Steve Poreda leads something of a double life. His whimsical side, which has earned him the nickname "Mr. Fun," fits his first job—owning a toy company. But his spiritual and artistic side comes out on fire-lit stages: Poreda the toy maker is also Poreda the fire dancer. He formed Illumination Fire Performance Troupe in 2000, and since then he and his band of pyro-amorous performers have spread the art of fire dancing all over the Twin Cities. The way he talks about fire is the way a sailor talks about the sea—with great appreciation for such a beautiful thing, and with a respectful amount of fear. He says he's spiritually connected to flames, and he wants others to see fire the way he does. This Friday, Illumination will perform at the Winter Solstice celebration at the Cedar.
City Pages: How did you get into performing with fire?
Steve Poreda: I own a toy company, Mystik Toyz, and we would do a lot of festivals and events. In 1999, I was at a festival with staff, performing and teaching. Some of my West Coast friends working with me were performing with fire, and I saw them perform for the first time. As a result of my performing and juggling it was just a natural fit to get into fire spinning and dancing. Over the past seven years we've created a fire-spinning community that we've been harvesting through classes and events. It's something that once somebody sees, they never forget.
CP: It seems like a frightening job. Do you ever get scared?
SP: No. I feel that fear can lead to hesitation. And I feel that hesitation leads people to stumble and it takes you out of your moment. There is always the slight element of fear—I'm conscious of it. But the fear takes you in. It takes the audience's attention and it takes the fire dancer's attention. You have to be more alert and clear-minded and focused. The more alert you are, the safer you'll be, and the more beautiful your dance will be.
CP: What do your friends and family think of your profession?
SP: To tell you the truth, they're not surprised. I've had a very interesting life, and my family and friends and community have always supported me. My immediate family is kind of like, "Oh, there he goes again." But they're not afraid for me. They've come to understand over the years that to know me is to trust in all the crazy things I've done in my life. And they see that this is supporting something beyond myself. It's building and inspiring community such that people will carry on this flame metaphorically. We need a spark in our life. The fire is certainly an element that is 100 percent creation and 100 percent inspiration. And it's so symbolic. When you sit around a fire with your friends or family, you feel grounded. We connect with it. It brings that out of us. And when we dance with it, we bring that grounded energy, and you're manifesting a language.
See Poreda and the Illumination Fire Performance Troupe at the Cedar's Winter Solstice Drum, Dance, and Fire Jam. Those attending are encouraged to bring their own drums and participate.
Fri., Dec. 21, 6:30 p.m., 2007