It was a flaming hot time at 11th and Broad Street, like it usually is every First Friday. The fire performance troop Pyroteque was in action, juggling flames to amaze the crowd.
Bexley, also known as Mary Dixon of Augusta, is the senior member of the group. She was captivated by the spinners who performed about seven or eight years ago around 10th Street. The founder was Chris Crismond, who has moved away. They taught her everything they knew.
"I had some dance experience, but nothing with fire," Bexley said.
The spinners use several props, including fire fans; staffs; batons; fire poi, which is a fireball on a chain; several whips; a rope dart; and a fire hula hoop. They do contact fire, fire-eating and fire-breathing. The props are made of Kevlar so they hold the fuel without burning up. The spinners repair and eventually replace the props over time.
The spinners use a secret mixture of different fuel that they are not at liberty to disclose. They have an extensive safety training program, including at least three safety guys who hold wet towels, ready to extinguish the implements and the performer if they catch fire.
"If tragedy strikes and we catch on fire, all the safety guys know what to do, to put us out." Bexley said. "We have a safe word to use in case of emergency, and everything stops until it's resolved. We've never had a serious problem with anyone catching on fire."
The recommended clothing to wear is cotton, and definitely no nylon or polyester, because they melt.
The city has a fire marshal present at the First Friday shows.
In a typical performance, Pryoteque has two performers and three safety members.
The trick to not getting burned while spinning is practice, practice, practice, according to Bexley. They practice at least once a week with fire and one night without.