we're proud of. If we're talking immediately before a performance then after going through safety checks and making sure the team is all there I usually take the time to take a couple of deep breaths and put myself into the game.  Like I said above, fire is unpredictable. I like to run through the performance and be as prepared as I can for what may happen.   7)      How many years have you been with Dark Harbor?  I want to say five... but it may be six years.  I'm unsure.  We are Dark Harbor's original fire team.  Elyse originally found the ad for the audition on Craig's List and the two of us went in together.  We were the only ones who came with safety equipment and were concerned that no one else had any, so we stayed and safetied everybody's fire audition.  When DH asked us to be part of the fire team they had never worked with fire before, so they didn't know about pulling permits for gigs and doing tool run throughs with the Fire Marshal's.  I began talking logistics and letting them know all of the things that went into a public performance and that's how I became the Fire Team Captain.  From there Elyse and I built the first fire team.  Elyse and I are actually the only original members who are still at Dark Harbor, with Itzel being the third oldest member still remaining.  She joined us the year that Voodoo began.  Our first year at Dark Harbor we were a band of monster gypsies that performed for the crowd.  That year we only had 10 performance dates.  I forget whether we spent another year playing the same role, or if the following year was when David approached me with the opportunity to be the Priestess.  I know that I jumped at it as soon as he did.  LOL!  We then became the Voodoo Priestess and her tribe.  We now perform several times a night every night that Dark Harbor is open. 8)      How often do you practice with your Dark Harbor crew?  We don't get together as a group outside of haunt season that often actually. I'm lucky because I get to see individual team members for different things.  Elyse is one of my best friends, so I'm with her often.  Itzel is a very dear friend of mine as well, so I make a point to keep up with her and see her whenever I can.  Blake and I have done a couple of projects together outside out of Dark Harbor as well.  I don't get to see the other members anywhere near as much as I would like to.  I adore every single member of our DH fire family and really want to make it a point for us all to get together more often. 9)      What does it feel like being on stage performing? And what do you think when you look out into the audience and see them responding in a positive way to your show?  I've been a performer since I was a child.  Whether on or off stage, I have something in me that allows me to "turn on" for a crowd.  I grew up modeling and in theatre, so embodying a character is ingrained in me.  I live for the stage.  There's something about becoming somebody or something else, even if for a brief time, that's magical. We don't always get to see the crowd when we're on stage due to the lights and the fire itself, but when we do, it's amazing knowing that your hard work is being appreciated.  We are fire dancers, but at our core we're performers who have worked very hard to put a story and a show together for the crowd.  There's a flow to it all and a reason behind everything we do.  As Captain, I get to watch the majority of the performances from the side lines, which means I also get to hear the crowd comments and watch their faces.  I am lucky to contract an outstanding team of professionals for Dark Harbor.  They know how to wow a crowd.  The biggest measure for me is when we not only catch the guests eye, but we hold it.  Our performance is roughly 30 minutes in the middle of an awesome haunt event.  The fact that we often catch and can keep a crowd for the full half hour proves to me that our hard work is being appreciated. 10) Is there a permit or certification required to perform with fire?  There are no permits or certifications required just to light up at a casual event, though sometimes I think there should be.  LOL!  Anybody can become a fire spinner, but to be a proper public performer there are channels that need to be gone through.  We all carry fire insurance which protects us from any liabilities that may happen.  We also work with Dark Harbor and pull a permit for the event.  Not all performers do this for every public performance they're a part of.  I would suggest that before signing a contract a performer always check with local Fire Marshals about what is required for them to legally gig at that location.  It can save you a lot of trouble in the long run. 11) In your opinion, what separates a skilled performer from a natural performer?  Hmmmmm... this is a difficult question to answer as mine may not be a popular outlook.  I believe that you are either a performer or you aren't.  In my opinion there is a difference between a fire spinner and a fire performer.  I've seen amazing tech spinners pull off moves that I've never dreamt of, however when it comes to performing, they fall flat.  I've seen beautiful women think that if they put on booty shorts and trail fire along their body that makes them a performer.  A true fire performer knows how to engage and capture a crowd.  They pull you into the performance and make you a part of their world.  For me... a good performer makes me feel something, they leave me wanting for more.   12) How much further would you like to take your performance? Is there anything you haven't tried/mastered yet that you'd like to perfect? There are so many things that I would like to do in flow arts.  I've promised myself that the upcoming year will be filled with practice, flow jams and opportunities to grow with my tools.  I've never claimed to be a master fire dancer, there are definitely moves out there for me to learn.  I am extremely lucky to be friends with some talented performers who believe in sharing their gift and keeping the community skilled and growing.  I would love to spend more time with them to not only achieve a higher level in my own skill set, but to support them in their craft as well. 13) Any advice for beginning artists/performers?  Be safe.  Take the time to ask somebody to spot you before lighting up.  If you aren't quite sure how to do a move on fire yet then ask somebody who can give you some insight before trying.  You're going to get burned, it's a part of being a fire dancer, but you can keep those burns to a minimum by taking precautions. Don't beat yourself up because another performer knows more moves or gets more gigs than you do.  There is always room for growth in your craft, if you want to level up just put in the effort and know that you'll get there in the time frame that works for you.  Remember... you are a bad ass!  There aren't many people who can allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to get up in front of others and put it all out there.  The fact that you are willing to show the world what you have makes you unique, never forget that.   Most importantly, have fun!  Your art is your own to do whatever you please with it.  Figure out what that is and shine!

