Group Criteria & Composition – Published 3/1/21

You are here:
< All Topics



This year a lot of things are up in the air. We are doing our best to work with the info supplied to us, but  as of yet, nothing has been set in stone.

To those that have done this before, here is a highlighted list of changes, followed by more details below:

  • Group size is limited to 25
  • Documentarians do not count against group numbers (you are still only allowed one)
  • Drummers and musicians are limited to XX??


At the time of this writing, we do not know if we will be on playa or in the virtual world for 2021.  Traditionally, we start each year anew. Every group, returning or new, be required to audition for admission into the Fire Conclave. While 2021 will be different in many ways, we will still expect groups to audition, send us reports, and generally be amazing fire performers and groups who wish to give something to the Man.

To become a fire group that participates in the Fire Conclave, start by assembling a group of fire performers and safety personnel. Together you will create a choreographed and creative fire dance with an emphasis on responsible safety practices. As a group please understand that acceptance into the Fire Conclave and dancing at the foot of the Man is an honor, and a gift to be given to the Man.  

As always, feel free to ask questions using the email address.


The basic organization of a fire group within the Fire Conclave is comprised of:  Shin, Fire Performers, Safety Personnel (fire watch) and a Helmsman. 

Group Sizes

This year, all groups will be limited to 25 members.   We will allow exceptions on a case by case basis, but you must email us to request it and tell us why.  

We are unsure about the size of the Great Circle and how many people we will be allowed.  As such, we are not setting a number of groups that we are going to allow into the Great Circle at this time. 

The system to allow group exceptions to the 25 person limit is still being discussed and we will send that info out when we have it.  It should however be noted that we don’t know what expectations we will need to respond to and feel smaller groups allow us more agility. If you are a larger group we recommend splitting up but letting us know so if we can put you together in the Great Circle we will. 


Maximum – 25 people per fire group

Minimum – 10 people per fire group – this combination would be seven fire performers, one Helmsman, two safeties.

Each fire group has mandatory positions, all others are optional.


  • SHIN – Leader of the group
  • FIRE PERFORMERS – Dancers and performers
  • HELMSMAN – Acting Stage Manager


  • SHIN ASSIST/S – Assistant to the Shin of the group
  • DOCUMENTARIAN (For 2021 Documentarians will not count against your group total if you are only 25)
  • Additional camera operators and editors to produce audition video
  • Choreographer


LEADER OF A FIRE GROUP – For every group, there is one person who is the leader, primary contact and person who is willing to vouch and take responsibility for the actions of all members of their group. This person is called a SHIN (in Hebrew means Mother Fire). They manage and organize the fire group, set rehearsals, coordinate the production of their audition video and communicate regularly with the FC Council. The Shin runs their group the way it works for them within their region of the country.  Each group creates its own individual style, energy, commitment level, and code of ethics.  The Shin must understand and recognize that acceptance into the Fire Conclave and dancing at the foot of the Man is an honor to receive and a gift to be given. 

Photo Credit Kevin LeVezu

To hold this position, a person must demonstrate the following Aptitude and Competence:


The cornerstone of the Fire Conclave is Integrity, which is regarded as being honest and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions and follow through with what you commit and agree to do. The FC Council has set base level expectations of honesty for the Fire Conclave, FC Council and the Shins. The FC Council expects that Shins adopt integrity as their modus operandi, and is considered accountable for every person in their group.

  • Use email effectively. 
  • Submit monthly Progress Reports. 
  • Maintain clear and open communication with the Fire Conclave Council. 
  • Create a mechanism to disseminate information from the Fire Conclave Council to members of your  group both pre-playa and on-playa.

Our main concerns are rooted in safety, as there are volatile ingredients present that far exceed what your group brings into the Great Circle. We trust that you will act responsibly in regards to both your personal safety as well as the safety of others. We expect Shins to be conscious of safety and understand, utilize and facilitate standard safety protocols for themselves as well as all members of their groups at all times. Each member of the Fire Conclave shall also take Personal Responsibility for their own actions.   Carelessness, negligence and  unsafe conditions with fire or fuels will not be tolerated. Do not drink, take drugs, or smoke when working with fire or fuels, sobriety is a must.


