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"Shanghai Famous" is a weekly SmartShanghai column focusing on people out there in the city makin' the scene. They're out there around town, shaping Shanghai into what it is, creating the art, culture, and life around us. We asked them what's good in Shanghai. We asked them what's bad in Shanghai. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves.
My name is Mandy Embers, I’m a fire and glow performer currently living in Shanghai and co-founder (with the talented and beautiful Nuriya Daya) of the fire performance troupe, Fire Souls. I’m originally from Miami, Florida but haven’t lived there in about a decade. I moved here about three years ago. After living in Wuhan for two years, I decided to leave China, sending all my belongings back home and slowly traveling for 6 months, covering 13 countries to get there. The plan was to move to Santiago, Chile, but a lack of money after backpacking South East Asia, Europe, and the Middle East mixed with the lure of Shanghai life brought me back.
I live pretty close to East Nanjing. I love looking out on my balcony to the city lights and seeing The Bund from a distance, it makes me feel like I’ve got somewhere in the world. There’s a lot of good local food options around and most importantly, Qipu Lu, a budget shopping mall that acts as my glitter and rhinestones lifesaver before most of my shows.
Shanghai is a city that I have fallen in love with for the last few years, but like most of us foreigners, I have a love/hate relationship with this country. There are days I wake up and it seems everything is impossible to manage and I’m sick of breathing in toxic air or getting pushed through the metro. However, those days are few in number and most days I love the daily adventure of life here.
When it comes to bars, many of my friends are artists of different sorts, so I generally go out places to support them. When I want to get work done, I go to Cambio Coffee for my caffeine fix. When I want to munch out, I’m all about Co. Cheese, or to be healthy, I have a Saucepan addiction even though they don’t deliver to my area! My favorite drink in this city is called a “Thai Zeet” from Coconut Paradise and if you haven’t tried it but like spicy cocktails, you are really missing out!
On Sunday afternoons, I go to the West Bund park where there is a large acroyoga and circus meetup. You can find people spinning poi, hula hoops, walking across slack lines, picnicking, and other circus stuff. It helps to reenergize me for the next week of work.
When I lived in Wuhan, it was like repeating the same week over and over. Nothing changed, Friday and Saturday night were spent at the same bar with the same people, the rest of the week was spent at work. In contrast, Shanghai has an ever-changing list of mayhem to get into and people to meet.
Shanghai is definitely not my forever home. My original plan was coming to China for 9 months. Every year I say it’s my last but life here is addictive and I’m now going on my sxith year in this country. That said, I’m definitely nearing my expiration date and I think this year will finally be time for my departure!
Fire performance is a type of flow arts, which involves using a prop for expressive movements. Some of the most well known fire flow arts include juggling, hula hoop, poi, and staff, but the list is quite long. I started with poi when I was about 17 years old and tried in on fire for the first time a few months later when I was drunk at a high school party. Looking back on it, maybe not the smartest idea as I really had no idea what I was doing at the time but it started a life-long love affair with fire arts. I definitely never thought I’d be a professional, performing in venues all across China from five-star hotels, to music festivals, bars, and everything in between.
It’s hard to describe what a typical show is for me because I have so many different props and types of fire and glow arts to use and my clients vary in what they want for their show. As a performer, you have to be a chameleon to survive in this industry. When I’m performing for children, I try to create a fun-loving, smiley and upbeat atmosphere. When I’m in a club, my shows are usually “cool girl” style but my favorites are the shows where I get to be creative and tell a story. This happens most when I perform at The Pearl Bar and Cabaret as they put on some really imaginative projects.
Danger is part of this job but when taking the proper fire precautions necessary in my line of work, it’s actually quite safe. People have this perception (fueled by Hollywood) that if a fire touches something it will instantly burst into flames. It really doesn’t work that when and when wielded by a trained professional, it can be tamed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of burns, but I have specific fire protocols that keep it 100% safe for the audience and venue.
I’m really excited about this show! It’s called "Tricks & Treats” and will be happening at The Pearl Bar and Cabaret Friday and Saturday night of this weekend only! It’s my first time producing a major production and I’ve really poured my heart and soul into it. It’s a Halloween cirque show with all types of spooky acts- from aerial silks to pole dancing, contemporary dance to fire performance, each act is bound to leave the audience on the edge of their seats. The story line is that a portal opens to another world, one filled with all types of ghouls, goblins, and other monstrous creatures who take over the stage for the night. We decorated The Pearl hauntingly for the festivities and have had special 3D mapped projections made to go along with the show. Costumes are not required but highly encouraged! Tickets are 150rmb pre-sale and can be purchased via the QR code on the flyer and on SmartTicket.
"Tricks & Treats" is Friday and Saturday at The Pearl.
For bookings, contact Mandy on WeChat. (User ID: Mandyerin
Photos by Grant-oh! Buchwald
Dec 17, 2021
Sep 10, 2021
Aug 20, 2021