The largest convergence of fire performers in one place at one time happens in Black Rock City. Under the night sky when we release the Man in pyrotechnic delight, more fire energy is expressed and released than anywhere else or at any other time as a gift to the participants of our city.
For 2004, Fire Conclave membership remained at just over 600. This count included not only fire dancers but also fire watch (fire safety) and helmsmen (radio operators).
The Fire Conclave has always been ahead of the curve, showing the way, starting new fires. Many new people have started fire dancing in the last 5 years, inspired by the fire performance activities at Burning Man. On the other hand, many really great performers have stopped for one reason or another: burnt out, lost their love of it, or because they lost the ability to take the next step. To stay fresh and feel alive, one must grow, and that means continuous learning – taking the next step.
In 2004, dancers of the Fire Conclave were ready to leap to the next step. But months of preparation were needed to set the stage. The next step for the Fire Conclave was to create a choreographed fire dance. Lots of people just play with fire, but that is not enough. Fire is not the end goal, but it is the means to reach the end.
Challenges keep any creative mind alive and excited. We accepted the challenge of creating a dance that would synchronize all 600+ members of the Fire Conclave. This accomplishment would demonstrate that no difference separates the regions, the individual groups, or performers of varying skill levels. The challenge would never have been proposed if the membership had not demonstrated that they were up to it. For this challenge to work, it would take commitment from everyone who participated.
- Music and choreography needed to be communicated early enough for all to understand and master the dance. Since the Fire Conclave membership in 2004 spanned nine different states and Canada, we could not hope for a group rehearsal. The next best thing would be for the music and choreography to be placed on a web site.
- The performance would need to gather as many drummers as possible inside the Great Circle. The dancers needed to hear a beat to be able to dance.
- The dance could last only about 2.5 minutes, because most fuels that dancers use last 3 minutes, give or take.
- Choreography had to use a tool that the majority of dancers use: poi. (Fire-spinning poi consist of wicks at the ends of chains or wires, with a handle for the dancer to hold.) Information about all moves was accessible from the Home of Poi web site. Even those who did not dance with poi could learn the dance.
The PULSE became the name of the dance, and the challenge was set to make it a reality.
Community Outreach – The Pulse
Travels were limited to Los Angeles to create the dance and drumming, and to Seattle to invent the time keeping method (the solution involved naming Helmsmen, or radio heads).
In Los Angeles, we created the dance and drumming rhythm. Reid Defever was gracious enough to help create the drumming for the Pulse and then to help record the dance and place the information on his web site.
The creation of The Pulse would be a group effort. Since the music was created in Los Angeles, it made perfect sense to involve fire dancers from the L.A. Fire Conclave. Eight dancers were invited to help choreograph the dance by starting from certain moves and creating a combination in their own way. Progress the first night exceeded expectations; the basis of the dance was created, and it just needed refinement. The Pulse was recorded with a solo dancer during the day and again at night with the group. The recording was then ready to place on the web site.
The Seattle community helped invent the method for time-keeping using Helmsmen or radio heads. The Helmsmen would play a key role in ensuring that all groups inside the Great Circle performed on cue. Again, the ranks of the Fire Conclave membership produced this group, part of Cirque de Flambe. Since this group would have to work out the details, it made sense that they all would come from the same area. They would be totally responsible for keeping the different groups on beat.
The parts of the puzzle were coming together. Communications went out to the Fire Conclave membership, and the fire wheels were turning.
On Friday night during the event, a Show Me gathering brought all the groups together. This appearance allowed each group to demonstrate that they knew the dance before they were given laminates for entry into the Great Circle. All passed, and burn night approached.
Performers always work with a bit of chaos inside the Great Circle, always with too many unknown factors. A flexible attitude toward any planning is always the medicine to swallow. One can never really be disappointed. Everyone hopes for the best, and letting go of any expectations helps make for a delightful experience. So even though we lacked enough drummers (80 at the most), the Helmsmen could not keep the rhythm, and the dancers lost their way because they could not hear the beat, it was all OK.
The journey on the way to the playa was the important thing. Some groups had never attempted any kind of organized dance before, and they pulled their energy together for the common goal of the whole Fire Conclave.
The time has come for the membership within the Fire Conclave to open up to new groups. Fresh energy will fuel fresh fires. Each group will be given the chance to choreograph their own dance. This provision will add direction for each group and yield more than just chaos.
Fire Conclave Membership in 2004
The Fire Conclave is steady at more than 600 members from nine different states, plus Canada. Membership encompasses 29 different groups.
- British Columbia
- Radiant Heat – Vancouver
- Bom Tribe – San Francisco
- Burning Otter – S.F. Bay Area and region
- Drum Consortium – based in Los Angeles
- Fire Arts Collective – S.F. Bay Area
- Fire Conclave Jugglers – Sacramento & beyond
- Garnish – Los Angeles
- Infinite Kaos – San Francisco
- Los Angeles Fire Conclave – Los Angeles
- Phoenix Projekt – Los Angeles
- Phoenix Rising – S.F. Bay Area
- San Francisco Fire Conclave – San Francisco
- Santa Cruz Fire Conclave – Santa Cruz
- Santa Barbarians – Santa Barbara
- South Bay Fire Conclave – S.F. Bay Area, South Bay
- Temple of Poi – San Francisco
- High Fire – Steamboat Springs and region
- New Havoc – Denver plus San Francisco (formerly Zonnerhill)
- 3rd Degree Burn – Kansas City
- Controlled Burn – Reno
- Liquid Flame
- Portland Fire Conclave – Portland
- The Alchemists – Salem
Washington D.C. / Baltimore
- Playa Del Fuego
- Cirque de Flambe/Helmsmen – Seattle
- Northwest Fire Conclave – Seattle/Washington area
- Pyrosutra – Seattle plus S.F. Bay Area
- Burning Snow – Milwaukee
Our ongoing Community Outreach efforts have confirmed what we already knew: the primal nature of fire is a compelling force. Burning Man continues to evolve into one of the largest venues for fire arts in the world.