Don’t try this at home.
What’s your immediate reaction when you see a blazing fire? To run for safety while screaming hysterically? Or do you get some marshmallows ready for roasting? David’s response is to listen, to hear what the fire is saying. He’s a fire artist. He eats fire, breathes it, dances with it, and transfers it from one part of his body to another. “When I light fire, it’s hypnotic. I listen to my body moving and to the fire. The fire whispers to me.”
David was surprised to fall in love with fire. As a kid, he didn’t play with matches or show tendencies towards pyromania. Sure, he liked Lag BaOmer. Children celebrate this festival (which is coming up this week) with bonfires. The religious origins of the custom are obscure but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming one of the most popular (and smoky) days of the Israeli and Jewish year.
But it was when he was on his post-army travels that David discovered his fascination with flames. “I went looking for the big world and found fire,” he says. He happened upon fire performers on a beach in Thailand and was mesmerized. “I’ve always been into both drama and extreme sports and here it was, beauty and danger combined. I knew straight away that I had to try this.”
In India, he and his friend Bar started practicing and performing. They returned to Israel and formed Fire Connection. David is also a musician and their act incorporates dance, theater, martial arts and high-tech elements. They perform at festivals and gatherings of all kinds. “We adapt our act to the audience.” At a bawdy pre-wedding party, they added a little fire burlesque into the routine. “They told us we were sexier than the ‘dancers’ that came on later. We felt good about that.”
At children’s parties, even the parents are “totally into the show. Everyone’s drawn to fire. It’s something primal.” David believes that fire creates connections “We’re part of the fire tribe that gathers at festivals like Midburn [the Israel equivalent of Burning Man].” There’s a small but tight community of fire performers in Israel. David picks up new tricks from a comrade known as “The Big Dragon” due to his fire-breathing abilities. Even non-fire friends help out, for instance, by marketing Fire Connection. “Everyone feels it could be big. I want to do this full-time, internationally.”
So, what’s the key to being a fire artist? “Keeping calm and practice,” says David. “Every single minute, I’m thinking about it. Bar and I are roommates, so when we perform together there’s total trust.” But the show must go on even if the unexpected happens. “You’ve got to keep smiling even if your face is on fire,” he jokes.
Risk is part of the game. “I’ve got injuries but nothing crazy. Of course, it’s dangerous. Even though I study the techniques, if you do something wrong, the fire will punish you. Often, my adrenaline is so high that I don’t notice the pain immediately.” When the pain does set in, David’s reaction is that “I need to do the trick again and do it right.” The wounds serve another purpose. “I’ll notice an old scar and remember the festival where I got it.”
For David, the essence of fire art is joy. “When I’m performing, the people watching are happy and I’m happy.”
Fire Connection | Cover photography: Elrad Netzer