The Voodoo Priestess: Burdetta Jackson

1)      When did you first begin playing with fire and what was it that made you want to start? 

I first began playing with fire in 2004.  I was sitting down with a new friend of mine named Heather that I met at work (she is now one of my dearest and most loved friends).  After a night of laughing and having fun in her back yard she started telling me about the group of women she had begun performing with and who had become family to her.  When I told her I had no idea what fire dancing was, she promptly grabbed her tools, dipped them in some fuel and gave me a show.  I was astounded and so drawn to it.  I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  It's actually bringing tears to my eyes just thinking about it. When she asked what I thought, I told her that I needed to learn how to spin fire immediately.  A love affair had been born.  I started by meeting the women of Sirena Serpentina (her fire troupe) and then began taking lessons with them.  It just kind of took off from there.

2)      When and where was your first official fire performance? 

I don't remember to tell the truth.  I believe that it was with my first troupe named Akasha.  We put on a show outside of a bar I believe.  At least that's the first show that I remember having to come up with choreography and music.  It seems so very long ago now.  It could of also been with the ladies of Sirena.  Once I became confident in my performance I began performing with them if they needed an extra dancer or if one of their members weren't able to make a performance.  Every now and then I'm still blessed with the opportunity to spin fire with those lovely ladies.  It's like going home....

3)      What was the first apparatus you learned? 

First thing that I learned was Poi.  I practiced and learned moves for 8 months before I lit up.  When I did light up I spun for maybe 30 seconds before I handed off my poi to another spinner.  I wasn't prepared for the noise the fire made.  There's this huge "WOOSH" sound that felt almost deafening to me the first time I spun.  It freaked me out!  Funnily it's now the sound that brings me comfort and makes me feel better about the world and my place in it.  

4)      How many different apparatuses have you performed with? 

Goodness... I spin poi, sword, fans, parasol, fire flesh, fire eat, fire breathe.

5)      What precautions go into each performance?

I always check my tools and make sure that all of the fastenings are tight.  Fire is unpredictable but the tools are easily controlled if you take precautions.  The last thing you want is a Poi Ball head flying into a crowd when you're performing.  It's also important to me to make sure that my fuel station is set up properly and all tools are laid out for the performance.  There's no room for error when it comes to spilling fuel or getting to stage late for a cue because you couldn't find your fans.  And I ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS make sure that I spin with a safety.  The safeties are the most important people at a performance.  They are the first responders if we catch fire and are unable to put ourselves out.  

I also, try to focus in on the task at hand as much as I can.  Whatever is going on in the outside world has to wait.  When I'm spinning it's just me, the fire and any partner I may have.  There's no room for any troubles waiting outside that world.  

6)      What do you do to prepare for a performance? 

For a performance like Dark Harbor prep begins about 6 months before the gig.  I begin talking with the DH production team about what direction the event is going into and how they see us fitting into it.  We then begin looking at the theme of our show and music choices.  All of this happens before we even go into auditions for any open slots we may have on the team.  From there we go into building and perfecting the show before opening day; this includes brainstorming sessions, rehearsals and so much more.  I like to come to the fire team with a basic skeleton of what the show will look like and then fill in the blanks together so that we all have something that we're proud of.

If we're talking immediately before a performance then after going through safety checks and making sure the team is all there I usually take the time to take a couple of deep breaths and put myself into the game.  Like I said above, fire is unpredictable. I like to run through the performance and be as prepared as I can for what may happen.  

7)      How many years have you been with Dark Harbor? 

I want to say five... but it may be six years.  I'm unsure.  We are Dark Harbor's original fire team.  Elyse originally found the ad for the audition on Craig's List and the two of us went in together.  We were the only ones who came with safety equipment and were concerned that no one else had any, so we stayed and safetied everybody's fire audition.  When DH asked us to be part of the fire team they had never worked with fire before, so they didn't know about pulling permits for gigs and doing tool run throughs with the Fire Marshal's.  I began talking logistics and letting them know all of the things that went into a public performance and that's how I became the Fire Team Captain.  From there Elyse and I built the first fire team.  Elyse and I are actually the only original members who are still at Dark Harbor, with Itzel being the third oldest member still remaining.  She joined us the year that Voodoo began. 

Our first year at Dark Harbor we were a band of monster gypsies that performed for the crowd.  That year we only had 10 performance dates.  I forget whether we spent another year playing the same role, or if the following year was when David approached me with the opportunity to be the Priestess.  I know that I jumped at it as soon as he did.  LOL!  We then became the Voodoo Priestess and her tribe.  We now perform several times a night every night that Dark Harbor is open.

8)      How often do you practice with your Dark Harbor crew? 

We don't get together as a group outside of haunt season that often actually.

I'm lucky because I get to see individual team members for different things.  Elyse is one of my best friends, so I'm with her often.  Itzel is a very dear friend of mine as well, so I make a point to keep up with her and see her whenever I can.  Blake and I have done a couple of projects together outside out of Dark Harbor as well.  I don't get to see the other members anywhere near as much as I would like to.  I adore every single member of our DH fire family and really want to make it a point for us all to get together more often.

9)      What does it feel like being on stage performing? And what do you think when you look out into the audience and see them responding in a positive way to your show? 

I've been a performer since I was a child.  Whether on or off stage, I have something in me that allows me to "turn on" for a crowd.  I grew up modeling and in theatre, so embodying a character is ingrained in me.  I live for the stage.  There's something about becoming somebody or something else, even if for a brief time, that's magical.

