Each year the number of requests from performers to participate in the Fire Conclave grows. To be accepted into the Fire Conclave, each fire performer must be part of a fire group who performs a choreographed fire dance. This makes it easier to manage individual fire performers and thus the energy within the Great Circle. The Fire Conclave is recreated anew every year, so every group is required to audition — even a fire group in good standing that has been accepted in the Fire Conclave in the past. Each year the criteria is fine-tuned; please read it completely to be clear about this year’s expectations.
Fire Conclave Council
The Fire Conclave is managed by the Fire Conclave Council (FC Council) comprised of Crimson Rose, Tabasco, Wrangler, Scorch, and Natalie who enjoy the assistance of a fantastic support staff.
The Mission of the FC Council is to organize and manage the yearly gathering of the Fire Conclave groups in Black Rock City, ensuring that hundreds of fire performers and safety personnel are not only compelling to watch during the night of the Burn, but effectively managed and safe within the perimeter that surrounds the Man called the Great Circle. More information on the FC Council.
Criteria for Joining the Fire Conclave
Acceptance into the Fire Conclave and dancing at the foot of the Man is an honor, and this responsibility should be taken very seriously. To be selected for the Fire Conclave, a leader will need to assemble a trustworthy group of fire performers and safety personnel dedicated to responsible safety practices, and choreograph an outstandingly creative performance.
Fire Performance Group Composition
A fire group within the Fire Conclave is comprised of a Shin, Fire Performers, Safety Personnel (fire watch) and Helmsman. To maintain some parity across groups, there is a minimum and a maximum number of people that can be in each fire group.
In 2014, the FC Council established an opportunity for smaller groups to perform in the Great Circle. We are reserving one regular-sized performance space in each quadrant of the Great Circle to place two small groups side-by-side, allowing for up to eight total small groups to perform.
Maximum – 50 people per fire group
Minimum – 19 people per fire group – (15 fire performers, 1 Helmsman, 3 fire watch).
Maximum – 25 people per fire group
Minimum – 10 people per fire group (7 fire performers, 1 Helmsman, 2 fire watch).
In each fire group there are positions that are mandatory and others that are optional.
- Shin — Leader of the group
- Fire Performers
- Fire Safety Personnel — Fire Watch
- Helmsmen — Acting Stage Manager
- Shin Assist(s) — Assistant to the Shin of the group
- Documentarian (Photographer/Videographers)
Shin ~ Leader of a Fire Group
The SHIN (“Mother Fire” in Hebrew) is the leader and primary contact person for a Fire Group, who is willing to vouch and be responsible for the actions of all members of their fire group. The Shin manages and organizes a fire group, sets rehearsals, coordinates the production of their audition video, and communicates regularly with the FC Council. The Shin runs their group the way it works for them — each group has its own dynamic, energy, and level of commitment, and will create its own internal code of ethics and expressive style. The Shin must understand and recognize that acceptance into the Fire Conclave and dancing at the foot of the Man is an honor and a gift to be given. To hold this position, a person must demonstrate the following Aptitude and Competence:
- INTEGRITY ~ The cornerstone of the Fire Conclave is Integrity, which is regarded as being honest and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s action follow through with what you commit and agree to do. The FC Council has set base level expectations of honesty for the Fire Conclave and the Shins. The FC Council expects that Shins adopt integrity as their modus operandi, and is considered accountable for every person in their group.
- COMMUNICATION ~ In order to ensure seamless communication between FC Council and the fire group, the Shin is expected to:
- Use email effectively.
- Submit monthly Progress Reports.
- Clearly communicate with the FC Council through email, conference calls and in-person on-playa.
- Disseminate important information from FC Council to members of their group pre-playa and on- playa, such as where to connect with members of the group.
- SAFETY ~ The main concerns are rooted in safety, as there are volatile ingredients present that far exceed what a fire group brings into the Great Circle. The FC Council trusts that the Shin is acting responsibly in regards to their personal safety as well as the safety of others. The Shin is expected to be conscious of safety and understand, utilize and facilitate standard safety protocols for themselves as well as all members of their groups at all times. Each member of the Fire Conclave shall take Personal Responsibility for their own actions. Carelessness, negligence and unsafe conditions with fire or fuels will not be tolerated. Do not drink, take drugs, or smoke when working with fire or fuels.
- MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION SKILLS – A Shin must have the ability to rally a group of free-spirited individuals in a group choreographed fire dance. This often requires patience and the ability to lead with a firm but flexible hand. Ultimately, the Shin must be willing to vouch and be responsible for the actions of all members of the group.
- PROCEDURAL RESPONSIBILITY
- The Shin must be present on playa until after Burn night.
- Adhere to all guidelines, standards and deadlines related to paperwork and communications, etc.
- Submit the group roster, choreography, audition video and other necessary information to the Fire Conclave Council.
- Understand and communicate the importance of necessary rules each Fire Conclave members must adhere to.
- Attend the Mandatory pre-playa Conference calls/summits, on-playa meeting (Shin Dig) and Saturdays Great Circle Access Pass (GCAP) Pick-Up.
- Honor sobriety while performing these duties as well as when performing.
This brief overview is designed to give you enough information to make an informed decision about whether you wish to become a Shin. If you’d like to be a Shin and would like to know more about the expected duties and responsibilities, please see our So You Wanna Be A Shin (PDF).
There must be a minimum of 15 fire performers in a large group, or 7 in a small group. A fire performer is anyone who dances or moves with a fire tool to create performative fire art. Fire Performers are part of a group that works under the direction of their Shin and are required to honor sobriety while playing with fire. Fire Performers can not be a Helmsman or Documentarian.
Fire Watch / Safety Personnel
This position goes by many names, but simply put they are responsible for making sure the fire stays where it should be. If performers accidentally lights themselves on fire, Fire Safeties are at the ready to put it out quickly with a wet towel or other fire retardant materials. Fire Watch/Safety Personnel are clear, capable, competent and are required to honor sobriety while they are performing their duties. Fire Watch / Safety Personnel may sometimes also be a performer, but they can not be a Helmsman, Drummer, or Documentarian. Each group will have a ratio of about one Fire Watch / Safety Personnel to every five fire performers. Underage performers must have a safety person solely dedicated them while they are performing, parent preferred. If a group has more or less the FC Council will question the number of people you present with your final group numbers.
Radio communications in the Great Circle before, during and after the fire performance is crucial. The Helmsman is an extension of the person calling the Run of Show (essentially an assistant stage manager). They listen for cues to start and stop and transmit these cues to their fire performance group. Helmsmen must have a critical eye to observe everything that happens with, around and outside of the performers’ area and are required to honor sobriety while performing their duties at the Burn. Each fire group will have one Helmsman. The Helmsmen performs this singular task and may not perform with fire, play music, document or act as Fire Watch. Helmsman duty requires that the radio and equipment be checked out prior to the Burn and returned as designated after the Man falls.
Optional – But Nice to Have – Support Staff
- Shin Assist ~ While the Shin is required to fulfill all of their expected duties, the Shin Assist can support them in the completion of those duties. Shins should absolutely introduce their Assist to the Fire Conclave Council.
- Musicians / Drummers or Music ~ While no amplified music is allowed in the Great Circle, you are welcome to provide music that will help you be creative and will complement the dance movements through your choreographic development, video shoot and performance, such as drums or a brass section. If your group is in need of drummers, our Ambient Drummers can accompany your group. These drummers are arranged around the Great Circle where there are no group-affiliated drummers.
Documentarian (Photographers or Videographers) ~ There are particular guidelines and registration deadlines that are related to these positions, not just with the Fire Conclave but also with Burning Man’s Communications dept., Media Mecca. More information can be found here.
There will be a limit of ONE Documentarian associated with your fire performance group.
Developing Your Dance
Each group will have 25 minutes to dance in the Great Circle at the foot of the Man. The dance should be about 15 minutes of choreography, followed by 10 minutes of chaos: freestyle, jamming. Chaos is chaos for a reason, it may end up being three minutes rather than 10. Plan your choreography to be no longer than 15 minutes to avoid having it cut short.
Choreography is the art of designing sequences of movement in which motion, form or both are specific, planned and connected. The art of composing dances, the movement and patterns of a dance composition means there is thought to the dance. Choreography does not necessarily mean a synchronized dance, but it could. The direction for the Fire Conclave is choreographed dances, the opposite of simple fire jam/chaos. Any person or group can come together and “fire jam”. There is nothing wrong with free form fire jams “chaos” and each group will get a chance at a bit of chaos, generally after the designated time for the choreographed dance and before the Man burns. To step within the boundary of the Great Circle, there must be more than pure chaos. A diverse range of styles and techniques choreographed with intention makes the best contribution to the Fire Conclave.
