Flame thrower:

At­lanta fire dancer Eric Re­ber siz­zles.

GA Voice - - Front Page - By DYANA BAGBY dbagby@the­gavoice.com

By day he’s a li­brar­ian at Ge­or­gia State Univer­sity. By night, he dances with and swal­lows fire.

Eric Re­ber, 43, has been fire danc­ing for six years as a way to get out­side the fo­cus and de­tail of work­ing as a dig­i­tal as­sets ar­chiv­ist and set free his cre­ative and ad­ven­ture­some self.

“It’s like a big re­lease,” he says. “I get to step out­side my­self.”

Re­ber orig­i­nally prac­ticed props ma­nip­u­la­tion—the art of per­form­ing with var­i­ous ob­jects such as balls, hoops and clubs.

A stu­dent of mar­tial arts, Re­ber, who is out and proud, used a fire staff as his pri­mary prop.

“At a cer­tain point you say to your­self, you know, you can set that on fire,” he says. “And so I did. And it’s been a blast ever since.”

His pas­sion and re­spect for fire and the art of fire danc­ing and per­for­mance led him to start a business, Bale­fire, in 2010 with friend and fel­low per­former Alexan­dra Mitchell. The two met while tak­ing a belly danc­ing class.

To­gether they have worked with some no­table clients, in­clud­ing the Savannah Zom­bie Walk, Ge­or­gia Spe­cial Olympics, Run for Your Lives—Zom­bie 5K, Wed­ding One Bridal Ex­pos and Tiki Hut—Hil­ton Head Is­land.

“When we started the business it’s be­cause we de­cided we wanted more fire. And it’s been busy ev­ery week­end since. It can be very de­mand­ing,” he says.

Re­ber’s fire dancer name is Woad, a name he chose care­fully.

“Woad is the blue body paint that the Celts used when they went to war. I have mostly blue tat­toos, which is why I chose it,” he says.

BURN­ING BALE­FIRE

Bale­fire is an old pa­gan term that means bon­fire, Re­ber ex­plains, and is linked with the May Day hol­i­day, also known as Beltane, tra­di­tion­ally cel­e­brated on May 1. The Gaelic fes­ti­val can mark the be­gin­ning of sum­mer and through rit­u­als of mu­sic and danc­ing of­fers pro­tec­tion from harm.

As fire dancers, Re­ber and Mitchell strive to de­light their au­di­ences with the magic of flames and move­ment, but some­times what is seen is not al­ways as ro­man­tic and as it ap­pears. Con­cen­tra­tion is cru­cial to en­sur­ing crowd pleas­ing dances—and some­times the fire ex­erts its au­thor­ity.

“There are the mild singe­ings here and there,” he says. “And I’ve burnt my beard pretty dra­mat­i­cally. But we are very fo­cused and al­ways have safety per­son­nel close.” Bale­fire is also in­sured. “We take ev­ery pre­cau­tion,” Re­ber stresses. “There’s an el­e­ment of risk. You have to have enor­mous re­spect for fire. I’ve seen some hor­ror sto­ries.”

‘TASTES LIKE BURN­ING’

Be­sides danc­ing with fire, Re­ber likes to eat fire.

“I al­ways like to say it tastes like burn­ing,” he says.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing. You’re es­sen­tially stuff­ing a flaming metal rod in your mouth. I do a lot of rins­ing out of my mouth im­me­di­ately af­ter­ward,” he adds with a laugh.

The props are set on fire us­ing a fuel that is usu­ally a hy­brid of liq­uid paraf­fin and white fuel, bet­ter known as Cole­man camp fuel. To­gether, the two make a mild, odor­less fuel and a clean burn­ing source.

“They call it flow arts,” Re­ber says of fire per­for­mance. “You just go into a flow when per­form­ing. I’m cog­nizant of my sur­round­ings and hy­per aware of peo­ple around me.”

Re­ber’s boyfriend is also a fan of the art and is on the safety crew. He’s good with a nee­dle and thread and tai­lors many of the out­fits worn by Re­ber.

“The key for cos­tum­ing and fire per­for­mance is the ma­te­rial used. We use noth­ing but or­ganic, silk, cot­ton, wool, hemp. You don’t want to wear polyester or rayon be­cause they will melt,” Re­ber says.

Through­out the sum­mer, Re­ber and Mitchell as Bale­fire are con­stantly busy trav­el­ing the South­east to per­form at pri­vate events or at large fes­ti­vals.

“We take a lot of joy in what we do and like to think we bring that to any event we do,” Re­ber says.

“It’s dra­matic, ex­cit­ing and in­fec­tious. And we are al­ways happy to share how we learned what we do.”

Danc­ing and eat­ing fire is a way Eric Re­ber says he can ex­press his cre­ative side. Re­ber per­forms with Alexan­dra Mitchell dur­ing a Bale­fire show. (Pho­tos by Steve Thack­ston, www.stevethack­ston.com)

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