Madamn Burnz: on eating fire, finding aerial, and continuing after a spinal injury

Thursday, March 6, 2014; 12:30 pm ;
Editor's note: 

Madamn Burnz is our assistant editor of studios and the map. In this extended biography, she relates her unnamed skeletal condition which left her bones flexible, but not dense. She found her calling in fire, and later, discovered aerial. An aerial accident left her with a broken spine, and she was fortunate to not to have been paralyzed. It was through her accident and nine-month recovery that she found an interest in teaching, and soon founded her studio, the SkyHigh Odditorium (or Observatory).


My human body was given life nearly 30 years ago, bearing the blessing and curse of an unidentifiable medical condition. My bones did not support a dense maturation process, though did extend in length; this condition produced an oddly flexible skeletal frame, and a thick muscle build, especially given my fortunate diet. My infant body was found climbing the stairs feet side up prior to developing stand alone walking skills. In first grade, I was entertaining myself during recess by doing backflips off the swing set, running around rampantly with my imaginary friends, and ties bows behind my back single handedly. 

Madamn Burnz performs with fire
My guardians, teachers, friends, and family were perplexed, mortified, and amazed by my audacious kinetic tendencies and abstract, yet rational thought processing. My academic blood parents thought they were handling my physical alienation by sending me to gymnastics. It was still no match for the mind-spirit duo. My families’ religious beliefs and odd physical condition, didn’t support opportunities for play dates and friendly get-togethers. My blood family is genealogically Jewish, fairly religious, and due to the nature of my human condition, open to a number of esoteric teachings. I grew up with knowledge of the Kabbalah, handling the Ryder Waite Tarot, and burning junction points on my body in ritual. 

Finding Fire

My family discovered that it was the absence of fire in our lives that led to my physical condition. We ate cold foods, lived in cold weather, and didn’t engage in affectionate behavior. On my seventh birthday we had a few people, between school, gym, and neighborhood, whom agreed to come over for a party. My parents presented a cake with a candle, and as I lunged towards the flame, the omen was prophetic :::: Fire : the sacred element of creation and destruction had been absent from my human life. The beat in my heart accompanied by the visualization of fire was communicated through my akashic record to bring the heat back!! Through researching ritualistic fire practices, my family was able to develop a ritual fire procedure to administer deep heat to my bones. After a couple of years, I had to start eating the stuff to build up the heat in my digestive track. Respecting the art, my practices remained private, engaging a research, and at the time, modern approach, getting friendly with the library and internet. 
Through the fortune of my parents’ eccentric taste and habitual travel, the performance art of fire eating and fleshing was revealed at a young age. I didn’t know what to do with the knowledge until I heard a character on a Cirque de Soliel documentary speak powerfully on living the character; a performer can’t solely perform on stage but lives a full life, on and off stage, as their character. 
I refer to us as ‘we’ because Madamn Burnz is a creative title; though she has a life of her own, we have differences in our expression. However, we truly are one in the same. I disguise my birth name publicly to conceal the identities of my parents, whose magic I have revealed, and honor the silent code of the magician :: never tell your secrets.  Nevertheless, we began our performance career by posting a sign in our ground floor Upper East Side apartment. 

" Fire Eater :: 10PM " : 

BLAM! We’d open the blinds, eat fire, then close down shop. We knew to perform as if the world was watching, never knowing who is really there, yet certain with desire of at least slighted focus. We’ve taught a handful of selected disciples, while co-creating a Promethean healing art, journeying internationally and esoterically. While in New York, word traveled fast. Some days, lowly lovers expecting a fire serenade, and others a gawking crowd. I began to receive attention from underground event productions, gigging for a smorgasbord of events. In 2004, I learned to build fire props and began dancing with a fire hoop, and a local troupe in northern Taiwan, where I spent my post college years. Upon returning to Brooklyn three years later, my personal practices had blossomed and expanded, laying the foundation and motivations for pursuing a career in my passions.

