By Mackenzie Bath
Spinning balls of fire, blaring epic music, and a crowd of students greet you at the basketball courts in Forest, welcoming you to Fire Arts.
The Fire Arts Club meets twice a week to practice their fire spinning skills and hang out with their friends. Newcomers are always welcomed and greeted by the sight of the practice materials for fire spinning: spinning sticks and balls on ropes. The more advanced members of the club have staffs, machetes and other assorted weapons, all of which can be set on fire.
Griffin Flowers ’20 has been in the club since he arrived at Lewis & Clark.
“You get to choose whether you learn knife or poi, and then after you get decent at those, most people go off to others,” Flowers said.
“Knife” refers to a hefty stick with a blade on one end that gets lit on fire and spun around. “Poi” are two balls on the end of ropes or chains.
The club is run by Lindsay Von Tish ’18, who’s also been with Fire Arts since her freshman year.
“It’s a great group of people who are really welcoming,” Von Tish said. “It’s easy to learn. I’d never spun anything before joining and I think a lot of people are kind of daunted by the fact that we have fire.”
Of course, fire can seem intimidating, but none of the club members seem phased by the possibility of catching on fire. Hunter Spears ’21 was excited to turn in his fire-spinning waiver, and said that he would probably set himself on fire “at least a couple of times.” It’s a safe environment supervised by faculty advisor Peter Drake, who helps to teach students how to spin and how to create their own fire props.
Ben Glick ’20 has been spinning for about 9 months and makes all of his props himself.
“I like to buy exotic materials like titanium and carbon fiber to build my props from, but most people don’t,” Glick said. “Most people just use an aluminum tube, cut a blade or forge a blade out of something. You screw it in, or if you’re me, weld it in.” The members teach each other tricks and pick up new weapons to try. Some knife tricks include spinning it above their head, fire spraying off all around them and moves reminiscent of fighting with a staff. Poi tricks include spinning the two ropes in different directions and creating figure eights in the air.
“Have you ever heard the expression catching a falling knife? Well, I’m actually doing that,” Glick said.
The Fire Arts club does shows, including their upcoming Halloween show.
“It’s a bit more nerve wracking because more people see you drop it, but it’s also a lot of fun to see how excited people get, especially if they aren’t used to seeing us spin,” Flowers said.
Shows are in front of Maggie’s, and include any Fire Arts members that want to perform.
“I like the way it is here,” Kira Lapierre ’21, a newcomer to the Fire Arts club at LC but not to the art form said. “Everybody’s very friendly and it’s sort of a collaborative teaching thing. It’s cool how there’s not just one person telling people what to do. Everyone’s sort of learning from each other.”
Von Tish advises newcomers not to be afraid.
“Just show up, and within a few weeks you’ll probably be able to light things on fire.”