New spin for unique sport

Friday, June 15, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:22 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Cliff Lawrence, a member of Sphyres of Prometheus, spins fire June 7 at the Twilight Festival. Some members of the group want to see fire spinning in the Show-Me State Games.

Fire heats the street in front of the Living Canvas Tattoo, Piercing, and Art Gallery. Flames shoot high into the summer air.

People mouth “whoa” and “wow” as they drive by. Children look on, wide-eyed. But this is not a fire raging on the streets, it’s the Sphyres of Prometheus performance June 7 at the District Twilight Festival.

The flames the group swings are anything but out of control. It is fire dancing.

“It takes skill and practice,” Kim “Sasha” Brummell announces to the small audience. These are two of the reasons why Sphyres of Prometheus’ promoter, Anthony “Kaos” Olson says fire spinning should be part of the Show-Me State Games. He’s recently entered a request and is awaiting their reply.

If it becomes a competitive sport though, it could be hard to judge, say some members.

“It would have to be judged like figure skating or gymnastics,” David “King Tut” Tutterow says. “Technique, creativity and control are important.”

George “Rhino” Davis says he thinks the spinners would have to train judges themselves.

“Well, just about anyone who knows enough to see how good someone is will probably want to be competing,” he says with a chuckle.

Not everyone is supportive of fire spinning going competitive. Group member Kalayna “Buddha” Lolla, 11, used to be a competitive cheerleader, but quit when the competition started to outweigh the fun.

“It would have to stay fun,” Tutterow says, “Or there wouldn’t be any point at all.”

Thoughts on the kinds of competition vary. Choreographed fire spinning, with one or more participants, and freestyle fire spinning judged on difficulty, creativity and execution, are two popular ideas. Music, which the group already uses in their shows and practices, could also be incorporated.

There are currently two other major fire spinning groups in Missouri: Vesuvius, in Kansas City, and Pandora’s Matchbox, in St. Louis. In the spring, all three groups get together for an event called Interfuse, which is held about 20 minutes outside Columbia on 160 acres of private land.

“Each group has it’s own style,” Davis says, “Vesuvius is very choreographed and Matchbox is very fast.”

Olson likes to say that Sphyres of Prometheus is close to the Columbia community.

“I would say our style is fire for awareness,” Olson says. “...We are heavily philanthropic and seek to give back to our community in thanks for the opportunities our community provides us with.”

The tools of the trade include flame-tipped fans, spinning poi, darts, hand candles, staffs, swords and batons. They use tightly woven, wrapped Kevlar and torch oil to light their fires. Most competitors practice for weeks with the equipment before lighting up for the first time.

Other than vying for a place in the Show-Me State Games, the group has plans to start a class through Columbia Parks and Recreation and form a student group at MU next year to bring in new fire spinners.

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