We don't always get to see the crowd when we're on stage due to the lights and the fire itself, but when we do, it's amazing knowing that your hard work is being appreciated.  We are fire dancers, but at our core we're performers who have worked very hard to put a story and a show together for the crowd.  There's a flow to it all and a reason behind everything we do.  As Captain, I get to watch the majority of the performances from the side lines, which means I also get to hear the crowd comments and watch their faces.  I am lucky to contract an outstanding team of professionals for Dark Harbor.  They know how to wow a crowd.  The biggest measure for me is when we not only catch the guests eye, but we hold it.  Our performance is roughly 30 minutes in the middle of an awesome haunt event.  The fact that we often catch and can keep a crowd for the full half hour proves to me that our hard work is being appreciated.

10) Is there a permit or certification required to perform with fire? 

There are no permits or certifications required just to light up at a casual event, though sometimes I think there should be.  LOL!  Anybody can become a fire spinner, but to be a proper public performer there are channels that need to be gone through.  We all carry fire insurance which protects us from any liabilities that may happen.  We also work with Dark Harbor and pull a permit for the event.  Not all performers do this for every public performance they're a part of.  I would suggest that before signing a contract a performer always check with local Fire Marshals about what is required for them to legally gig at that location.  It can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

11) In your opinion, what separates a skilled performer from a natural performer? 

Hmmmmm... this is a difficult question to answer as mine may not be a popular outlook.  I believe that you are either a performer or you aren't.  In my opinion there is a difference between a fire spinner and a fire performer.  I've seen amazing tech spinners pull off moves that I've never dreamt of, however when it comes to performing, they fall flat.  I've seen beautiful women think that if they put on booty shorts and trail fire along their body that makes them a performer.  A true fire performer knows how to engage and capture a crowd.  They pull you into the performance and make you a part of their world.  For me... a good performer makes me feel something, they leave me wanting for more.  

12) How much further would you like to take your performance? Is there anything you haven't tried/mastered yet that you'd like to perfect?

There are so many things that I would like to do in flow arts.  I've promised myself that the upcoming year will be filled with practice, flow jams and opportunities to grow with my tools.  I've never claimed to be a master fire dancer, there are definitely moves out there for me to learn.  I am extremely lucky to be friends with some talented performers who believe in sharing their gift and keeping the community skilled and growing.  I would love to spend more time with them to not only achieve a higher level in my own skill set, but to support them in their craft as well.

13) Any advice for beginning artists/performers? 

Be safe.  Take the time to ask somebody to spot you before lighting up.  If you aren't quite sure how to do a move on fire yet then ask somebody who can give you some insight before trying.  You're going to get burned, it's a part of being a fire dancer, but you can keep those burns to a minimum by taking precautions.

Don't beat yourself up because another performer knows more moves or gets more gigs than you do.  There is always room for growth in your craft, if you want to level up just put in the effort and know that you'll get there in the time frame that works for you.  Remember... you are a bad ass!  There aren't many people who can allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to get up in front of others and put it all out there.  The fact that you are willing to show the world what you have makes you unique, never forget that.  

Most importantly, have fun!  Your art is your own to do whatever you please with it.  Figure out what that is and shine!

Elyse Etherson 1)   When did you first begin playing with fire and what was it that made you want to start? I found out about fire hula hooping online from a girl who was going out for miss High Times about 2 years before I knew anyone who did it, or where to even find people who spun fire. I had never seen hula hoops used that way. I lived with a bunch of my best friends at the time, we started looking up how to do tricks, and started making our own hoops out of the cheap ones you can get at Wal-mart. There wasn't much online at the time as far as tutorials. When we were looking stuff up, that's when we found out you could do it with fire, and we all decided we had to do it.    2)      When and where was your first official fire performance? My first official fire performance was at Burning Man. The first people I found was a group that practices through out the year, auditions, and does a 50 person, 15 minute play on fire at the burn in the great circle before the man burns.  3)      What was the first apparatus you learned?  I first learned to eat fire. Then hoop on fire.  4)      How many different apparatuses have you performed with?  I can spin almost everything. I only perform with eating torches, palm torches, fans, hoops, poi, double hoops, and staff.  5)      What precautions go into each performance? I always make sure the space I have to spin is safe and nothing can catch on fire. I make sure I have an outfit that suits what I'm spinning. Hula hoops get caught up on clothes if they aren't tight. I always make sure I have a safety I trust, and who is experienced. Make sure there is a safe fuel area away from where I am performing, and away from the other people at the event. I always check any parts on my props that could unscrew or loosen right before I hit the stage.  6)      What do you do to prepare for a performance?  Depends on the gig. Sometimes nothing but an outfit. Sometimes I choreograph multiple sets. I've had to choreograph for me and for group performances. I make sure all my props are ready to go, and don't need to be rewicked.  7)      How many years have you been with Dark Harbor?  5 years 8)      How often do you practice with your Dark Harbor crew?  Just a few times before season. Some of them I perform with through out the year as well.  9)      What does it feel like being on stage performing? And what do you think when you look out into the audience and see them responding in a positive way to your show?  Honestly, I am not a huge fan of a crowd watching me perform. I know that sounds silly, but people make me nervous. Like I have all these people judging me. I started hooping and fire dancing for myself, and my happiness. I never thought when I first heard about hula hooping or spinning fire that it would be my profession a few years down the line. I absolutely love what I do. I wish I could get over my feelings of a crowd watching me. Regardless of my insides turning, I do love how excited people get, and how it feels to have people come up to me after a performance and tell me how amazing I was. That will never get old. I love that I have a fan base of people who come out to see me from all over. Those things are what drive me. I'm good at it, so I share my gift, even if it makes me nervous as all hell!  10) Is there a permit or certification required to perform with fire?  Depends on where you are performing. Usually you need a permit. I am also insured for fire performing. It all depends on the venue.  11) In your opinion, what separates a skilled performer from a natural performer?  Naturals are lucky! But honestly, not much. I think it's more how others see it. I'm not sure what I fall under. I bet if you asked multiple people who have seen me perform and know me, you would get different answers.  12) How much further would you like to take your performance? Is there anything you haven't tried/mastered yet that you'd like to perfect? More tricks. There is always new tricks to learn. New combos. More variety!  13) Any advice for beginning artists/performers?  Don't give up! It's really hard, and I was awful at hula hooping when I first started. Like terrible. If you want it, go for it. I have hooped longer than anything else in my life.  I never thought I would be where I am, doing what I am doing. Push yourself. I always say; You are going to get hit in the face, that is how you learn. Find other people who do what you do, trade tricks and skills. Believe in yourself, and let your ego go. 

