Smoke from frequently extinguished fires surrounded the lights inside the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center in Minneapolis on Friday.
In the studio, a group of 10 people gently spewed fire from their lips and led lit trails of flames up their arms.
Amy Bloss, positioned nearby in her recognizable "cat hat," watched over her students with pride.
Friday's level two fire breathing class is only a fraction of what the Minneapolis Fire Collective offers.
Bloss, better known as Fire Mama, founded the group in 2008 and is its current director.
“It wasn’t a big community [originally], just a bunch of us playing with fire,” Bloss said.
The collective started as a Burning Manconclave. They would choreograph performances for the last part of the event: the burning of the Man.
The group has since moved away from the fire conclave and transformed into a program offering education and its own events.
The educational aspect of MFC came to be when a family approached Bloss for help with their fire skills. She created a four-week program so they could perform at the Bridget Ritual in Powderhorn Park.
“When it came to the event, they couldn’t get the cap off the fuel. I was like, ‘This is the biggest problem?’” Bloss said. “Other people were like, ‘Well I want to do that,’ so then I just started teaching classes.”
Bloss creates classes and programs for anyone interested in playing with fire, no matter their skill level. Her teaching method is extremely attentive.
On Friday, she caught her students’ accomplishments throughout the class despite being caught in conversation. At one point, she spent about 10 minutes trying to get the perfect Boomerang GIF for a student performing a trick.
She is wholly involved in her students’ progress.
“People are like, ‘How long are you going to do this?’ And I was like, ‘As long as people want to keep coming,’” Bloss said.
MFC student Kyla Lalime completed Bloss’s intro classes, which include safety training and guidance of prop use. She came to the fire breathing class to refine her skills.
“I think [my biggest feat was] taking that step into playing with fire,” Lalime said. “It’s kind of a threshold that I cross through to respect the fire.”
Other MFC students have similar stories. At the beginning of Friday’s class, Bloss took a poll of who had previously taken a class with her. Everyone raised their hand.
“She’s really great at organizing things and having a vision, and then getting the right people to help,” said Jayme Halbritter, a friend of Bloss. “There really aren’t that many people that are doing anything like she’s doing.”
Bloss runs multiple events under MFC’s name and a few under her own. “Burning Toilet Paper Roll Man” is a spoof of Burning Man that Bloss used to host in her own backyard under the MFC name.
Under her own name she hosts “That Thing at the Cabin.” This camping trip culminates in the burning of an entire cabin that Bloss and her team have built.
In the spirit of community and inclusion, this is done in the nude.
“I have had 30-some naked people dancing around the cabin and a lot of them are my students,” Bloss said. “I think those are my proudest moments, seeing them naked and spinning.”
While Bloss and the Minneapolis Fire Collective are familiar names in the Twin Cities fire community, Fire Mama doesn’t shy away from outsiders who wonder: “How the hell does she do it?”
“It’s funny when people ask, ‘Well what do you put in your mouth?’” Bloss said. “I say ‘magic water.’”
What: "Intro to Fire" with Fire Mama
When: First class on April 11, 8-9 p.m.
Where: Minneapolis Fire Collective, 3512 Bloomington Ave., Minneapolis
Cost: $180 for the five-week course