“Fire Dance” isn’t limited to only one kind of movement/dance or only a small number of tools. This dance genre is as diverse and wide ranging as the imagination of the fire dancer that utilizes fire as their medium. It is human nature to evolve, and the drive to take fire dance to the next evolutionary leap is no exception. While some fire groups are experienced in creating choreographed dances, others are not used to thinking in this direction. They’ll find it becomes a wonderful stretch of the creative mind. Fire performers of today and tomorrow are meeting the challenge and embracing it wholeheartedly. The drive to excel in fire dancing is a continued push for evolution in this modern form of performance art.
Scenarios / Story-line – Please be cautious of developing a deeply layered narrative story, worry less about the story and concentrate on the dance. Remember participants watching your dance will not know what your theme is, keep it simple and clean. Too many details detract from the dance, and the dance needs to be seen. When developing your dance, please don’t limit yourself to working directly to the yearly Burning Man theme. If it’s an inspirational starting point for you, that’s great, but if the theme is holding your creativity back in some way, go with your vision and inspiration to create the best dance you can.
Some aspect you should keep in mind while choreographing:
- Composition & working as a group versus solo performers – It can be incredibly challenging to manage a diverse group of dancers, especially when everyone wants to show off their own style. Working with a group creates a different challenge, BUT can be so rewarding when everyone is working together for a common goal / storyline. Everyone in a routine works together for the same end, the whole is bigger than the sums of the parts..
- Working with drummers / musicians. Who drives the dance? drummers or dancers? It is a fine balance between dancers & drummers working together to create the pace, versus drummers driving the beat and dancers attempting to keep up. This is a sure way to screw up the pacing of your dance.
- Aspects to keep in mind while you choreograph:
- There Needs To Be Fire On Stage At All Time.
- Transitions ~ How does one dance section move/flow to the next – smooth or choppy. Are performers ready and waiting for the next section?
- Formation/Configuration of a Dance ~ Think differently as to “How” the dance is presented within the amount of space you have to work with. Circle or circles within circles, Chevrons (in any direction), diagonal/curvy, crazy lines, layered (action in the front while there is something happening in the back, one or two surrounded by others, multiples of anything, a move that is repeated (row row row your boat) are several different ways to showcase your dance.
- Movement of these formation ~ Try adding movement through the performance space with each one of the formation: moving in a circle while spinning versus stationary.
- Awareness of other members of the group ~ Front person drives the pace and leads, and needs to be strong enough that people behind are able to follow and at the same time be aware of what happens behind and on either side.
- Pace of the Dance ~ there are times when you just want to spin as fast as you can, but there is also time for moments of stillness, which can emphasize a point. Everyone stopping, pause, start up again.
- Everyone may have an idea of what a fire duet is, but our expectation is that two people will be directly interacting with each other and their fire, not just working in sync but also playing or working with one another. As you are planning your choreography and thinking about the duet, please think about two people working in conjunction, as a team, not just working side by side, but rather intertwined. It doesn’t need to be particularly intimate, a sword fight is just as intertwined as two people feeding fire to each other.
- Duets are mandatory. If your video does not open with a duet, (without a really good explanation as to why), then you will not be accepted into the Fire Conclave. Your duets must be at least 90 seconds long.
Deadline to Communicate Intention to Participate
The deadline for communicating your intention to participate with the current year’s Fire Conclave is MARCH 1. If you are a leader of a fire group and willing to follow the criteria and can demonstrate aptitude and competence please subscribe to the Fire Conclave Announce list.
Subscribe to the Fire Conclave Announce List
The Fire Conclave Announce email list isn’t a discussion list, it is the one place to hear about all the activities related to the Fire Conclave from the Fire Conclave Council. All fire performers — whether with a group or not — are encouraged to subscribe to the Fire Conclave announce list. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell us something about yourself, what attracted you to fire, how long have you been playing with fire, what kind of tool(s) you utilize, where you live, how many years you’ve attended Burning Man, if you play with a fire group, and anything else you want to express about yourself.
Current Fire Conclave Membership
The Fire Conclave currently has over 1,600 members who come from all walks of life. Whether from a small town or big city, the passion, love and respect of the flame is alive in their heart.
There are Fire Conclave members from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington DC, Washington State, and Wisconsin.
International Fire Conclave Membership
We are thrilled that the Fire Conclave has members from around the globe, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Cambodia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.