Father’s Day Profile: Celsius Maximus

Posted on June 15, 2014 by


2014 Fire Dancing Expo: Celsius & Maxim

Artists: Celsius & Maxim, 2014 Fire Dancing Expo
Photo: Lester Barrows

After this year’s Expo, as will happen, I got thank you notes from some of the artists in the show. It’s not that I don’t get thank you note’s all the time. It’s just that I can’t quite say that any one in particular stood out before from an act that wasn’t a student performance.

But this year was different: I was blown away. After the show, Celsius sent me the following note with Lester’s photo attached:

Just wanted to take the time to let you know that the Expo has had an extreme impact on Maxim and my life as father and son. You gifted us with the canvas in which two unforgettable performances were painted. I’m not sure where we would have ever been able to have such epic experiences that have surely strengthened our bonds in a supernatural way on such a grand scale!

Thanx you Isa! 

-Celsius & Maxim-

His note was so touching, I asked him if he’d be willing to share with our readers about his experience as a father and the transformation quality fire dancing has brought to his life with Maxim, his son.

I first met Celsius in the mid part of the last decade when he somehow found me in connection with a show I was doing in Union Square. From 2005-2008, we did a show in Union Square in December as part of the San Francisco Food Bank’s (SFFB) holiday canned food drive they did annually. It is as a result of our first volunteer effort in Union Square in December of 2005 that we were able to do the first Fire Dancing Expo in 2006.

2014 Fire Dancing Expo: Celsius & Maxim

Artists: Celsius & Maxim, 2014 Fire Dancing Expo
Photo: Santiago Mejia

As I recall, Celsius’ first appearance was with fans, but I can’t find any footage from that set which was at the SFFB event in December, 2007. He joined us again for the 2008 Fire Dancing Expo and the opening of this set is super fun and really shows off Celsius’ command of performance technique. He also has the distinct honor of being the only artist in this history of fire dancing shows in Union Square to go down the steps, something explicitly forbidden by the SFFD after this performance.

2010 Fire Dancing Expo: Celsius Maximus

Artist: Celsius Maximus, 2010 Fire Dancing Expo
Photo: Herm Pugay

In the summer of 2008, Union Square invited Temple of Poi to create a show where they would pay for the stage and all we had to do was cover the permit fees. The opportunity was offered somewhat late in the Jewels in the Square season, the program that has evolved into the current program, Union Square Live, in which we’ve participated since the first show in August of 2008. While organizing the show, we struggled to fill the minimum time slot they had wanted us to fill and Celsius again donated his time and joined us in this hastily produced production that was more like a fire jam than anything else. During this particular performance, since we ran it more like a jam, Celsius appeared on stage with Dave and they were both doing different props… a rather ineffective way of showcasing each act.

Artists: Celsius & Maxim, 2011 Fire Dancing Expo, Photo: Darren Kruger

Artists: Celsius & Maxim, 2011 Fire Dancing Expo
Photo: Darren Kruger

After a 2 year hiatus, he returned to the stage in 2010, bringing us another fan sword performance. In 2011, having already created two fan/sword pieces, Celsius sought to bring us something new. Enter an idea that many parents might think is crazy: a staff duet with his 3.5 year old son. Not surprisingly, Maxim wasn’t able to articulate much movement at the time though it didn’t stop him from stealing the show then either. And this year, they returned to the 2014 Union Square Fire Dancing Expo and brought a double staff duet with them, the act that stole the show for many once again: who isn’t going to applaud a 6 year old fire dancer?!?!?

I caught up with Celsius and asked him a few questions about his experience and he took some time to share these answers about what he and Maxim created together. After reading their experience, if you feel inspired to spin fire with your dad, hook him up with a really awesome father’s day gift and have him go from Zero to Fire in 4 Hours with our empowerment workshop or if he’s not quite that adventurous, give him access to our Introduction to Poi Drop-In Class in 2 weeks.


GG: Who are you & what do you do? 

CM: My name is Celsius Maximus, and Im a professional fire performer and a proud father.  I have been spinning fire for over 10 years.

GG: How did you get into fire dancing?

CM: I have thought about it that question and the answer sort of changes when I look at how far I really want to go back.

I will start by saying that the current way I create my art of fire has a lot to do with performing arts, the movement arts, and the development of my musicality.