Shins must have the ability to rally a group of free-spirited individuals in a choreographed fire dance. They must be patient, lead with a firm but flexible hand, and be willing to vouch and be responsible for the actions of all members of the group.

  • Adhere to all guidelines, standards and deadlines related to paperwork, communications, etc. 
  • Submit the group roster, choreography, audition video and other necessary information to gain membership with the Fire Conclave. 
  • Understand and communicate the importance of the necessary rules each Fire Conclave member must adhere to. 
  • Honor sobriety while performing their duties.


There must be a minimum of 7 fire performers within each group. A fire performer is anyone who dances, moves, etc. with a fire tool to create performative fire art. Fire Performers are part of a group that works under the direction of their Shin and are required to honor sobriety while playing with fire. Fire Performers can not be a Helmsmen or Documentarian.


This position goes by many names, but simply put they are responsible for making sure the fire stays where it should be. If performers accidentally light themselves on fire, Fire Safeties are at the ready to put fire out quickly with a wet towel or other fire retardant materials. Fire Watch/Safety Personnel are capable, competent and are required to honor sobriety while they are performing their duties. Fire Watch / Safety Personnel may sometimes also be a performer, but they can not be a Helmsman, Drummer, or Documentarian. Each group will have a minimum ratio of one Fire Watch/Safety Personnel to every five fire performers. If you have more or less, expect us to question the number of people you present with your final group numbers.  

Photo Credit Grant Palmer


Radio communications in the Great Circle before, during and after the fire performance is crucial. The Helmsman is an extension of the person calling the Run of Show.  They listen for cues to start and stop and transmit these cues to their fire performance group. Helmsmen must have a critical eye to observe everything that happens with, around and outside of the performers area and are required to honor sobriety while performing their duties at the Burn. Each fire group will have one Helmsman. The Helmsman performs this singular task and may not perform with fire, play music, document or act as Fire Watch. Helmsman duty requires that the radio and equipment be checked out prior to the Burn and returned as designated after the Man falls. 

  • Saturday 2:00 p.m. – Helmsman MUST attend radio training protocol, all requisite radio check-out paperwork will be completed at that time.
  • The radio and headset that Burning Man will be lending the Helmsman are valued at over $3,000. To check out the required equipment, a valid credit card and ID is required for a collateral deposit. This may be provided by the Helmsman, the Shin or someone else in your group. The card will only be charged if the radio is not returned and accounted for. 



The Shin Assist is there to  support the Shin with activities in an effort to lessen their burden or workload. However, keep in mind that it’s the Shin who is required to fulfill all duties and meet deadlines. It’s important that the Shin, if choosing to employ a Shin Assist, introduces their Assist to the FC Council. The FC Council does not accept monthly reports from Shin Assists, (exceptions noted in the next section under Communications > Monthly Progress Reports). 


Your group may come complete with musical accompaniment. Any kind of music that, leading up to the event,  helps you be creative and complements the dance movements through your choreographic development, video shoot and performance (be it drums, soundtracks or a brass section!). However, at the event itself we have a very strict policy prohibiting amplified music that requires power. No amplified music will be allowed within the Great Circle. If your group is in need of drummers, we have an associated group called Ambient Drummers who may help your group with ambient accompaniment. This is a loose group of drummers that are arranged around the Great Circle in places where there are no group affiliated drummers. Ambient Drummers are not counted against your group’s total.

You are also welcome to add your own personal drummers. When you submit your video audition, you’ll be asked in the form how many musicians you have affiliated with your group. It is our expectation that you will have no more than 10 musicians, (this is a firm number) and this number will count against your total for the group. 

