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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Playing with Fire

    Playing with Fire

    Local circus and theatrical performance group Flam Chen is giving new meaning to the phrase “”that’s hot”” by offering courses in aerial silk and poi fire spinning.

    Created in 1994, Flam Chen arose from the need for a performance befitting the end of the traditionally glamorous and spooky All Souls’ Procession, said Paul Wier, the group’s technical director.

    Nearly 13 years later, Flam Chen features 10 members and is looking into purchasing or renting property to create a circus school that will offer courses in stilt walking and other areas of fire spinning, Wier said.

    “”We are only here in Tucson two to six months out of the year,”” Wier said, “”but we are working our way up to having a full-fledged circus school.””

    If you are interested in learning the traditional Maori art of poi fire dancing or would like to try an aerial silk class that suspends you from a 25-foot piece of fabric, Flam Chen courses begin downtown Jan. 15 and will be offered each month through May.

    The first class of each course is free, after which the fee for six classes is $125.

    If you want to spin fire but not spend the cash, the UA student group Street Performance and Incendiary Art offers a more cost-effective alternative, instructing students on how to spin fire with a staff, poi balls or a hula hoop. The group will even teach you how to eat fire.

    The only fee imposed for enrollees in the SPIA sessions, who become members of the organization, is one that funds kerosene and costs members about $2 a week if they choose to use fuel for lighting fire, Moore said.

    “”You can come for a year and still never spend more than $100,”” said Katherine Moore, SPIA club member and former club president.

    For Ashley Jarmack, a music senior who goes by the name Ash, fire dancing with SPIA provides a great way to expend energy.

    “”For me it’s just a way to be active,”” Jarmack said, “”and what’s a cooler hobby than saying you can eat fire?””

    Every Sunday evening, the group of about 30 meets at the stage just north of the Student Union Memorial Center, near the Second Street Parking Garage.

    Everyone is welcome to come, said Christin Loychik, an electrical and computer engineering graduate student and president of SPIA.

    “”We have a nice mix of current students, students from other schools and people who used to go to the UA,”” Loychik said. “”But we would really like to have more students participating.””

    For beginners, both Flam Chen and SPIA make sure to enforce the importance of safety before lighting a wick.

    By obtaining a safety permit and enforcing safety regulations, SPIA has managed to avoid any major injuries.

    Right now, the group’s biggest obstacle doesn’t involve fire, or even the lack of fuel. Rather, the club has difficulty finding a permanent home for its equipment.

    “”There isn’t really any place that is well-ventilated or large enough to hold our stuff,”” Loychik said. “”Right now we take turns taking the equipment home, but that’s difficult, also, for students who live in apartments.””

    While the Associated Students of the University of Arizona has tried to help find a proper solution, Loychik said that no one has been able to come up with anything that has stuck.

    While Flam Chen and SPIA share similar interests and talents, the groups differ vastly.

    “”Flam Chen has the money to spend $10,000 on a performance,”” said SPIA club member and biochemistry senior Gary Russo.

    “”But we don’t make profits, and we aren’t a performance group.””

    SPIA is willing and able to perform at fundraisers and other events, Loychik said. Group members are in the midst of preparing for a recital that will be held on the UA Mall stage Jan. 21 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

    “”We do a couple of events each semester,”” Loychik said. “”The recital is just a way for the club to entertain the UA population and have fun.””

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