Elyse Etherson

1)   When did you first begin playing with fire and what was it that made you want to start?

I found out about fire hula hooping online from a girl who was going out for miss High Times about 2 years before I knew anyone who did it, or where to even find people who spun fire. I had never seen hula hoops used that way. I lived with a bunch of my best friends at the time, we started looking up how to do tricks, and started making our own hoops out of the cheap ones you can get at Wal-mart. There wasn't much online at the time as far as tutorials. When we were looking stuff up, that's when we found out you could do it with fire, and we all decided we had to do it.   

2)      When and where was your first official fire performance?

My first official fire performance was at Burning Man. The first people I found was a group that practices through out the year, auditions, and does a 50 person, 15 minute play on fire at the burn in the great circle before the man burns. 

3)      What was the first apparatus you learned? 

I first learned to eat fire. Then hoop on fire. 

4)      How many different apparatuses have you performed with? 

I can spin almost everything. I only perform with eating torches, palm torches, fans, hoops, poi, double hoops, and staff. 

5)      What precautions go into each performance?

I always make sure the space I have to spin is safe and nothing can catch on fire. I make sure I have an outfit that suits what I'm spinning. Hula hoops get caught up on clothes if they aren't tight. I always make sure I have a safety I trust, and who is experienced. Make sure there is a safe fuel area away from where I am performing, and away from the other people at the event. I always check any parts on my props that could unscrew or loosen right before I hit the stage. 

6)      What do you do to prepare for a performance? 

Depends on the gig. Sometimes nothing but an outfit. Sometimes I choreograph multiple sets. I've had to choreograph for me and for group performances. I make sure all my props are ready to go, and don't need to be rewicked. 

7)      How many years have you been with Dark Harbor? 

5 years

8)      How often do you practice with your Dark Harbor crew? 

Just a few times before season. Some of them I perform with through out the year as well. 

9)      What does it feel like being on stage performing? And what do you think when you look out into the audience and see them responding in a positive way to your show? 

Honestly, I am not a huge fan of a crowd watching me perform. I know that sounds silly, but people make me nervous. Like I have all these people judging me. I started hooping and fire dancing for myself, and my happiness. I never thought when I first heard about hula hooping or spinning fire that it would be my profession a few years down the line. I absolutely love what I do. I wish I could get over my feelings of a crowd watching me. Regardless of my insides turning, I do love how excited people get, and how it feels to have people come up to me after a performance and tell me how amazing I was. That will never get old. I love that I have a fan base of people who come out to see me from all over. Those things are what drive me. I'm good at it, so I share my gift, even if it makes me nervous as all hell! 

10) Is there a permit or certification required to perform with fire? 

Depends on where you are performing. Usually you need a permit. I am also insured for fire performing. It all depends on the venue. 

11) In your opinion, what separates a skilled performer from a natural performer? 

Naturals are lucky! But honestly, not much. I think it's more how others see it. I'm not sure what I fall under. I bet if you asked multiple people who have seen me perform and know me, you would get different answers. 

12) How much further would you like to take your performance? Is there anything you haven't tried/mastered yet that you'd like to perfect?

More tricks. There is always new tricks to learn. New combos. More variety! 

13) Any advice for beginning artists/performers? 

Don't give up! It's really hard, and I was awful at hula hooping when I first started. Like terrible. If you want it, go for it. I have hooped longer than anything else in my life.  I never thought I would be where I am, doing what I am doing. Push yourself. I always say; You are going to get hit in the face, that is how you learn. Find other people who do what you do, trade tricks and skills. Believe in yourself, and let your ego go. 

