A plain street in Urbana turns into a performer’s playground
The streets of downtown Urbana get little more traffic than usual when the Main Street Fair is in town. As a part of “Urbana First Fridays” sponsored by Imbibe Urbana, this event featured different visual arts ranging from fire dancers to local craft vendors.
Audience members were entertained by every shake and shimmy of belly dancers from two different troupes, the Stygian Sisters and Classy Combinations.
Both troupes used the traditional dance form to entrance the onlookers and hypnotize them with the traditional moves of the ancient art form. However, while both groups use similar motions, they have different tastes in music.
While Classy Combinations used the traditional music associated with belly dancing, the Stygian Sisters opted for a more edgy ambiance with heavy metal music from bands such as Rammstein and Rob Zombie. Not only was the
music selection different, but the typical Middle-Eastern inspired clothing was switched out with jet-black attire decorated with black lace and spikes. The two groups allowed everyone from all music backgrounds to enjoy the art of belly dancing.
After the sun went down and the belly dancers had left the stage, the night was taken over by the bright flames emitted from the staffs and hula-hoops of area fire dancers. The crowd could hardly contain themselves while seeing the performers use different weaponry to amaze everyone around them.
How did all of these performers get put into one show? Freelance entertainer, Michael Moxie, started the idea when he was asked to perform with his partner Satina on the corner during Urbana First Fridays. From there he brought more performers from all
over Illinois to entertain the citizens of Urbana. “Over the years I’ve met some amazing people from various places around this area who have such wonderful talents and I wanted to create a public event where they could showcase their talents and promote themselves,” said Moxie. The artists were able to show off their fire skills not only using staffs and hula hoops, but also whips and poi.
April Jennifer Choi is another freelance artist featured in the Main Street Carnival. Choi’s main medium is the whip. She not only showed off her whip skills in Urbana, but also on the small screen during a segment on the Late, Late Show with James Corden where she played Jenga using just the whip. While she wasn’t using fire during that performance, she has used fire for the past six years.
“My favorite thing about fire performing is having that magical element where people don’t realize you can actual hold on to lit torches for a considerable amount of time before you feel pain,” said Choi. She is also skilled in dragon staff control (pictured left).
Another performer that specializes in “whip cracking” is Bethany Byrnes. While she does other forms of fire dancing, she likes cracking more “because there are such subtle differences in the different cracks.” She also likes to do “dragon staff” because of “the constant momentum with the spinning causes the fire to look gorgeous” said Byrnes.
The crowd was entertained throughout the night as the performance lasted until 11pm. While the group members may change for each show, flow arts will be performed at each Urbana First Fridays every month during the summer. Michael Moxie hopes that each performance they do will help “a kid feel like they don’t have to grow up and an adult feel like they can be a kid again.”