Jo Lovesey is a postgraduate in Philosophy from Merton. But Jo has a double-life: when she’s not trying to get to the ultimate truths of our metaphysical reality, she bewilders crowds at street and theatre festivals, dressed in a sleek vaudeville costume and enveloped in a cloud of dancing flames. She and her boyfriend Michael Rack, together with the unicyclist Lucas Wintercrane, form Pyrokinesis, one of UK’s top fire dancing troupes.
Cherwell: How did you get into fire dancing?
Michael: When I was eight I saw a guy juggling with devil sticks at a festival. I thought it looked amazing so I asked my mum to buy me some, and it all went from there… But I didn’t start using fire until I was 10 or 11.
Jo: Seven years ago, I saw some people playing with poi on a beach in Israel. I asked them to teach me and then practiced for hours every day. Then in 2006, I saw Mike performing at a club in Reading, where I did my BA. I wanted to have a go, so he auditioned me on the spot and we’ve been performing together since.
C: What kind of shows do you mostly put on?
M: The summer was really exhausting – we performed pretty much every weekend at festivals. We’ve done Glastonbury, Bestival, Camp Bestival, GuilFest, the Tárrega festival in Spain…
J Lately, we’ve been trying to make Oxford our base. We’ve done a gig at a Magdalen MCR event. I think they initially hired us to do something in the background, to look nice, but people were so fascinated that we ended up doing a whole show for them.
C: How’s health and safety? Ever burnt your fingers?
M: Yes, I’ve got some scars, Jo, haven’t I?
J: We’re doing this choreography which requires us to step past one another and…
M: Jo didn’t!
J: So I ended up wrapping one of my poi around Mike’s wrist.
M: Otherwise, it’s not dangerous – we’ve never inflicted any damage on the crowd or had any claims on our insurance.
C: You’re also pretty big on breaking world records…
M: We broke the world’s biggest fire show record at a circus festival in 2006 – 201 fire dancers in a choreographed routine. It looked amazing, but unfortunately we couldn’t authenticate it with the Guinness people. So, we’re re-doing it for the next Bonfire Night. We’re also planning the biggest dance routine (1200 people) and the biggest circus act (323).
C: What have you got coming up?
M: The next big thing we’ve got planned is a circus festival in Canada. And we’re planning to do a fire show on ice. We want to get a whole bunch of figure skaters and jugglers, teach them each other’s skills, put everyone on the ice and see what happens!
J: If there are any ice skaters or jugglers interested in joining up, they should get in touch via our website. We’re also looking for people to participate in our next attempt at the world record – so get in touch!