Trei Wilson 1)      When did you first begin playing with fire and what was it that made you want to start? I  officially started playing with fire five years ago at one of my friends 23rd birthday. I had seen friends spin fire poi before but I wasn't comfortable attempting to spin fire until I saw a fire a staff.  2)      When and where was your first official fire performance?  My first official performance was a month before my first Burning Man in 2014. It was an eccentric three story home converted into a hotel in Hollywood called Gemini Manor 3)      What was the first apparatus you learned?  Contact staff was the first tool I learned. As a child I loved playing with staves, thanks to power rangers and the ninja turtles. So it was already second nature to me, when I picked up a contact staff for the first time. It was like being reunited with an old friend.  4)      How many different apparatuses have you performed with?  Contact staff, torches, palm torches, flux torches, double staff, dragon staff, fans, contact sword. 5)      What precautions go into each performance?  Never spin fire alone, always have a spotter with a safety blanket or fire extinguisher (preferably both), make sure your costume is fire safe (natural materials, preferably no synthetics or a safe blend of cotton and synthetic), check performance space for any hazards (dry plants, chemicals, furniture, etc.), find a safe space away from performing area to store fuel and dip tools, have defined area for performance where audiences know not to cross, and If you collect tips I like to make an announcement to wait till after the performance is completed to approach the stage and performers for everyone's safety.  6)      What do you do to prepare for a performance?  Each performance is different, different clients want you to focus on different things, so preparations vary. But for myself personally I like to do a quick meditation to the song I'm performing to before I go on stage. Focusing on the rhythm and the character I am portraying. 7)      How many years have you been with Dark Harbor?  This is my second year with Dark Harbor, but it is my first year with the nation.  8)      How often do you practice with your Dark Harbor crew?  I know all of the nation members on a personal level so I get to practice with them year round but as a group we normally start rehearsals in September.  9)      What does it feel like being on stage performing? And what do you think when you look out into the audience and see them responding in a positive way to your show?  Again each performance is different, When you are watching a performer they are showing you a piece of themselves. Some days you might not feel like displaying that piece of yourself but the show must go on so you dig deep to put on that performance face and some days it's like breathing, effortless.  My personal struggle as a performer is accepting or processing reactions from the crowd. When I perform it is such a personal moment that I have issues interacting with the audience, it is something I am working on as a fire performer.  10) Is there a permit or certification required to perform with fire?  Sadly there is no official certification to be a fire performer and permitting laws are different in each county, they even vary from city to city so it can be very difficult to acquire permits. Especially since we live in a state where fires are a big problem through out the year.  11) In your opinion, what separates a skilled performer from a natural performer?  In my opinion what separates a skilled performer versus a natural performer is a skilled performer can put on an amazing show and make a connection with the crowd during their performance but leaves that energy there on the stage or puts it in a box and keeps it for themselves. Where as a natural performer will carry that energy with them, always sharing it wherever they go, even if it is a subconscious thing. Naturally they make people smile, think, or feel. To a natural performer all the world is a stage.  12) How much further would you like to take your performance? Is there anything you haven't tried/mastered yet that you'd like to perfect?  Oh yeah, there are always new tools to play with and things to practice. I doubt there will ever be a point in my performance where I will be satisfied. Once I find a location for building and testing equipment I would like to create illusions using fire and a coed fire fetish/burlesque show.  13) Any advice for beginning artists/performers?  Take your time finding the tools that speak to you, it is much easier to express yourself and stay safe if you understand your tools. Also do not just work on your performance, work on yourself as a person. If you are not comfortable with yourself as a person, you probably won't feel comfortable with yourself on stage. Last but certainly not least respect the fire. It is the element that granted us the ability to advance as a species, it can hurt you and everything around you, it is a force of nature and not a toy.     

Trei Wilson

1)      When did you first begin playing with fire and what was it that made you want to start?

I  officially started playing with fire five years ago at one of my friends 23rd birthday. I had seen friends spin fire poi before but I wasn't comfortable attempting to spin fire until I saw a fire a staff. 

2)      When and where was your first official fire performance? 

My first official performance was a month before my first Burning Man in 2014. It was an eccentric three story home converted into a hotel in Hollywood called Gemini Manor

3)      What was the first apparatus you learned? 

Contact staff was the first tool I learned. As a child I loved playing with staves, thanks to power rangers and the ninja turtles. So it was already second nature to me, when I picked up a contact staff for the first time. It was like being reunited with an old friend. 

4)      How many different apparatuses have you performed with? 

Contact staff, torches, palm torches, flux torches, double staff, dragon staff, fans, contact sword.

5)      What precautions go into each performance? 

Never spin fire alone, always have a spotter with a safety blanket or fire extinguisher (preferably both), make sure your costume is fire safe (natural materials, preferably no synthetics or a safe blend of cotton and synthetic), check performance space for any hazards (dry plants, chemicals, furniture, etc.), find a safe space away from performing area to store fuel and dip tools, have defined area for performance where audiences know not to cross, and If you collect tips I like to make an announcement to wait till after the performance is completed to approach the stage and performers for everyone's safety. 

6)      What do you do to prepare for a performance? 

Each performance is different, different clients want you to focus on different things, so preparations vary. But for myself personally I like to do a quick meditation to the song I'm performing to before I go on stage. Focusing on the rhythm and the character I am portraying.

7)      How many years have you been with Dark Harbor? 

This is my second year with Dark Harbor, but it is my first year with the nation. 

8)      How often do you practice with your Dark Harbor crew? 

I know all of the nation members on a personal level so I get to practice with them year round but as a group we normally start rehearsals in September. 

9)      What does it feel like being on stage performing? And what do you think when you look out into the audience and see them responding in a positive way to your show? 

Again each performance is different, When you are watching a performer they are showing you a piece of themselves. Some days you might not feel like displaying that piece of yourself but the show must go on so you dig deep to put on that performance face and some days it's like breathing, effortless. 

My personal struggle as a performer is accepting or processing reactions from the crowd. When I perform it is such a personal moment that I have issues interacting with the audience, it is something I am working on as a fire performer. 

