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Developing Your Dance – Published 3/20/21

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Choreography is the art of designing sequences of movement in which motion and/or form are specific, planned and connected. The art of composing dances, the movement and patterns of a dance composition, means there is intention and meaning to the dance.

Choreography does not necessarily mean a synchronized dance, but it could. It can be dynamic or static in nature. A diverse range of styles and techniques, choreographed with intention, makes the best contribution to the Fire Conclave.

The direction for the Fire Conclave is choreographed dances; the opposite of simple fire spin jam/chaos/renegade. Any person or group can come together to jam.  Free form fire jams (aka: “chaos”) have their time and place, and each group will get some time allotted towards chaos, generally after the designated time for the choreographed dance and before the Man burns. To step within the boundary of the Great Circle, we must have more than pure chaos. 

“Fire Dance” does NOT mean only one kind of movement/dance or only a small number of tools. This genre of dance is as diverse and wide ranging as the imagination of the dancer that utilizes fire as their medium. It is human nature to evolve, and the drive to move fire dance to the next evolutionary leap is no exception. Because of the diverse levels of the membership of the Fire Conclave, some fire groups are already experienced in creating choreographed dances, while others are not used to thinking about fire in this way, it becomes a stretch (in a good way) of the creative mind. Fire performers of today and tomorrow are meeting the challenge and embracing it wholeheartedly. The drive to excel in fire dancing is a continued push for evolution in this modern form of performance art.

Scenarios / Storyline – Please be cautious of developing a deeply layered narrative story. Worry less about the story and concentrate on the dance. Remember, participants watching your dance may not understand the significance of your theme.. So, try to keep it simple and clean. Too many details detract from the dance, and the “dance” needs to be seen. When developing your dance, please don’t limit yourself to working directly to the yearly Burning Man theme. If it’s an inspirational starting point for you, that’s great, but if the theme is holding your creativity back in some way, go with your vision and inspiration to create the best dance you can. 

Some aspects you should keep in mind while choreographing:

  • Composition & working as a group versus solo performances – It can be incredibly challenging to manage a diverse group of dancers, especially when everyone wants to show off their own personal style . Working with a group creates a different challenge, BUT can be so rewarding when everyone is working together for a common goal/storyline. When everyone in a routine works together for the same end, the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts.
  • Working with drummers / musicians. Who drives the dance? drummers or dancers? It is a fine balance between dancers & drummers working together to create the pace, versus drummers driving the beat and dancers attempting to keep up. This is a sure way to screw up the pacing of your dance.
  • There Needs To Be Fire On Stage At All Times.
  • Transitions – How does one dance section move/flow to the next – smooth or choppy.  Are performers ready and waiting for the next section?
  • Formation/Configuration of a Dance  – think differently as to “How” the dance is presented within the amount of space you have to work with. Explore circles, or circles within circles, Chevrons (in any direction), diagonal/curvy, crazy lines, layered (action in the front while there is something happening in the back, one or two surrounded by others, multiples of anything, or a move that is repeated. 
  • Movement of these formations – try adding movement through the performance space with each one of the formations: moving in a circle while spinning versus stationary.
  • Awareness of other members of the group – Front person drives the pace and leads, and needs to be strong enough that people behind are able to follow and at the same time be aware of what happens behind and on either side.
  • Pace of the Dance – there are times when you just want to spin as fast as you can, but there is also time for moments of stillness, which can emphasize a point. Everyone stopping, pause, start up again.


Duets are mandatory. If your video does not open with a duet, (without a really good explanation as to why), then you will not be accepted into the Fire Conclave. Duets must be at least 90 seconds long. While 2021 is different in many ways, starting with this connection across the Great Circle will hopefully remind us that connection is what we need. 

Everyone may have an idea of what a fire duet is, but our expectation is that two people will be directly interacting with each other and their fire, not just working in sync but also playing or working with one another. As you are planning your choreography and thinking about the duet, please think about two people working in conjunction, as a team, not just working side by side, but rather intertwined. It doesn’t need to be particularly intimate, a sword fight is just as intertwined as two people feeding fire to each other. 

Photo Credit Kyer Wiltshire


The area circling the Man this year is currently unknown, previously it was 400’ radius(400’ radius) has become known as the Great Circle. The Safety Perimeter line (aka L4K) of the Great Circle is the outermost boundary of your performance space. On Burn Night a secure perimeter is established by the Rangers, and the only way to enter into the Great Circle is with a special Great Circle Access Pass (GCAP).

  • As of this writing each fire group will receive an area shaped like a pie slice, (with the tip chomped off), 

We do not have specific info about the size of the Great Circle, but if you plan on performing in a space approx 30’ wide and 30’ deep that should be close enough the performance space size for a small group. 

  • Sentinels will be placed between each large group and at the edges of the Safety Corridors into the Great Circle. They will occupy approximately 8′ to 10′ of space at the front of the Circle. Documentarians will also be placed in this zone between groups. This should not take up your performance space. 


Each group will have 20 to 25 minutes to dance in the Great Circle at the foot of the Man. The choreographed dance should be about 10 minutes of choreography, to be followed by about 10 t0 15 minutes of chaos: freestyle, jamming. Planning a 20 to 25 minute performance may be pinching your group effort in an uncomfortable way. Chaos may end up being three minutes rather than 10. Please plan your choreographed piece to be about 10 minutes. You may go longer, but expect that you might be cut short if you do.   


There is a magical time warp in the Great Circle. You get there, wait forever and then rock out your carefully planned choreography in record time! What do you do? We refer to the space of time between the ending of your choreography and the call to stop as “Chaos”. Because it is. This is a time for your group to freestyle or renegade. Chaos may be as long as 10 minutes or considerably shorter than expected. When the call to STOP comes from your Helmsman, stop, dripping fueled tools or not.  


The May Day video is optional this year. Please do not send more than 5 minutes. We will be looking at things such as your filming technique and whether or not your choreography is on track. Our reviews of Mayday videos will be as blunt as possible.  Our goal is to push you out of comfort zones (if needed) and we want the critiques to tell you what our expectations are and give you the best chance to succeed in your final audition video.  

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