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Ethereal Embers: Igniting the Performing Arts Community of Chattanooga

Ethereal Embers is igniting local performing arts through dazzling fire performances.

Photo by Firebug Photos

If you’ve ever been to a festival, you may have come across someone on the street performing to a crowd looking on in awe. Upon moving closer, you see that individual manipulating fire. Flaming hoops and batons capture the attention of everyone watching, and their performance is both impressive and mesmerizing.

Here in the great Chattanooga area, the Ethereal Embers is a troupe of local fire performers. Driven by a desire to support experienced and new performers, the Ethereal Embers group formed together to create and encourage a community that loved the fire performing arts.

Ethereal Embers features Spooky Dolly, Elliemental, Burgundy Blaze, and Alley Hoops.

Spooky Dolly has been performing with fire for over ten years. She is well-known in the Southeast as a fire-eating instructor and is even featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as being a part of the largest all-women fire breathing performance, known as a “summoning”.

Elliemental has also put in over ten years into the art. One of her best-known performances is a fire battle with another member, Alley Hoops, where two fire-breathers battle with fire fans.

“Her [Elliemental] specialties include fire fans, poi, dragon staff, palm torches, fire eating, and fire breathing,” Alley shared.

Burgundy Blaze is a belly dance who also dabbles with fire. She specializes in dragon staff, fire parasol, fire fans, hula hoops, palm torches, and a fire crown. She is often featured as a centerpiece to choreographed sets.

“Alley Hoops integrates elements of burlesque, pole dancing, and her own intense energy into a unique and mesmerizing performance that is always centered on the audience but springs from her creative center,” she shared.

With her deep Tennessee roots, Alley’s mission is to build the flow community and to inspire and be inspired by fire performers.

These performers, like other performers, happened on the love for circus arts by accident. Performing with fire for this group is more than a mere hobby. Each member honed their skills until eventually taking a leap. After classes on safety and technical skills, they tried spinning fire for the first time. Repeated practice and daily motivation has brought them all together to where they are today.

“Our art is the very definition of impermanence. In the blink of an eye, the show is over and the flame is out. You must experience it in the moment to share in the energy rush that pours out of the performers,” Alley shared.

The Ethereal Embers have received a warm reception in Chattanooga. In 2018, their first big event was ConNooga, where they did an act called “Flames of the Horde” cosplaying World of Warcraft characters. After that, their acts were a hit. They perform all over Chattanooga, including Station Street, Songbirds, Reagan’s Place, the Stone Cup Cafe, and even the Tennessee Aquarium.

“We've also added members with different skills that allow us to adapt for spaces where fire isn't an option, using LED props, stilt-walking, acro-yoga, and other types of performances,” Alley shared.

Ethereal Embers are also heavily involved with TAG, the Tennessee Academy of Gymnastics. There, local yogis and flow performers can meet up and practice. On every Sunday from 7-10 pm, they hold a practice for anyone who cares to come. They encourage the community to participate, as bolstering the performance community of Chattanooga is one of their many goals. The group upholds many goals, as Alley Hoops shared with us.

“To ignite imaginations with performance art that uses the magic of circus and fire to show anything is possible. To help create and nurture a thriving, safe, and collaborative performance/circus arts community in our hometown,” she said.

The fire art is a dazzling performance but is it nothing to be trifled with. Please do not try this at home. If you are wanting to learn this beautiful art, you have a few options.

“Many of our troupe members offer paid instruction at local studios, or even privately in 1-on-1 sessions, but we really push our free open sessions at TAG because we want to make sure people have access to quality instruction and safety lessons even if they don't have the money to hire an instructor,” Alley shared.