10) Is there a permit or certification required to perform with fire? 

Sadly there is no official certification to be a fire performer and permitting laws are different in each county, they even vary from city to city so it can be very difficult to acquire permits. Especially since we live in a state where fires are a big problem through out the year. 

11) In your opinion, what separates a skilled performer from a natural performer? 

In my opinion what separates a skilled performer versus a natural performer is a skilled performer can put on an amazing show and make a connection with the crowd during their performance but leaves that energy there on the stage or puts it in a box and keeps it for themselves. Where as a natural performer will carry that energy with them, always sharing it wherever they go, even if it is a subconscious thing. Naturally they make people smile, think, or feel. To a natural performer all the world is a stage. 

12) How much further would you like to take your performance? Is there anything you haven't tried/mastered yet that you'd like to perfect? 

Oh yeah, there are always new tools to play with and things to practice. I doubt there will ever be a point in my performance where I will be satisfied. Once I find a location for building and testing equipment I would like to create illusions using fire and a coed fire fetish/burlesque show. 

13) Any advice for beginning artists/performers? 

Take your time finding the tools that speak to you, it is much easier to express yourself and stay safe if you understand your tools. Also do not just work on your performance, work on yourself as a person. If you are not comfortable with yourself as a person, you probably won't feel comfortable with yourself on stage. Last but certainly not least respect the fire. It is the element that granted us the ability to advance as a species, it can hurt you and everything around you, it is a force of nature and not a toy. 

 

 

Ashley Pulido

Ashley Pulido

Itzel Garcia 1)      When did you first begin playing with fire and what was it that made you want to start? I started in 2012, but started spinning in 2001 with some high school colorguard. I wanted to spin fire since I saw it in the circus when I was a kid. 2)      When and where was your first official fire performance? It was with the 2012 Burning Sensation Fire Conclave for Burning Man. Basically, groups audition to perform at Burning Man, and are chosen by the Fire Council based on specific criteria. I helped choreograph that performance as well! 3)      What was the first apparatus you learned? Staff! I have a love of all things stick (lol), so most of my props are staff based. 4)      How many different apparatuses have you performed with? Staff, Dragon Staff, Double Staff, Levitation Wand, Rope Dart, and quite a few others that I'm not proficient in, but can fake well enough. 5)      What precautions go into each performance? Making sure our entire costumes are fire safe and fire treated, making sure our props are well maintained, and check that we have enough fuel to get through each performance.  6)      What do you do to prepare for a performance? It depends on the type of performance! For choreographed performances like Dark Harbor, I like to do a mental run through of my piece to make sure I have the important bits down. For ambient spinning, I just do a little bit of pre-spinning to warm up. 7)      How many years have you been with Dark Harbor? I started performing with Dark Harbor in 2014. 8)      How often do you practice with your Dark Harbor crew? I'm the furthest from the group (I'm in South OC) so I generally don't see the crew very often. Before Dark Harbor, we meet enough times to get the positioning and group choreography done.  9)      What does it feel like being on stage performing? And what do you think when you look out into the audience and see them responding in a positive way to your show?  This one is hard to answer. It feels like a strong creative rush, mixed with adrenaline, and appreciation for the audience for appreciating our art. A positive reaction from the audience will ALWAYS feed the performer to spin with more energy, so please cheer on the performers! We love feeling that energy :)  10) Is there a permit or certification required to perform with fire?  There is no permit required to pick up a prop and perform, however, there are permits required to perform with fire in almost every area, and some props can't be handled without proper certifications  (things similar to fireworks, etc). However, there is a movement to push for a unified set of guidelines for fire performers that will hopefully gain more traction in coming years 11) In your opinion, what separates a skilled performer from a natural performer?  A natural performer is someone who can move with a prop or with music well without putting too much work into it. A skilled performer is someone who practices and works hard to increase their connection with the audience. Someone who can make someone watching a PART of their performance. To me, that's the real skill. Making the audience forget where they are for a moment, being able to mesmerize. 12) How much further would you like to take your performance? Is there anything you haven't tried/mastered yet that you'd like to perfect? There is always SO much to try and master! I'm currently working hard to build up the skills on the props I already have, and have acquired on additional circus apparatus that I'll hopefully be able to perform with in the coming year. It takes time to practice :)  13) Any advice for beginning artists/performers?  PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! No one ever gets better by thinking about it. Only in doing will you get to where you want to go.  

Itzel Garcia

1)      When did you first begin playing with fire and what was it that made you want to start?

I started in 2012, but started spinning in 2001 with some high school colorguard. I wanted to spin fire since I saw it in the circus when I was a kid.

2)      When and where was your first official fire performance?

It was with the 2012 Burning Sensation Fire Conclave for Burning Man. Basically, groups audition to perform at Burning Man, and are chosen by the Fire Council based on specific criteria. I helped choreograph that performance as well!

3)      What was the first apparatus you learned?

Staff! I have a love of all things stick (lol), so most of my props are staff based.

4)      How many different apparatuses have you performed with?

Staff, Dragon Staff, Double Staff, Levitation Wand, Rope Dart, and quite a few others that I'm not proficient in, but can fake well enough.

5)      What precautions go into each performance?

Making sure our entire costumes are fire safe and fire treated, making sure our props are well maintained, and check that we have enough fuel to get through each performance. 

6)      What do you do to prepare for a performance?

