Odd Lab performs pyrotechnics
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 12:05
El Paso and Las Cruces based fire performers, Odd Lab Entertainment, are bringing a new kind of entertainment to the region.
Odd Lab Entertainment is composed of 10 professionals who are trained in fire performance. The performances involve props such as poi, fans, torches, staves, hula-hoops and fire whips.
According to C.J. Sandoval, junior biology major, Odd Lab began two years ago on Halloween.
“I was one of the founding members along with Jesse James and Georgina Armendariz, who run the business,” Sandoval said. “This performance art, in this form, has been around a decade or two, but it has really blossomed in modern times with people being able to share brilliant ideas with each other so easily.”
Sandoval, who specializes in poi (a chord with a ball attached at the end), variety of staves, spitfire and snakes, said that in the two years that Odd Lab has been active, they have never been filed with a claim, or even put someone in danger.
“We are insured for over three million dollars,” Sandoval said. “This is everything from fire whips and breathers, fire fans and fingers, fire cannons and zombie slayers; we all take it very seriously and abide by the safety first mindset.”
Sandoval also mentioned that they avoid any dangerous situations, such as performing outdoors since the wind can carry the fuel in unpredictable directions.
What first began as a group of individuals showcasing their talent has developed into a show with different acts, said Cesar Perez, Odd Lab member and UTEP alumnus.
“We are currently in the process of creating a new marionette act that involves a performer in stilts and controlling me as a puppet and forcing me to eat fire,” Perez said. “We will also have a choreographed dance that we’ll get to do at the same time.”
Perez, who joined Odd Lab in 2010 and specializes in eating and breathing fire, said he is very comfortable with fire and has lost all fear of getting burned.
“Before actually buying the equipment needed, I first did some extensive research for about two weeks,” Perez said. “After only five tries, I pretty much got the hang of it. There was of course some burns here and there, one that even burned my goatee, but nothing serious.”
Michelle Salgado, sophomore creative writing major, is also part of Odd Lab and was first introduced to the group in February 2011.
“Cesar introduced me to fire spinning when he invited me to attend a Las Cruces Sum Arts event,” Salgado said. “He completely blew my mind when I first saw him perform, I immediately knew that I wanted to be part of the Odd Lab.”
Salgado, who is certified for fire safety by the North American Fire Arts Association, is also a stilt walker and does an act that involves the use of a LED hula-hoop while she walks around the audience. “The performing I do is relatively new,” Salgado said. “Although I’m very much excited about the new addition of the marionette act that I will be doing with Cesar, I think it will look amazing.”
Practicing one day a week with rehearsals that last about three hours, Odd Lab has up to four scheduled performances each week, including private parties and out of town events, according to Salgado.
“The shows we are asked to do can be either for pay or we will do it just for tips. Sometimes the people who hire us compensate our gas cost and pay for our hotel rooms,” Salgado said. “If it’s a private party, we charge depending on whichever package they want.”
The Odd Lab group has also participated in the Burning Man Festival, a non-profit event that promotes art, where people can showcase their talents and get a chance to interact with other interested performers.
Aside from their performance, Salgado said the Odd Lab group is currently in the process of setting up some prop manipulation workshops for anyone that is interested and wants to learn more about fire performing.
Perez hopes to see the Odd Lab go far and continue being invited to future events.
“We want to continue pushing our limits,” Perez said.
Odd Lab’s next public performance will be Nov. 3 at Ruidoso, N.M. For more information, contact 731-8904 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrea Acosta may be reached at email@example.com.