Burning questions for A Night on Fire performers


Wednesday, 6/7/2017 12:42pm


A Night on Fire, coming to Philipsburg Manor for four performances June 30 to July 2, features fire-wielding performers juggling, spinning, sword-fighting, and hula-hooping. The spectacular event leaves us in awe—and wondering just who these fire-breathing artists are. So we asked Michael ‘’Mooch’’ Mucciolo, Director of Operations for Boston Circus Guild and co-owner of A Different Spin, to pose all of our "burning" questions to the jugglers he manages for this event. Here are their answers! 

What draws you to performing with fire?

Originally it was the sensory experience: the dancing shadows, the sound of the flames whirling by, and the feeling of the heat. After many years, it's more about the feeling of mastering a dangerous element.

There is something instinctive and primal about human connection to fire. While it is natural to fear it, it’s also natural to want to control it.

How did you train for this?

We practice without fire. The most important part is learning a prop (juggling, or hula hooping, for example) and practicing it all the time. Some other skills that are important are scheduling (how is a giant dance number going to happen if we can't figure out how to be in the same place at the same time?), and chemistry (to understand the properties of the fuels we use and evaluate their safety for various different uses).

What skills does a fire performer need?

A fire performer needs very fine motor control, balance, and ideally also a good deal of creativity and poise.

With all of the movement during a performance, how do you not light each other on fire?

Lots and lots of practice! And you also a constant level of awareness about where everyone else is at all times. But sometimes we accidentally do (light each other on fire), which is fine because we have procedures for this.

What is the most difficult part of performing with fire?

The smoke and soot. Sometimes we need to clean soot out of our noses, and getting a lungful of smoke while doing highly aerobic activity is never fun.

Also, many of the tricks that can be done with a non-fire version of a prop may need to be modified once you add fire to the mix. For instance, if you have a non-fire hula hoop and throw it in the air, you can catch any part of the hoop you want. If you have a fire hula hoop, you have to make sure not to catch the wicks which are on fire.

How long have you been performing together?

Some of us have been performing together for over 10 years, but the whole group of us has come together in the past 2 or 3 years.

Any cool or unusual places you have performed?

Recently some of us performed at the Watch City Steampunk Festival in Massachusetts, which was really fun. The guests had the most fantastical outfits and hobbies—like teapot racing.

One of us frequently performs on the bow of a small boat for an event known as WaterFire in Providence, R.I. It’s a true challenge as you have to be simultaneously concerned with not lighting yourself on fire and not losing your balance and toppling over into the water.

What’s the craziest thing that ever happened during a performance?

We try to avoid crazy things happening during our performances, except for the ones that we plan. That said, we do get a volunteer from the audience up on stage, and each time there's no telling what they're going to do!

Once the DJ spontaneously replaced our finale music with Eye of the Tiger and we just kept going.

Anything new this year?

While we've got many of the same classic acts that people always seem to love, we have made a few tweaks and improvements to the overall show and will indeed be bringing a new poi act to show off this year! Not sure what a poi act is? Come to A Night on Fire and find out!

Thanks to Michael ‘’Mooch’’ Mucciolo for compiling these answers from the crew. A Night on Fire features performers from A Different Spin, provided by Boston Circus Guild.



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