It depends on the type of performance! For choreographed performances like Dark Harbor, I like to do a mental run through of my piece to make sure I have the important bits down. For ambient spinning, I just do a little bit of pre-spinning to warm up.

7)      How many years have you been with Dark Harbor?

I started performing with Dark Harbor in 2014.

8)      How often do you practice with your Dark Harbor crew?

I'm the furthest from the group (I'm in South OC) so I generally don't see the crew very often. Before Dark Harbor, we meet enough times to get the positioning and group choreography done. 

9)      What does it feel like being on stage performing? And what do you think when you look out into the audience and see them responding in a positive way to your show? 

This one is hard to answer. It feels like a strong creative rush, mixed with adrenaline, and appreciation for the audience for appreciating our art. A positive reaction from the audience will ALWAYS feed the performer to spin with more energy, so please cheer on the performers! We love feeling that energy :) 

10) Is there a permit or certification required to perform with fire? 

There is no permit required to pick up a prop and perform, however, there are permits required to perform with fire in almost every area, and some props can't be handled without proper certifications  (things similar to fireworks, etc). However, there is a movement to push for a unified set of guidelines for fire performers that will hopefully gain more traction in coming years

11) In your opinion, what separates a skilled performer from a natural performer? 

A natural performer is someone who can move with a prop or with music well without putting too much work into it. A skilled performer is someone who practices and works hard to increase their connection with the audience. Someone who can make someone watching a PART of their performance. To me, that's the real skill. Making the audience forget where they are for a moment, being able to mesmerize.

12) How much further would you like to take your performance? Is there anything you haven't tried/mastered yet that you'd like to perfect?

There is always SO much to try and master! I'm currently working hard to build up the skills on the props I already have, and have acquired on additional circus apparatus that I'll hopefully be able to perform with in the coming year. It takes time to practice :) 

13) Any advice for beginning artists/performers? 

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! No one ever gets better by thinking about it. Only in doing will you get to where you want to go.

 

Blake Scott 1)   When did you first begin playing with fire and what was it that made you want to start? 2012. My life-partner at the time was a fire performer. She wanted someone to be her safety/spotter for her on a regular basis. She knew I could handle it, so I picked up some training at Burn Academy (no longer exists), and served as her safety/spotter. Others noticed I was competent at this task, and asked for the same from me. I quickly developed a reputation as a competent safety. I even became head fire safety of a performance troupe. At the time, I had 15 years of martial arts training, but I had painful stage fright, and aversion to large crowds. When I was asked to perform with fire myself, I saw an opportunity to conquer fears, and develop new strengths. 2)      When and where was your first official fire performance? 2014, Spring? I can't remember when, exactly. I was serving as a fire safety at a gig, and one performer threw their fire prop into the crowd. Our safety handled it like a pro, but the performer was cut from the team, on the spot. I had the requisite skills, so I was asked to fill in their spot for the remainder of the performance that night. 3)      What was the first apparatus you learned? Long Staff. In martial arts, when I was 13, the first tool I practiced with was a long staff. 4)      How many different apparatuses have you performed with? I've been practicing with many martial arts weapons since I was 13, but I've only performed with: Staff, dual staves, dragon staff, nunchaku, swords, rope dart, fire fans, fire poi, and fire knives. 5)      What precautions go into each performance? Every technique we practice on stage has been practiced many times, both not on fire, and practiced on fire, as well. Standard procedures are a start for creating and operating within a safe environment. We also never work alone, and again, we're already trained. This comes with the vetting/audition process. Before every performance, I like to go through a safety checklist in my head. We all have a habit of checking each other on this. It becomes ingrained in each of us. Most importantly, we watch one another, and have a habit of speaking up if we notice anyone deviating even slightly from safety procedures. It becomes a part of the culture, we know our fellow performers care about us when they directly address our safety. 6)      What do you do to prepare for a performance? First, before anything else, I focus on the procedures of maintaining a safe space. Then I prepare my tools, and make sure the needs of my fellow performers have been met. Once all of this has been done, and we are all confirmed ready to begin the show, I quickly scan the crowd and listen to the music. 7)      How many years have you been with Dark Harbor? 4 years. When I wasn't a back-up on the fire team, I was a mime in the circus maze. 8)      How often do you practice with your Dark Harbor crew? Some of them I practice with regularly throughout the year, others I only see during Dark Harbor. 9)      What does it feel like being on stage performing? And what do you think when you look out into the audience and see them responding in a positive way to your show? It's an ambition come to life, and truly empowering. I've spent years working towards being a part of productions like Dark Harbor, to raise the quality of my performances, increase my capabilities, and expressiveness, to earn my place on the stage. Hearing the crowd come to life during a performance excites me, every time. I love the way the audience talks to me, and about my character, when we encounter one another on the streets afterwards. I'm often remembered, and sometimes feared... perhaps rightly so... the audience can tell my stage combat skills aren't all for show. It's empowering to be such a mysteriously powerful monster on the stage. It fills me with a kind of warm and subtle pride. However, what really moves me, what makes me cry when I think back fondly, is the genuine praise and support I receive from my fellow performers. We have some amazing artists in our humble little production, and to share in entertaining the crowd with them, and to see them among the audience, knowing I too become captivated like them, captivated like everyone, to feel myself become an equal in a much larger web of relevancy, is truly humbling. 10) Is there a permit or certification required to perform with fire? There are some qualifications, but not much that is officially required. Performer insurance is a good first start. We're a pretty tightly knit community, so word gets around if a performer is safe, or not. 11) In your opinion, what separates a skilled performer from a natural performer? It's all skills that can be learned. Some performers focus more on technical, tool manipulation skills, others focus on story telling and character development. They all serve a purpose on the stage. Becoming comfortable exposing yourself, being vulnerable in front of a crowd, really helps. 12) How much further would you like to take your performance? Is there anything you haven't tried/mastered yet that you'd like to perfect? A lot! I'm constantly training, trying new techniques, refining and improving old techniques, testing my capabilities, seeking guidance on making improvements, teaching, drilling, training... After 21 years of martial arts training, I'm pretty sure this will continue to be a lifelong devotion. I've got loads more to learn and practice, teach and share. 13) Any advice for beginning artists/performers? Practice. Take your time. Don't compromise your health, or the safety of others.

