SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 27, 2012

Firing up Beverly's New Year

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — Ari Grosvenor plays with fire and, yes, she has been burned.

“Many times,” Grosvenor said.

But as a member of Spiral Glyphics, one of two local fire performance groups that will appear at Beverly’s New Year 2013, she takes her injuries in stride.

“I don’t think we’ve had anyone go to the hospital for their burns,” Grosvenor said. “We keep a burn kit.”

Dozens of performers, including drum circles, magicians and rock bands, will help Beverly count down the New Year.

But there’s a good chance that Spiral Glyphics and Eternal Lotus Fire Collective, with their burning, swirling fire toys, will be among the most visible.

And although Grosvenor is confident, given the precautions her group takes, that no one will get hurt on Monday night, she doesn’t deny the risks in fire performance.

“Fire breathing is one of the most dangerous forms,” Grosvenor said. “One of the best places where most people practice is in the shower, because you want a mist rather than a fine stream.”

As they work on spitting, fire-breathers also address their body English.

“There are methods of how you hold your body so you get out of the way of the fire,” she said. “You practice with non-fuel to get your body motions correct.”

Spiral Glyphics has been together for around three years, with a membership that currently numbers seven, but has included as many as 15 members, Grosvenor said. Most of the members went to high school on the North Shore and are between 20 and 26 years old.

The group appeared at Lynch Park, at Beverly Homecoming in 2011, in a two-hour performance called “Midsummer Night of Fire,” Grosvenor said.

“That was one of my favorite performances,” she said. “We were granted some money from the Cultural Council.”

Grosvenor, who recently graduated from Montserrat College of Art and now works at the school, does not breathe fire.

Indeed, rather than spitting flame out of their mouths, most of the performers in Spiral Glyphics spin burning toys around their bodies.

“The most common is called ‘poi,’” Grosvenor said. “That’s basically what looks like two tennis balls on the end of two short strings.”

While poi have their origins among the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand, those used by spinners are made of Kevlar, which doesn’t disintegrate when it burns, Grosvenor said.

Other toys include hula hoops, fans, meteors, staff spinners and rope darts, each of which is spun using a different motion.

Spiral Glyphics sometimes shares membership with Eternal Lotus Fire Collective, which also draws its members from the North Shore.

“We often meet up on a beach or park and teach each other different tricks,” said Jill Manos, a Danvers resident and member of Eternal Lotus. “We’re always connecting to other people in the group, to learn and teach new things.”

Performers usually spin fire in pairs or triplets and take turns resting before the whole group converges in a finale, she said.

Elements of martial arts, yoga or acrobatics are often incorporated into fire performance, to enhance the mesmerizing effect of whirling flames.

But just as often the performers improvise their body movements and respond to music as it plays.

Both Grosvenor and Manos describe themselves as “flow” performers, with no strict choreography to the way they move while they spin fire toys.

“It’s definitely like dance,” Manos said. “We incorporate a lot of dance into it.”

One key element in every appearance is the choice of time at which spinners perform — which on Monday will be between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.

“It works better to have twilight,” Manos said. “In twilight, you can see a person’s body, along with the prop.”

If you go What: Spiral Glyphics and Eternal Lotus Fire Collective at Beverly's New Year 2013 When: Monday, Dec. 31, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Where: Cabot Street, Beverly More information: For a full schedule of Beverly's New Year 2013 events, which will be held from 3 to 7 p.m., see the insert in The Salem News or visit www.beverlymainstreets.org.