2010 Fire Dancing Expo - Celsius Maximus

Artist: Celsius Maximus, 2010 Fire Dancing Expo
Photo: Pritpal Singh

I was first classically trained in piano at age 5 – 15 years old, where at age 12 I began to branch out on my own to cello, and guitar.  At 16 I fell in love with playing the drum kit.  This particular instrument was most intriguing in that it really activated my whole being when I was listening and playing, and no other instrument had ever triggered my adrenals like the drums.

I was also a martial artist, learning the filipino martial arts such as eskrima, arnis and kali.  This particular martial arts for is most known for its weapons component, often practicing with two rattan sticks, and through out the years became an instructor.

I have loved to dance all my life, not to mention loving to burn my toys all through out my childhood (you can even ask my parents about that one).

Already the ground work for manipulating props for spinning was laid, and all that was needed was my first close up view of what spinning fire poi looked like when my good friend Grog Workman said, “Hey remember poi spinning? Well check it out when its on fire!”

My brain absolutely exploded and could not get it out of every thought following.  I realized that I had the very skill sets that were plug-n-play for fire spinning and I was on a fast track to Celsius Maximus!

2010 Fire Dancing Expo Photo Shoot - GlitterGirl, Celsius & Sarah Starlight

Artists: GlitterGirl, Celsius Maximus & Sarah Starlight
Photo: Bill Taylor

GG: What has working with your son done for you/your relationship with your son?

After 3-4 years of feeling like a fish that was finally thrown into water, my wife and I had our first son, Maksim.  Becoming a father was both unexplainably awesome and daunting at the same time.  Realizations about how my father had probably gone through the same range of emotions at my birth surfaced.

I fathered the only way I knew how.  Being lucky enough to have such a great man as my father, passes through me and helps uncover the greatness in my son.

And all those skills I spent my life acquiring and sharpening that contributed to my fire performing, my son, in his first few years on this planet, watched me burn my props and dance my heart out to an audience in awe, and immediately had absorbed all of those years of music, martial arts and dancing and made it his own.

In 2011 Maksim became Maxim Maximus and performed with me, his father, Celsius Maximus, at the Fire Dancing Expo and the most unbelievable experience took place.  It was something both deeply spiritual, and even primal.  I have explained it quite a few times to people, and each time I remember this electric feeling.  It was like our DNA was shooting lighting bolts out at each other, and we were communication on a whole different dimension.  It was our love only a father and son could have amplified by fire, lights, music and 3000 humans looking on to the spectacle of what was… he was only 3 and a half, the youngest human known to do this rockstar fire spinning thing!

GG: Has your son gotten hurt doing this and/or are you afraid your son will get hurt? why/why not? does Maxim’s mother feel the same way? why/why not?

2010 Fire Dancing Expo Photo Shoot

Artist: Celsius Maximus, 2010 Fire Dancing Expo Photo Shoot
Photo: Will Lee

Before the 2011 Expo I had told you that I wasn’t going to be a “beauty-pagent-mom” and if at the last second he didn’t want to do it, I wasn’t going to make him do it and I would do a solo on stage instead.  Of course that never happened, the kid couldn’t wait to get out on the stage and own it!

I have never forced him to do a single practice or to continue practicing when he was ready to stop.  It was always fun, and never a chore or burden.

Though it hasn’t always gone without a hitch.  The 2012 Expo had come around and we were already picking music and playing with choreography.  One day he asked if we were going to do some burns that evening.  I looked outside and noticed it was quite windy, I was thinking probably too windy.  I then thought to myself that it can often get quite gusty on the Union Square stage and this might be a good way to teach him about performing in the wind.  Luckily he was not injured but he did get scared when for the first time he realized what we were doing was actually dangerous.  He pronounced to me that he didn’t want to do it anymore, and went into the house.

Though my heart sank, I had to let go of my ego and let him decide, since it was only his decision to make.  Sadly I had to make the call and pull out of the Expo line up for 2012.

Maksim’s memory of that incident eventually faded away and again we were working out our game and by the time the Expo came around for 2014, we were supercharged!

Feeling inspired? Yeah, we are too. Enjoy their set from the 2014 Union Square Fire Dancing Expo, the first we’ve released so far. More coming soon! 😉