Fire charming group brings show to Parksville

http://www2.canada.com/oceansidestar/news/story.html?id=cac4de1c-b5ed-4311-a623-2ea326db0cc1

VestaFire Entertainment will be putting on a night show by the gazebo in the Parksville Community Park on Saturday, August 4th. The group specializes in acrobatic fire spinning.

VestaFire Entertainment will be putting on a night show by the gazebo in the Parksville Community Park on Saturday, August 4th. The group specializes in acrobatic fire spinning.

STEWART BURNETT PHOTO

Stewart Burnett, Oceanside Star

Published: Thursday, August 02, 2012

After a well-attended Community Park performance last week, VestaFire Entertainment is preparing for a bigger show in Parksville this Saturday.

Founded in 2010, the circus arts company travels the island doing choreographed fire-charming, dance and theatre shows.

Karina Strong, performer and founder of the group, began as a social worker and started VestaFire as a way to share joy, hope and the importance of play with this “sometimes crazy” world, she said.

“I think of what we do as therapeutic recreation,” said Strong.

The group practises extensively and also attends regular spinning and juggling conventions.

“One of the fabulous things about circus arts is that you are always learning and improving, so it is a constant challenge and always rewarding to improve your skills,” said Strong.

“My biggest challenge this season has been the development of our double staff duet, which involves throws. I’m not a proficient juggler so throwing and catching – at the same time – has been a fun challenge for me!” Dozens of people gathered last Thursday to watch the group perform in the Community Park by the gazebo. Twirling fire balls and sticks around their bodies, the performers impressed the audience, who no doubt wondered just how often things go wrong working with such dangerous props.

“We do often receive minor burns – we are playing with fire, after all,” said Strong, noting it’s similar to cooks who regularly get small burns from the grill.

“But we have never had any major injuries. We make sure that the ‘tricks’ we do with fire are all mastered with practice props prior to lighting. Accidents can happen, but as professionals we always have strict safety protocols in place and a dedicated first-aid kit.”

The group has developed a safety plan with the fire department and is trained in proper fire extinguisher use. Strong said the most dangerous aspect for the performers is wind. “The worst burn I’ve had performing was simply holding a torch,” she said.

“The wind changed direction suddenly and the top of the flame blew back onto my hand, causing a nasty first-degree burn.”

Asked if it’s ever scary doing her routines, Strong said simply, yes.

“However, we are experienced fire charmers and know the properties of our fuel and the way our burning props behave,” she explained.

“We always respect the flame and know that we are flirting with a dangerous thing and take precautions accordingly.”

She said the partner choreography is challenging, but that trust between performers is important. Any onlooker last Thursday would have seen such trust as Strong and fellow performer Lukas Knab interlocked their bodies and spun fire around each other.

Last year, members from the group went to Asia to teach and perform for Burmese orphanages, hospitals, refugee camps and migrant villages. Strong said teaching and clowning with thousands of children during that trip couldn’t help but bond the performers together. Now VestaFire is looking to expand into more corporate shows, bigger productions and school performances.

The group will be performing at the Parksville Community Park near the gazebo on Saturday, August 4th at 9 p.m. Strong encourages the community to come out and see VestaFire’s performance, which Strong says will include some special guests and props for extra “wow” factor.

In addition to the August 4th show, VestaFire is providing busking shows at 9 p.m. most Thursdays on the beach, as well as circus and hoop fitness lessons.

Visit http://www.vestafireentertainment.ca for more information on the group.

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