“It’s a pure adrenaline rush, every time,” Alyssa Kluver says.
It’s not that uncommon for 5-year-old girls to take dance lessons, but Minnetonka’s Alyssa Kluver turned up the heat on her dancing career in a way that few people ever consider.
Kluver danced through high school in Alexandria, Minnesota, and has a vocal performance degree from what is now known as McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul. She sings with a band, teaches at Bach to Rock music school in Plymouth and performs as a fire dancer with Funtime Funktions and other dance troops.
Tell us about fire dancing.
I typically dance to music with props and also breathe and eat fire … We do choreographed dances and improvisation. I have a collection of different props that I light on fire, including wands, palms, fans, single and double staffs, poi and club poi.
How did you get interested?
I was instantly mesmerized by the art of fire dancing when I saw fire dancers on stage with the band WookieFoot at the Quest nightclub [that closed in 2006] back in early 2000. Luckily, I had a friend who knew the band, so I started to follow them and befriended the dancers.
How did you learn how to fire dance?
In Minneapolis and when I was on the road singing with my band [Ulterior Motive], I would practice with beanbags and ribbons in hotel parking lots … I honestly don’t even remember learning in the traditional sense of the word. It was just something I picked up on right away and went with it. One of those artists I saw at that time, Steve Poreda, had a major impact on me and was a great inspiration … He has wonderful stage presence, and he is very good at connecting with and capturing his audience.
Thank goodness, I haven’t had any major mishaps, just little “fire kisses” here and there. As a fire dancer, you need to know your fire and where the flame is. Is it windy? Are you wearing tight clothing that is cotton or leather? I don’t want to sound overly confident either, though, because this is a dangerous and humbling art form, but you simply have to be smart about it. Respect the risk, and always, always, always be very careful.
Let’s talk more about safety.
Safety always comes first. We need to make sure we are a safe distance from the crowd and that our staging area is safe. Off to the side of the performance, you will see our fueling area, where we dip our props in certain combinations of white gas and lamp oil. Safety precautions include fire extinguishers, wet towels [and maintaining a] safe distance from the audience. If you are indoors, we need to be a safe distance from walls and ceilings. Fire permits are sometimes needed, and some of us are actually insured performers. We also employ extra people to watch us dance [and] to monitor our fire safety.
What do you enjoy about the art?
One thing that really attracted me to fire dancing back in the early 2000s was that I didn’t feel the pressure to look like a perfect ballerina or fit a certain image. Everyone I have met is beautiful in their own way, and we are allowed to be our creative selves … Mostly, fire dancing is passionate, magical, mesmerizing and I love seeing people of all ages in awe of what is happening right in front of their eyes. … I also like the versatile number of events we can dance at. I love dressing up in different costumes and the playing the part. And last, but not least, it’s a pure adrenaline rush—every time.
Poreda, aka Mr. Fun, has been running Funtime Funktions officially since 2008 with almost 100 categories of entertainment. “Funtime Funktions offers the widest variety of entertainment in the Midwest and provides the best entertainment around,” he says.
While face painters, balloon artists and magicians top the most-requested list, Poreda says one of his more “unusual” entertainers includes a snake charmer. Other elements include aerialists, fire dancers, henna artists and more. It also offers youth programs, including African drumming, Chinese ribbon and wand making, dance, global games, Hmong wearable art, Titambe African drum and dance, folk music and dance from the Andes mountains, for example