Discovering aerial

Aerial came to me during my life in NYC as a performing fire eater and Masters degree candidate of NYU’s Steinhart school of Education. I was proposed to create choreography with an aerialist for a abstract recount of Arachne - Athena. We spent months rehearsing dance battles and exchanging aerial classes at her studio, The SkyBox. The first apparatus I engaged with, and which led to creative developments were the hoop & trapeze. In my initial year of aerial silks, I struggled with the vocabulary, despite the natural endurance. I had the honor of taking part in student shows at the SkyBox, where I was encouraged to use my fire eating skills to develop an aerial character. 
Madamn Performs with other aerialists in silks

After a spine injury, finding a love for teaching

The knee-lack-of-hook struggle was a freak accident, but the mat negligence pure stupidity. The combination of these led to a broken spine (t-11 &12 bodies), which oddly enough, ignited my interest in teaching aerial. Luckily I suffered no nerve damage, and had the tools I needed to move through a powerful healing process (more to come in later articles). My solid commitment to my physical form forced me to face the challenge of injury: approaching a strength like a novice. In reunion with the air nine months after the injury, I discovered the only movements I remembered on fabrics were the inverted knee hook and the double leg crochet. It was obvious to me that one was an extension of the other and that if it could be done upside-down, it could happen right side up. 
When I initiated a personal training practice, I was traveling through Mexico. I had temporarily landed in Mexico City for a fire gig & would traveling to Cuernevaca to train with a small circus. I bought my own fabrics, got introduced to rigging, learned the hip key, and studied inverting & twisting. The possibilities began to grow and I started to document my vocabulary categorically & sequentially. 
I traveled to the bay area for festival season, taking my fabrics and aerial technique, as a class and an art to multiple festivals. I spent the next 2 years moving around between night clubs, artist galleries, warehouses, and homes with high ceilings, installing and rigging up internal & external points, spending my days experimenting with wrapping & locking, building on singles, learning about halves, and untying knots, while teaching classes, performing, and producing. I had been so inspired by the Brooklyn underground performance community that I sought to recreate and expand upon the concept. In the bay, I felt the vibration stronger than ever to move forwards and work for my dream. There were so many other artists, living the art life that my path organically follows. I am willing to trek powerfully uphill and look into the eyes of my adversaries. Every day, I learn a new lesson. Every week, I teach a new lesson. I have and never will stop learning, growing, or persisting, and know to draw back to joy of personal rewards.

Developing the SkyHigh Odditorium

Madamn Burnz stands between silks
I give credit to my roots and experience based beliefs for honoring me with success in my aerial school, creative community, and production business in Oakland, Californiam at the SkyHigh Odditorium (aka observatory) that is thriving and growing Today! My true belief in curriculum, expanded research and practice on learning, and diverse experiences with teaching a spread of ages, are the foundational blocks  of the community building in physical space. In April, through rebirthing an abandon performance center, we will have built foundational elements to a home, complete floor restoration of 3 stories, and a home and office for a growing community of upcoming evolutionary entrepreneur artists. 
My contribution through the aerial business and physical space are part of a growing microcosm economy that builds and evolves through belief in our creative selves. I have the opportunity now to produce my aerial tree curriculum with the support of local videographers and web developers. I offer a variety of aerial classes and creative opportunities, train with a creative partner, and geek out with a crew of rope ninjas. I have almost 20 aerialists in my door each week, collaborating humbly, and following the rules of the ropes. I hope, in the future, to share my curriculum with aspiring aerial teachers all over the world. What I can offer is an experienced edge to teaching, and an evolving style of learning. I am currently working on a larger aerial production, Halves & Have Knots, an edge cutting aerial art comedic parody of the technicalities of the dance and the humor in its literation, hoping to show in the Spring, with my students & community. 
I am grateful to be part of Aerial Journal and am looking forwards to offering more to the community about education, and share art we’ve been working on. Should you be interested in reviewing any aerial topics, please email me at and I will work on sourcing different articles. 
Aho, Namaste, Salud & L’ Chaim ~~~~  MaDamn BurnZ