Unless you’re Danielle Gann-Lind, a Controlled Burn fire dancer, that is.
Gann-Lind, whose performance name is “Gemini,” has been dancing with the acrobatic, fire-spinning stunt dance team Controlled Burn for three years.
And this weekend, in appearances at the University of Nevada, Reno’s homecoming alumni bonfire on Friday and at the Decompression Party at Club Underground at 555. E. Fourth St. in Reno on Saturday, Controlled Burn is bringing some extra heat.
“Initially, there was no one locally who knew how to do fire performance,” Gann-Lind said, explaining that Controlled Burn got its start in 2000 but that fire dancing emerged during the early 1990s. “We’re centered around Burning Man, but since we’re so close to Burning Man here (Reno/Sparks area) it seemed like a shame to only do it once a year.”
The group, which showcases intense flames, drumming, juggling and dancing, has grown significantly from what Gann-Lind described as “tribal to begin with.” The group now has more than 50 performing members and is growing all the time with lessons and workshops.
“We consider ourselves every person’s fire group,” Gann-Lind said, mentioning weekly classes out at Horseman’s Park off Skyline Boulevard in Reno. “Anyone is welcome. If you’re willing to put the time in to learn the skills, you can perform with us.”
The skills that are taught include proper handling of the poi and staffs — without fire at first so students can learn to make body movements artistic while staying safe, Gann-Lind said. Beginning members, or performers who are uncomfortable with the flame, use staffs with glow sticks attached to the end.
And while many Controlled Burn performances are choreographed, Gann-Lind said this weekend promises more spontaneous dances — what she likes to call “guerilla burning.”
“It will be more freestyle,” Gann-Lind said. “We’ll have a DJ that will play house music and we’ll just pick up a beat and go with it.”
Such freedom, as Gann-Lind emphasized, is indicative of the Burning Man spirit, to which the group always tries to remain true.
“(At Burning Man) everyone is beautiful,” Gann-Lind said. “You can be who you are and there’s no societal thing trying to put you into a box.”
Dancing influences include an eclectic collection, drawing from belly dancing to swing music and even some theme inspired Egyptian and futuristic moves.
“No performance is the same,” Gann-Lind said with a laugh, referencing several moves where dancers get close together, making flames even bigger. “We always try to shake it up.”
Both the performers and audience will likely get all shook up by the danger inherent in a rapidly twirling flame, Gann-Lind said.
“The fire is a rush and it’s very addicting,” she added. “Naturally, man is fascinated with fire. It’s an interesting thing to try to tame because you really can’t tame fire. It takes a hold of you and does what it will.”
Approaching her 10th year of going to Burning Man, Gann-Lind said the purpose of spreading their dance gets stronger and stronger.
“When you have fire in front of you and make eye contact and see the amazement in their (the audiences’) eyes, it’s a rush,” Gann-Lind said. “I think fire dancing represents a freedom of artistic expression. I think that is Controlled Burn’s legacy, to let the public know that this is a viable art form that can be done safely and is enriching.”
In the spirit of Burning Man, attendees are encouraged to sport their best Black Rock outfits.
UNR’s alumni homecoming bonfire starts at 8:30 p.m. Friday and admission is free.
The Decompression Party Saturday starts around 9 p.m. but those interested are invited to attend a family event at noon in downtown Reno at Island Avenue and Sierra Street where the Black Rock Art Foundation’s Mangrove Project is located. Ticket prices are $10 in advance from select outlets; $10 at the door with food and in burner wear; $15 at the door with food or in burner wear; and $20 at the door with no food and no burner wear.