South Lake Tahoe resident turns fire into business
December 20, 2012
When Andrea Creo goes to work, the sparks start flying. Literally. The 32-year-old South Lake Tahoe resident and head of Tahoe Fire Dancers has made fire her business.“We were just doing performances for our friends and family, and we wanted to take it to the next level” Creo said of the group’s beginnings. “It was just something we were passionate about.”Creo started the performance troupe five years ago, contracting fire artists from all over the region, depending on her needs. Since then, Tahoe Fire Dancers have brought their flames to numerous events, including SnowGlobe Music Festival, Davis’ Whole Earth Festival, Burning Man, Wanderlust and High Sierra Music Festival among others. When Creo isn’t organizing or practicing for a show, she’s working to unite the local fire community and ensure that her art and that of other fire dancers is conducted safely and in conjunction with the fire department.“There’s so many fire dancers up here that we need to be educated and we need to work with the fire department,” Creo said.In Nevada, she’s earned a reputation as being very proactive about fire safety. Tahoe Douglas Fire Marshal Eric Guevin has worked with Creo on numerous occasions, including the most recent Burning Man decompression party at MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa earlier this year.“She’s a real strong advocate,” Guevin said. “I think she’s very concerned for the reputation of the (fire dancing) community and she doesn’t want to see anyone hurt.”Creo holds a fire safety card issued by the Nevada state fire marshal and has taught fire safety and poi dance classes at Lake Tahoe Community College. Before any of her students can spin ignited poi or other fire utensils, they must learn the safety protocols, she said. Creo’s professional attitude and her commitment to safety is one of the things that have held the group together and allowed her so many opportunities to show off the art form.“I was a firefighter for a number of years, so safety’s always been one of my priorities,” said Ian Plimmer, a West Shore resident who breathes fire with the group. “Going by the books isn’t always the easiest route, but it’s always the best route. The fact that she wants to do things safely is one of the reasons I continue to work with her.”Creo hopes to develop a registration system for fire dancers in California, similar to the system that’s in place in Nevada. She believes that it would allow city officials to identify safe places to perform with fire and help fire dancers know the safety standards.“We just want a great relationship with the fire department,” she said. “I want a lot of the young fire dancers to not see them as a authority you have to be scared of.”Creo has a deep background in dance, going back to her childhood. She first incorporated fire into her performances when she took up the Middle-Eastern practice of candle-dancing. She later picked up fire fans, essentially elongated metal fingers lit on the tips, and worked them into her routines. Her then partner Christian Ardita helped her learn poi and she picked up fire fingers, fire hoop, fire snakes and several other tools on her own. “I can kind of play with any tool, but as far as performing, I only do the tools I’m really comfortable with,” Creo said.Each year, Creo heads to the Nevada desert for a blast of inspiration from the fiery performances at Burning Man. She’s been involved with the event as both a performer and the regional contact, but mostly, she just likes to soak in the annual show.“You see the best of the best out there,” she said.Now, with countless shows under her belt, Creo is just as happy in the classroom as she is in front of a crowd. She’s working with LTCC’s Connect program to develop a fire safety class as well as other fire-related arts and dance classes.“At this point, it’s not so much performing as teaching that’s gratifying for me,” she said.