Photos by Marla Klein
What started as a hobby for Amy Bloss—aka “Fire Mama”—has transformed into a massive fire community in Minneapolis. Today, Bloss is the executive director of the Minneapolis Fire Collective (MFC), an organization that offers fire performances, classes, and events. The group started back in 2008 with just 12 members and was initially intended to be a conclave for Burning Man (where they performed from 2008–2016). Over time, however, Bloss found herself being approached by people of all ages and backgrounds, asking her if she could teach them to play with fire. Soon, she was hosting weekly classes in her backyard in South Minneapolis focused on the education, safety, and performance elements behind fire dancing.
On any given evening, it’s not unusual to find Bloss, her students, and fellow MFC members spinning, dancing, and breathing massive fireballs into the night sky while music blares in sync with the flames. People ranging in age from 7 to 70, with day jobs that involve working in places from hospitals to major corporations, have participated. But as one of Bloss’ students sums up nicely, their motivations are all the same: “Fire is awesome and terrifying.”
After first being introduced to fire dancing back in 2005, Amy Bloss (also known as “Fire Mama”) says she was mostly self-taught, learning by “fire” while living in a loading dock. After a few years of performing, she quickly established herself as a leader in the local fire dancing community and became a regular fixture at community events and parties with other fire dancers. Today, she heads up the Minneapolis Fire Collective (MFC), teaching classes and hosting fire dancing events all over town.
Lean Burmester, a friend of MFC, demonstrates a few advanced fire dancing techniques using a flaming hula-hoop. While seeing a person surrounded by flames might seem terrifying, safety is a top priority for the group. “We have a spotter who makes sure they can help put out a fire if anything goes wrong,” she explains.
Bloss has never had an accident in all her years of teaching upwards of 300 students. “If one person screws it up, that screws it up for all of us,” she says.
While certainly not recommended for fire newbies, Bloss demonstrates some heavy fire breathing. “For years I thought it was stupid and dangerous,” she admits. “Then I learned how to do it, and it’s awesome.”
Lisa Lukas, who has been a fire and poi spinning student of MFC for several years, spins a flaming poi (the accessory of choice for fire dancing newbies), creating a seemingly infinite rope of flame from her fingertips. “It’s great because you can do the most basic moves for people who haven’t seen fire dancing and they’re amazed,” she laughs.
While Bloss still finds plenty of time to play and perform herself, she has been spending more and more time teaching others to learn to burn. “I offer a five-week series for newcomers,” she explains. “The first week is to find out what the craziest experiences everyone has had with fire. The next week, we light the fire, everyone gets spanked with it, touches it, and extinguishes it. The third week is when we’re ready to burn. Then the fourth week is a performance, and the fifth week is a fire jam where past and present students come play.”
As the flames begin to burn out for the night, Bloss and her students laugh, cheer, and chat about their next fire escapades, showing that the MFC has attracted quite a following, like a moth to… well, you know.