Written by Olivia Ross
People will spend a lifetime searching for that one thing that fuels their passion and lights a fire inside of them. For David Ayers and Farah Miller, founding members of the Ember Benders, fire was just that thing.
Ember Benders is a Chattanooga-based fire performance group. From fire-breathing to elaborate group collaborations, Ember Benders is interested in pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a performer. The group participates in various local shows and events and is constantly elevating their craft–from incorporating professional choreography and costuming to adding roller skates to the mix.
Founding member David “Xave” Ayers found his way into the fire community just one year ago, but has quickly developed his passion for the artform and found a family of supportive individuals.
“It’s a space for pure creativity without the fear of being judged by all of those things we’re socially constrained by…it gives you a chance to let your freak flag fly,” Ayers jokes.
For Ayers, dance had always been a part of his life-but rather in the form of ballroom, swing, and lindy hop. Drawing style inspiration from his mother, who was a belly dancer, Ayers became very interested in the artform and looked to make a name for himself within the fire community.
Within the year that Ayers has started performing, he has participated in many opportunities to show off his talents and get the crowd as excited about fire as he is. Ayers’ sees the performance group as continuously growing–whether it be learning new techniques, incorporating new acts, or experimenting with props, Ayers sees potential in creating a space that is truly unique.
Ayers is not alone in his creative contributions to Ember Benders. Alongside Ayers is Jenna Brevig, Farah Miller, Kaleighh Sierra, Steve “Phoenix” Conour, Brittany “Blue Rain” Moss, Drae Payne, Sara O’Toole, and others. Every member of the crew provides something unique to the act. Fellow founding member Farah Miller also comes into the scene with a background in dance. Having been trained as a dancer for 13 years in various genres, Miller adds elements of her training to each performance she creates. Miller thinks back on her experience with fire, “I definitely think all of my performances are my favorite, because there’s something I do better every time.” She sees each performance as a way to learn and grow as an artist. As opportunities come and the group is able to push their ideas further into reality, the group collectively becomes more and more of a spectacle.
Both Ayers and Miller note the confidence that the craft has given them. With a community that promotes a unique sense of inclusivity, passion, and self-expression, it is easy to feel welcomed into the fire-centric-family. “You’re going out there and giving it your all, and really sharing this side of yourself that is vulnerable,” Ayers explains. “Then having people come back from the performance and say, you guys inspired me to do, really whatever, it may not be fire spinning, it may be opening a florist shop, or deciding to wear your hair or makeup a different way. It’s that vibe where you get to express radical self expression and inclusion.”
The group also speaks about the kindness, encouragement, and family they have encountered while developing their performance careers. Ayers notes many inspirations and helping hands throughout the community that have allowed them to excel in their craft– Wanderlinger Brewery, The Sanctuary Performing Arts, DJ Mystery Box, fellow creatives Chrystal Parker and Alley Hoops, and many more.
Ember Benders can be found around Chattanooga showcasing their mesmerizing talents. Their dedication and imagination sees no bounds. With the community fanning the flames of their artistry, Ember Benders is set to create lasting performances and memories.
To keep up with this hot crew, follow @EmberBenders, David Ayers @Xavedelic, and Farah Miller @Farah_Flows on Instagram.
Catch Fire shows currently on Sunday nights at 9pm at Operation Holistic’s pop-up market at The Dark Roast!
Meet the Storyteller
Olivia Ross is a photojournalist located in Chattanooga, TN. She is the Photo Editor for the University Echo. After three semesters as a staff photographer, she quickly gained skills within photo editing softwares and communication etiquette that led to her promotion. Her main interest lies within capturing pivotal moments in both sports and news. Olivia is currently open to new opportunities. For more information, contact Olivia at NGK419@MOCS.UTC.EDU.