For several years, while I was living in the borderlands of Southeastern Arizona, I made it a point to attend the annual Cochise College Pit Fire. The entire evening surrounds a main event, the lighting of the pit fire itself; it’s an ancient method of baking clay pottery in which the pottery is placed in a trench dug into the ground with a wood fire burning above it. The result is pottery covered in interesting patterns and colors.
The evening is peppered with various musical performances on several outdoor stages, dance performances, acrobatics, theater art, gourmet food supplied by the college’s culinary arts club, and other vendors. It’s free for anybody who wants to attend, and it is genuinely one of the more interesting (and little-known) events in this somewhat remote area of Cochise County, right along the Mexican border.
I wouldn’t even be able to tell you if today’s picture depicts a booked performance artist or if it’s just an enthusiastic attendee who decided to spin poi in the field where the pit fire’s lit. It doesn’t really matter – it illustrates the energy and creativity of the event.
If you live in southern Arizona and want to attend, all you need to do is mark your calendar. You can check out their website here.
A very healthy example of the ‘nouveau cirque’ movement includes a group here in Tucson called “Flam Chen,” a pyrotechnic theater company established in 1994. I was first exposed to them while making a documentary about a local piercing and tattoo organization while also assembling a thesis revolving around body-modification and Modern Primitive subculture.
In April 2010 the troupe performed at a locally famous tiki bar on Broadway, Kon Tiki (try the ‘scorpion bowl,’ guys – it’s serious). The torches in front of the establishment were lit for the first time in over twenty-five years and Flam Chen was the special guest to help commemorate the event.
Today’s image is of a woman named Aurelia Cohen – a musician, dancer, choreographer, and aerial-silk artist, just to name a simple fraction of her talents. Physically disciplined with undeniable stage presence, chances are good that people don’t forget if/when they’re lucky enough to see her perform.