From fire to lights, spinning to tossing, and dancing to miming, street performing has been an art since the 11th century. It has provided entertainment to anyone who has taken the time to watch. Its rich history of being a spectacle at festivals and carnivals continues to be a present work of art among performers.
Street performer, David Storm, first stepped on a stage when he was 8 years old and has been performing ever since. When asked what had peaked his interest, Storm said, “I was a shy kid who thought it might be a way to get people to open conversations and meet people; and it worked.”
Storm started learning sleight of hand magic as a child and in the past three years he began practicing fire breathing. Storm found that he preferred sleight of hand as it’s the safer performance between the two.
While performances are usually on the streets, at festivals, or in parks, on some occasions people make calls for parties or restaurants. When performing in festivals or parks, they appreciate tips, but in restaurants and parties they typically get a flat fee as well as tips.
”When learning anything there’s probably a club out there for you and a ton of youtube videos,” Storm said. When first learning sleight of hand, he relied on magic clubs and books.
Once he started to perform for people outside of his friends and family, he had to make sure people knew that he was performing for money. “Street performance is heavy on the tipping, so it’s very important to say you work for tips,” Storm said. ”If you don’t ask for tips, a lot of people don’t know you working for money at all.”
Street performers don’t always want money when performing though. For some performers, such as Kenneth Boysel, it’s preferred to exhibit their abilities for people without asking for tips or donations.
Boysel has been practicing poi for three years. Poi is a performing art style where the artist swings weights in rhythmic motions to create patterns in either lights or fire.
He learned to spin mainly from other people and personal experiences. “I first saw Combustion Crew and learned from them,” Boysel said, “They also gave me my first burn.”
Combustion Crew is a group of fire performers ranging from poi to hoops and staffs. They perform at festivals and can be hired for special events. To make sure his performances are good quality, Boysel tries to practice for one hour each day. He also practices once a week with other spinners to improve his craft.
He performs at festivals and clubs for anyone who cares to watch, free of charge.”The biggest place I’ve performed so far is at Wham Bam,” said Boysel.
Wham Bam is a festival in Ohio celebrating music, art and life with 25+ performers and over 1,000 attendees. On occasion, Boysel will perform with groups but prefers solo acts.
Street performing is great for tips just by showing off talents or to try out new skills on an audience. When describing why Storm still performs, he said, “It’s very powerful to give the look of amazement on kids faces and wonderment to adults again.”