Local Artists Thank The Community With Fiery Performance
By Lara Donnelly
Flames rise up in the dusk, illuminating painted faces and elaborate costumes. The thump of dance music beats beneath the mesmerizing flicker of fire. The Yellow Springs performance group, Soul Fire Tribe, will illuminate downtown this Friday with another one of their incendiary shows.
Soul Fire Tribe has been performing at Third Friday Flings for years, but this is a special gig. Several members of the group have just returned from Kinetic Fire, a gathering of Midwestern fire performers in College Corner, Ohio. They spent four days learning new skills, workshopping new moves and routines and sharing experiences with fire flingers from across the region.
Their fans in Yellow Springs helped them get there. Kinetic Fire sponsored a contest for anyone interested in attending. Fans awarded two free tickets to the workshop for the YouTube video performance with the most hits, and Soul Fire Tribe won by a landslide thanks in part to their devoted local fans.
“It was such an affirmation that people love and support us, and we are extremely grateful to our fans,” says Astrea Taylor, founder of Soul Fire Tribe. Taylor is a Wright State student and Daytonian who commutes to Yellow Springs for fire practice.
Friday’s show will be an outpouring of the Tribe’s gratitude. They plan to bring all the new and exciting material from Kinetic Fire straight to their hometown.
“I have been watching some of the [Kinetic Fire] instructors for years on the Internet and they are my personal heroes,” says Taylor.
Taylor is a self-taught artist celebrating ten years of fire this summer. She toured the country for several years with the performance group Illuminations before she returned to the Dayton area and began teaching other people how to dance with poi, a Polynesian fire tool consisting of Kevlar knots or braid on the end of a chain. The Kevlar is soaked in lantern fuel and ignited and the dancer whirls the chains, creating spinning trails of fire.
Taylor’s weekly lessons morphed into a full-fledged troupe when Dayton’s Aids Resource Center (ARC) approached her about performing at the ARC’s annual Masquerage benefit.
“We voted on a name and performed at no charge, and had a great time,” says Taylor. “We kept performing after that because we had developed friendships and it was really fun.”
These days, Soul Fire Tribe travels to gigs throughout the region, including fundraising galas for the Dayton Opera, music festivals like Werkout and even a Derby party in Louisville, Ky. There are seven members: two moms, one teenager and four college students.
“Everyone brings a different style to the group because we come from different dance and theatrical backgrounds,” says Taylor.
Besides her highly-deserved title of “fire boss,” Taylor is an inventor and tinkerer, creating new fire toys, like a flaming parasol and a set of sparkling fire crowns for the group’s opening act. Lara Bauer, another founding member of Soul Fire Tribe, is a master of the fire hula hoop. Andrea Hutson is an energetic performer with fans, hoop and staff, and she isn’t afraid to get up close and personal with the audience.
Makeup artist Kristl Mapes makes sure everyone looks their best before she lights up and Savannah Amos is a gifted dancer who brings her natural grace to fire performance.
Tony Powers is an accomplished poi artist who spun for years on his own before joining Soul Fire Tribe. He is utterly fearless and brings the flames hair-raisingly close to his skin.
Whenever Soul Fire Tribe sets up, they festoon their dressing room or prep station with gas cans, paint buckets and oddly shaped tools and toys constructed from wires, metal rods and knots of Kevlar fabric. It doesn’t look particularly elegant at first, but once the sun goes down and the candles are lit, magic starts to happen.
“We call ourselves Soul Fire Tribe because we believe that a person’s soul is evident when they are fire dancing,” says Taylor. She compared fire dancing to meditation. “Some people say it’s like an out-of-body experience. We strive for our performances to be gifts of soulfulness and unconditional love to our audiences.”
(If you want to feel the love, or just feel the heat, Soul Fire Tribe will perform at dusk on Friday, May 18 in the courtyard outside Sam and Eddie’s Open Books and Asanda Imports. For more information on Soul Fire Tribe, and to see the contest-winning video, like their Facebook page or visit their website at http:www.soulfiretribe.com.)
Reach DCP freelance writer Lara Donnelly at LaraDonnelly@daytoncitypaper.com.