Pictured above: Fire Performers at The Full Moon Fire Jam/Photo: Nick Benz
Editor’s Note: This is an expression by Nick Benz in response to The Full Moon Fire Jam at Foster Beach presented in the form of a journal entry, featuring choreographic poetry.
September 24 marked another full moon. Most commonly known as the Harvest Moon, this moon is ideal for the harvesting of crops in its fullness of light, thus ascribing other names such as the Full Corn Moon, or “The Moon When the Plums are Scarlet,” as named by the Lakota Sioux Native Americans.
In Chicago, this moon further marks the return of the long-standing tradition of the Full Moon Fire Jam, a recurring celebration nearby Foster Beach. Each fire jam brings together a diverse and multigenerational community of Chicagoans to cultivate festivities such as music, dance and most notably, fire performance.
I had the pleasure of attending the Full Moon Fire Jam during the Harvest Moon. Oh and harvest, I did.
I’m struck by how much there is to harvest, both physically and metaphorically, at the end of a Chicago summer.
Chicago summer is about dancing; we harvest joy. Chicago summer is watching the waves come crashing onto the shore, just to return to the lake again. We harvest breath. In and out. Chicago summer is about the celebration of our returned ability to be outside and to engage. We harvest community.
And even though those sandals might still be storing a little sand from that day on Montrose, it’s now the time to put them away and prepare for winter’s return. Like the fire spinners’ poi, there will be ups and downs. There will be summers and there will be winters. Our summer jams are over for now, but they will inevitably return again. Here, like in the circle, we have no beginning and no end. I can’t wait to dance with you again, Chicago.
The following poetry was created through a new-form devising method in which I took keywords and phrases from my artist’s journal. I created choreographed microexpressions and movement, which created a short movement sequence. From this established choreography, I recited this poem and recorded it in a written form.
Intersecting Circles (an artist’s journal)
I’ve been thinking all day about the moon. We so often refer to the cycles of the moon, but do ever consider just how prominent the cycles (and circles) actually appear in our lives? Fire Jam really has reminded me of this. How important is it when we develop our circles to be intentional on their equality? A circle only exists when an infinite amount of points share equal distance to a center. Holy shit, what a cool analogy for best practices when working in artistic and intentional communities! Is this why when a theater group works, they often ‘circle up?’ Further, consider how breath travels through a body, circulating in the air and breathing it back out. Communication, too! I sensually take in and experience standing with another human, and then circularly send back out that same contact. The moon is a big circle. We dance in a circle. We breathe in a circle. We are equals in a circle.
I met a group of movement artists tonight at the jam. I didn’t know any of them. They moved together. They were lifting each other. They were dancing. They were so free. They were moving in circles, in a way—though not literally. I was mesmerized. Weight is shared and together they create a beautiful harmony between giving and receiving. I mean, I get it… It’s a practice of another art form. I can’t stop thinking about how reflective this is of the communities I want to cultivate. Here is the other thing about circles too… They’re enclosed spaces and I can’t decide if this nature of them is to our benefit or not. On one hand, an enclosed circle means there is a distinction between groups… Inside versus outside. My experience as a poor and newly graduated artist can be summarized as feeling like I’m somehow on the outside of a circle looking in. Like there is this inner circle of prominent and respected artists in my field, and I am on the outside…. A type of imposter syndrome. Alternatively, I think about how it felt to somehow muster up the courage to introduce myself to strangers. How can one pierce a circle?
Maybe the closed nature of a circle isn’t bad. Like, no, I don’t think exclusion is a healthy method of cultivating community… Unless we’re excluding that which we want to purge from this world—for me: the binary, the capitalization of companionship and our societies’ incredible lack of sincere and authentic human connection, basically any -ism (sexism, racism et al). My inner circle is that which rejects all these ideas. I know there is a world out there who doesn’t ever come close to living how I do. I don’t judge them for this. I also have no space or time for people who cannot honor the experiences of individuals of intersectional identities. Maybe inner circles are good for this?
Like really thinking about this, interaction fits into a really beautiful circular model as well. How do we have effective communication? We first need an intake of air. Of breath. If my communication is ineffective, let me first check in with my own body… Is my jaw clenched? Are my muscles allowing me to take a full breath. Am I looking at them, seeing them? Are all of my senses engaged right now, or am I prone to multitasking in this moment? When I can effectively do this, I can then effectively receive communication. This intake ignites my inner life. I experience the feelings I feel. Then I can effectively loop back to my partner via communicating what I feel. In and out. A big old circle of communication. Circles are just fucking rad, okay? Why have I been journaling so much about circles? Something, something, the circle of life… Yikes…
Ah, fuck… This sounds like Meisner acting work now… Hmmm…
I’m sincerely grateful for these artists I met. Our time was brief, but to dance was magic. I’ve been feeling so entirely off-course and lost. Chicago, thank you for being you. Thank you for curating such a diverse cross-section of the human experience. Thank you for the opportunity to dance… Together under the full moon. Until we dance again, Chicago.
The Full Moon Fire Jam is a monthly celebration of community held by the Chicago Park District near Foster Beach on North Simonds Drive. It originated in 2004 and has been a staple of the Chicago community since. Each jam is a volunteer-run and non-for-profit event offered free of charge. Though the 2018 season is now closed, the next Full Moon Fire Jam will take place in 2019. You can learn more about the Full Moon Fire Jam at fullmoonjam.org.
Nick (they/them/theirs): A Bio-Haiku (Baiku??)
This is Nick’s bio
They are a theater maker
So they do not sleep
Nick Benz is a Trans* identified writer, theater practitioner and aspiring goth gf. Nick is a (soon-to-be) Graduate Student at Virginia Commonwealth University studying theater movement pedagogy and intersectional higher education policy.