The last rehearsal before 6fest Street Art Festival: for Firestep (Plovdiv), even mundane rehearsals are akin to a premiere presented to demanding spectators. And sometimes they need to negotiate the right to work in certain places with little kids. As it was yesterday during an amusing discussion with 8-year old Plovdivians who weren’t keen on neither sharing their territory nor staying quite.
Firestep consists of six young enthusiasts: Biser Georgiev (the leader), Angel Valchev (the manager, spoke person and designer when a need arises), Hristian Stoyanov, Melina Atanasova, Donka Kyoseva and Savina Bashliyska. They are professional dancers and actors who favour different styles and art media. What they have in common is a desire to combine theatrical lyrics with impassionate fire art.
We met with the Firestep team on Thursday evening in Kapana where next week (October 28) they will perform Samodiva. They told me about their show based on five ancient Bulgarian legends and original music and showed the stage, requisite and flyers distributed around the city.
Then we moved to another location to rehearse some fire elements which began with a clash of generations. Namely, a search for compromise with a lively crowd of 20 or so hyperactive kids aged 7-8. The dancers asked them to reduce the noise and share space temporally. The children yielded to no persuasion. Until the leaders of each group, Firestep’s and the schoolchildren’s, entered into negotiation.
Burning with curiosity, the loud tribe gathered in one place and turned into a quiet audience who tried to catch every moment of a magical performance with their mobile phones. Occasional comments ‘Wow! Look as it’s cool!’, It’s the coolest piece!’, ‘No, this one is the best!’ made Firestep put their heart and soul in every single movement.
‘We emphasize the feature of Bulgarian culture and work on preserving and reconsidering of the best traditions of our country, – points out Angel Valchev. – This expresses in adding theatrical features with dramatic plots to our performances’.
The intense pressure of the creative process with unexpected challenges is a strong driven force for Firestep. They are very critical of their work and strive to offer their audience very original performances that challenge the stereotypes of fire art.
‘Fire dancing is usually associated with rock music, and this perception has formed due to the commercialization of this style, – says Biser Georgiev. – There is an unwritten rule in this business: to be accepted by a large audience, artists should begin with a commercial hit, and only when accepted, they can present their original style of fire art’.
Despite the uncomfortable rules and very limited opportunities for young artists in Bulgaria, the members of Firestep strive to offer the audience original non-mainstream performances. At the same time, with their art, they encourage people to rethink stereotypes and traditions.
With the theatrical play Samodiva, they have reconsidered old Bulgarian myths in the context of the current trend – feminism. In contrast to the majority of original fairytales when women had to be subordinate to men, Samodiva is an example of a female free creative expression through dance.
After the impressive rehearsal, we had a brisk walk with Biser Georgiev to his favourite place in the city – Plovdiv magnificent 2nd-century AD amphitheatre (in the image below).
Biser’s most cherished dream is one day to perform with Firestep on that significant scene. Three years ago he worked as a waiter in the nearby restaurant and watched the concerts and shows of the most significant Bulgarian artists, including the brilliant Lily Ivanova. Since then he’s been working tirelessly to get an honour one day to present a wider audience a solo show inspired by the original art of Firestep.
This post is part of #6festhotweek, a communication campaign and ethnographic study I launched in support of the 6fest crowdfunding campaign devoted to gathering money for salaries of the 7 Bulgarian fire art-groups. More details are on my Facebook and this, this and this posts. Please donate & support people who develop fire art and cultural heritage in Bulgaria.