Fest brings fire dancers, spinners, and aerial silk acrobats
My friends, you are very lucky. You don’t have to trudge to the far reaches of the Nevada desert for Burning Man, dressed like you are auditioning for the sequel to Blade Runner. You don’t even have to catch a flight to Las Vegas and buy a ticket to see the Cirque de Soleil. No, if you want to see the most incredible fire dancers, spinners, and aerial silk acrobats in the world, all you have to do is come to Telluride and Mountain Village and check out Telluride Fire Festival on Jan. 20-22.
Telluride Fire Festival draws a cadre of talented performers every year, and Maciej Mrotek is in charge of them. “This is the only festival of its kind in the world,” he says. “The location is gorgeous, there’s this great interaction with the crowds, and the flame effects and snow… the atmosphere is very uncommon. Dancers from all over the country want to come, and we review and select 30 to 40 of the best.”
Mrotek is a a veteran fire dancer and performer who has his own troupe in Carbondale, but his passion for the element first ignited when he was 18, and a firefighter. He got inspired after seeing a show in Oregon, and started training on his own. When he began training, the fire arts were still nascent, but now they have become more popular and the art form has grown with new instruments and tricks. Most people are familiar with “poi,” the spinning of a chain that connects two balls of flame, but now there are fire snakes, fire ropes, fire swords, even nunchucks, and every dancer has a unique style. “People are really pushing the boundaries, learning new moves, new techniques. Some people spin fast, some slow. Sometimes they stall and draw pictures to project an image. It’s like dancing with a beautiful flame as your partner.”
Mrotek’s other flame is his real-life partner is Stacy Everson, an aerial silks performer who will be on stage and teaching workshops at the festival. Everson says aerial silks first became a circus art in the 1900s, and decades later the Cirque de Soleil pioneers realized that it could also be a form of body conditioning. She says her students get a new awareness of their bodies, and that the discipline offers an anti-gravity, low impact way to lengthen and strengthen the physique. “We get to explore this negative space, to move in all four directions. We rarely get to be held in a space, like water or air. It’s a joyous, childlike experience.”
Everson got her start climbing banyan trees in Hawaii, but she fell in love with silks there and moved to the mainland to train under the best aerial silk artists in the field. She has performed all over the world, and she makes this incredibly challenging art form look easy and graceful, but she is even more excited to turn other people on to aerial silks. She started her own studio, Sopris Soarers, and she encourages everyone to come to one of her workshops at the Palm. “If you haven’t tried any type of aerial arts yet, it is something you
should look to. It expresses a primal nature, letting go. Students come back and tell me that they are dreaming
about it. It awakens something in them. It is really intriguing, you just need patience and perseverance.”
Don’t miss these incredible performances at Telluride Fire Festival. They are as thrilling and inspiring as the fire art installations, giant burning wheels, fire-breathing robots, fire cannons, and so much more. There are free exhibitions every evening, and you can also get tickets to a workshop (aerial silks, glassblowing, welding, and more) and to the main event, the Fire Ball. It’s a very unique event, with a carnival atmosphere, and the drama of juxtaposing the fire art with the snowy landscape is something unforgettable.