Blake Scott

1)   When did you first begin playing with fire and what was it that made you want to start?

2012. My life-partner at the time was a fire performer. She wanted someone to be her safety/spotter for her on a regular basis. She knew I could handle it, so I picked up some training at Burn Academy (no longer exists), and served as her safety/spotter. Others noticed I was competent at this task, and asked for the same from me. I quickly developed a reputation as a competent safety. I even became head fire safety of a performance troupe. At the time, I had 15 years of martial arts training, but I had painful stage fright, and aversion to large crowds. When I was asked to perform with fire myself, I saw an opportunity to conquer fears, and develop new strengths.

2)      When and where was your first official fire performance?

2014, Spring? I can't remember when, exactly. I was serving as a fire safety at a gig, and one performer threw their fire prop into the crowd. Our safety handled it like a pro, but the performer was cut from the team, on the spot. I had the requisite skills, so I was asked to fill in their spot for the remainder of the performance that night.

3)      What was the first apparatus you learned?

Long Staff. In martial arts, when I was 13, the first tool I practiced with was a long staff.

4)      How many different apparatuses have you performed with?

I've been practicing with many martial arts weapons since I was 13, but I've only performed with: Staff, dual staves, dragon staff, nunchaku, swords, rope dart, fire fans, fire poi, and fire knives.

5)      What precautions go into each performance?

Every technique we practice on stage has been practiced many times, both not on fire, and practiced on fire, as well. Standard procedures are a start for creating and operating within a safe environment. We also never work alone, and again, we're already trained. This comes with the vetting/audition process. Before every performance, I like to go through a safety checklist in my head. We all have a habit of checking each other on this. It becomes ingrained in each of us. Most importantly, we watch one another, and have a habit of speaking up if we notice anyone deviating even slightly from safety procedures. It becomes a part of the culture, we know our fellow performers care about us when they directly address our safety.

6)      What do you do to prepare for a performance?

First, before anything else, I focus on the procedures of maintaining a safe space. Then I prepare my tools, and make sure the needs of my fellow performers have been met. Once all of this has been done, and we are all confirmed ready to begin the show, I quickly scan the crowd and listen to the music.

7)      How many years have you been with Dark Harbor?

4 years. When I wasn't a back-up on the fire team, I was a mime in the circus maze.

8)      How often do you practice with your Dark Harbor crew?

Some of them I practice with regularly throughout the year, others I only see during Dark Harbor.

9)      What does it feel like being on stage performing? And what do you think when you look out into the audience and see them responding in a positive way to your show?

It's an ambition come to life, and truly empowering. I've spent years working towards being a part of productions like Dark Harbor, to raise the quality of my performances, increase my capabilities, and expressiveness, to earn my place on the stage. Hearing the crowd come to life during a performance excites me, every time. I love the way the audience talks to me, and about my character, when we encounter one another on the streets afterwards. I'm often remembered, and sometimes feared... perhaps rightly so... the audience can tell my stage combat skills aren't all for show. It's empowering to be such a mysteriously powerful monster on the stage. It fills me with a kind of warm and subtle pride. However, what really moves me, what makes me cry when I think back fondly, is the genuine praise and support I receive from my fellow performers. We have some amazing artists in our humble little production, and to share in entertaining the crowd with them, and to see them among the audience, knowing I too become captivated like them, captivated like everyone, to feel myself become an equal in a much larger web of relevancy, is truly humbling.

10) Is there a permit or certification required to perform with fire?

There are some qualifications, but not much that is officially required. Performer insurance is a good first start. We're a pretty tightly knit community, so word gets around if a performer is safe, or not.

11) In your opinion, what separates a skilled performer from a natural performer?

It's all skills that can be learned. Some performers focus more on technical, tool manipulation skills, others focus on story telling and character development. They all serve a purpose on the stage. Becoming comfortable exposing yourself, being vulnerable in front of a crowd, really helps.

12) How much further would you like to take your performance? Is there anything you haven't tried/mastered yet that you'd like to perfect?

A lot! I'm constantly training, trying new techniques, refining and improving old techniques, testing my capabilities, seeking guidance on making improvements, teaching, drilling, training... After 21 years of martial arts training, I'm pretty sure this will continue to be a lifelong devotion. I've got loads more to learn and practice, teach and share.

13) Any advice for beginning artists/performers?

Practice. Take your time. Don't compromise your health, or the safety of others.

Chow

Chow

Jon

Jon

Kevin

Kevin

Nox Rose

Nox Rose

Images from Fire Nation performing at Dark Harbor 2017

Below you will find images from several different performances from this year's Dark Harbor. We photographed 4 separate shows this season so these images are from all of them.