DOCUMENTATION  (Photographer  / Videographer)

Like any other art, photography and other types of media are considered a form of self-expression and are a vital part of the artistic ecosystem of Black Rock City. In a temporary metropolis that lasts for a week, our images, stories and memories outlast the structures we build and serve to excite and inspire burners and burners-to-be year round. While Burning Man supports the right of artists to express themselves using cameras, extra considerations must be taken to ensure the privacy of all participants is protected and media is used in a way that upholds our community principles of decommodification. If you are going to have a Videographer or Photographer (Documentarian) capture your fire dance in the Great Circle this year, please be aware that there are some important guidelines to follow and a separate registration with Media Mecca will be required.

In accordance with Media Mecca we are limiting fire groups to having ONE documentarian join them in the Great Circle,  be it a videographer OR photographer. There are particular guidelines and registration deadlines that are related to this position, not just with the Fire Conclave but also with Burning Man. The Documentarian for your group should read the information that is found at this link:

While self-expression is highly encouraged, Burning Man  has an important set of policies surrounding media use. Burning Man images, video, and audio cannot be used in a commercial manner or to promote any products, brands, or services. This includes fire groups using images to promote paid services or fundraising events.

Documentarian Registration 

After the Documentarian has read the information they will need to register here : Will add when we have it. This is a separate registration link from the Media Mecca’s general registration and if they wish to document generally on playa as well they will need to register in both places. If  your documentarian fails to register by the deadline, they will not be allowed in the circle.

The deadline for Media Mecca is TBD More details here

Documentarians and Safety In The Great Circle

There is a lot of activity in the Great Circle and space is both tight and closely guarded. You’ve asked your documentarian to be there to capture your performance; it is a really good idea to practice with your documentarian before the night of the Burn so they know what important moments to capture. They will need to know how to position themselves while still paying attention to their environment such as other groups, the audience, and safety team members. Communication with your group includes communication with your documentarian. Please direct them to be respectful of space and safety in the Great Circle. Your documentarian must wait to establish their space for shooting your performance until after the Procession has passed. 

Once they have set up, we require that they hunker, squat or sit, (DO NOT STAND)  as there will be thousands of participants behind them  attempting to see your performance. The documentarian may NOT leave their equipment unattended at any time. For example: if your documentarian sets up a camera on a tripod they must sit next to the tripod the entire time.  They may not leave it in order to get other shots or angles.

Each documentarian will receive an ID number with their Great Circle Access Pass. If they are found to be impeding performances in any way, their Great Circle Access Pass will be pulled, they will be removed from the Great Circle and will not be permitted into the Great Circle the following year. 



This is very important and yet many fail at achieving this set of three actions. We have established a three-step check-in process for documentarians that secures permission from both the FC Council and Media Mecca. As Shin, you must impart the importance of this check-in procedure and safety meeting with your documentarian. If they don’t complete this quest, they will not receive their Great Circle Access Pass and will not be permitted into the Great Circle to document your most epic performance. 

  • FIRST – Check-in at Fire Conclave Convergence.
    • Open Monday 8/26 – Friday 8/30, 10:00 AM-6:00 PM
  • SECOND – Check-in at Media Mecca to have their camera(s) tagged.
    • Open Monday 8/26 – Friday 8/30, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM
  • THIRD – MANDATORY MEETING FOR ALL Documentarians- Saturday 9/5 at 11:00 AM location Fire Conclave Convergence. A member of the FC Council will give a briefing on what to expect within the Great Circle, where all Fire Conclave documentarians will receive their numbered Great Circle Access Pass.


We have been asked multiple times if performers under the age of 18 are allowed.  The answer is Yes, but please follow these guidelines:

  1. Let us know you have underage performers
  2. Keep a 1 to 1 ratio safety to performer.  Meaning when the young one is performing they have a safety who is dedicated to them and no one else.
  3. We prefer that that safety is a parent unless the parent/guardian is performing with them. 

That is more or less it, safety is always our top priority.

  1. The child must be a performer with the group and may not be safety or any other position. 

Table of Contents