The flames of entertainment

By Kaitlyn Chornoby

Thrill-seekers no longer have to venture to Las Vegas or wait for the circus to come to town to see a great fire performance because The Detroit Fire Guild (DFG) is bringing world-class fire exhibitionism right down the street.

The DFG, which was founded in Sept. 2008 by Jessica “Rabbit” Grassa and Evan Bradish, describes its performance as influenced by vaudeville, film noir and carnival shows.

The Guild’s upcoming production, “The Fires of Beltane,” taking place April 30 at the Crofoot in Pontiac at 9 p.m., is described as an evening of fire artistry, aerial maneuvers featuring performers from the Detroit Fly House and music celebrating the coming of spring.

With around 40 people, the group’s performers come from a variety of different backgrounds with their own specialized skills.  They are everything from engineers to entertainers and range from young adults to couples with children.

The stories of how they came to the group are just as varied.

“I used to play guitar all the time, but the music scene wasn’t where I

needed to be,” said performer Jade Ashekerra.  “Then a friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in a while gave me a sphere and showed me how to do my first trick with it. He called it contact juggling.”

Contact juggling, just one of several tricks, involves rolling a ball across your arms without letting it fall. Performers like Jessica Rose spin poi, which are flaming balls attached to a chain.

Rose, who also performs with a fire tutu, turned to fire when dance no longer excited her.

“I’ve always been a performer,” she sai. “Performing with DFG is just another side of life: a much less traditional side.”

The skill sets of the performers range from fire entertainment to illusion and acrobatics.

Rose is  also quite the contortionist.

“I fit into a 19 inch box,” she says, although she has fit into a 16 ½ inch box in the past.

Joshua Wilde said one of the best payoffs is the excitement of performing for a crowd.

“I’ve been at this since I was 5,” he says. “To finally have a stage and an audience to perform for is deeply satisfying. I feel like I hit the ground running, and it’s equal parts exhilarating and terrifying.”

The group performs a variety of different shows aimed at audiences from children to adults, each time catering the show to the crowd.

In addition to its performances, DFG has open practices.  For a suggested donation of $5, although not required, spectators can watch them prepare their stunts and even participate in workshops on skills from costuming to tribal fusion dance.

“Open practices are a way for the Detroit Fire Guild to give back to the community,” said show pro

ducer Matt Surline.  “[We wish] to share our passion for fire and circus performance and to help nurture the creative spirit of our city.”

The Fires of Beltane performance is open to ages 18 and up.  Tickets are $20 and may be purchased in advance.  For more information, visit