Playing with Fire: Casper Performer Featured in PBS Documentary, ‘Our Wyoming’
They say if you play with fire, you're gonna get burned. That's probably true, but Miranda Bressler does it anyway.
Bressler, a fire spinner from Casper, was recently featured in a Wyoming PBS documentary, 'Our Wyoming,' produced by Anthony Stengel.
Per a Facebook post from the station, "OUR WYOMING brings you this profile on Miranda Bressler, a lifelong rancher whose love of theater, dance, and entertaining drove her to develop a very special and unique skill - Fire Spinning. Miranda talks about her life, and how she hopes her love of fire spinning opens some doors and spreads joy. Watch now...and be inspired!"
The video comes from a collaboration between Bressler and Anthony Stengel of Stengel Media. He's a Wyoming-based videographer who enjoys telling the stories of Wyoming.
And Bressler has a hell of a story.
By day, she's a farmer, working on her family's ranch But when the lights go out, the flames go up, and Bressler gets to express herself by the light of a burning ember.
"I've always loved performing, but never found a way to express it," Bressler stated. "I took a college career aptitude test once and it told me to join the circus! Oh boy, I should have listened from the start."
Bressler said that she was introduced to fire spinning and immediately fell in love.
"When I first was introduced to fire spinning, I was entranced by the flames and felt such a rush of joy of moving with a fire prop," she said. "It felt like a spark of electricity spread from my heart outwards. I knew this is what I wanted to spend my time doing; sharing the excitement of seeing a professional do amazing acts with such a dangerous element."
Bressler spends her days working on her family's ranch. It's hard work, and would leave even the strongest among us absolutely exhausted by sundown. But it's when the sun goes down that Bressler gets to play.
"I found that moving through my emotions with dancing with a prop helped me express myself in confidence," she said. "Then when I get to spin fire, I can burn off what is not needed anymore. You get into a state of 'flow' where mentally and physically your body and the prop are one and effortless, surrounded by flames. Its one of the most magical, thrilling feelings."
It's that duality of being a farmer by day, fire spinner by night that first captured Anthony Stengel's attention...and his camera.
"I chose Miranda because of how unique and visually stunning her fire spinning is," he said. "Then, part of my character doc process that we discussed early on in the pre production was what struggles or challenges she faces and we explored some of that in the film."
Those challenges vary; from even having the energy to spin after a long day, to trying to make her family understand and appreciate the work she puts into performances.
"I tried to show the juxtaposition of being a hard working farmer (a typical Wyoming job done by mostly males) and her love of arts and theatre and dance and how she found her place in that," Stengel stated. "At first it was trying to convince her family (who are also her coworkers on the ranch) that fire spinning was a safe or productive thing to be doing. Then, it was trying to balance her 'side gig' with the random long hours of life in the farm and her families expectations of her."
Of course, there are multiple safety factors to consider in what Bressler does. It takes a lot of work before even starting to dance, in order to make sure it's safe not only for her, but also for her audience.
"Fire dancing is an electrifying and a risky art form," she stated. "When you see a great performer spin fire, it is one of the most unbelievable experiences! But it takes a lot of safety measures involved to be able to play with fire safely. When you're playing with fire, you WILL get burned at some point. Safety precautions include but are not limited to: learning fuel science, having safety personnel always when playing with live fire, fire safe clothing that won't melt, and not the least, drilling skills. It takes a lot of practice to feel comfortable moving with fire safely for yourself and even more so for the audience."
Bressler loves having an audience. When she took that test and it said she should join the circus, maybe she really should have. But that's okay. Because now, she's bringing the circus to Wyoming.
"All I have ever wanted was to entertain others," she said. "To make people FEEL. I would love to travel around Wyoming, and even the world, sharing my fire passion on stage at weddings, parties, and even bigger events. It would be incredible to build a troupe of unique acts together to perform with; The Wild West's own Circus! If I can bring the joy and excitement that I feel when I spin into the hearts of others, that would be perfect."
Bressler's story is a unique one. It's unique in that not many people in Wyoming literally play with fire. It's even more unique given her day job. Bressler represents the duality of culture that exists in Wyoming. On one hand, this state is home to strong, sturdy workers with callouses on their hands and ham and cheese sandwiches in their lunch pales. On the other hand, there's the artists. Wyoming, and Casper especially, is home to countless artists who express themselves in a variety of mediums. Wyoming PBS, and Stengel, love to tell those stories. Bressler is just one of many Casper residents with a story to tell.
"I feel so incredibly grateful to be featured through WYOPBS," Bressler said. "Anthony has an infectious joy and is beyond talented. It was so fun to work with him and see his vision of my art form come to life in such a beautiful way. I never saw myself in such a light and it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. I hope that when others see this documentary, that it brings them wonder, makes them smile, and inspires others of all ages to follow their hearts desire. The heart knows the right path."
Bressler's heart was always leading her to this path. It knew what she was and who she was before her head comprehended it. But, like most artists do, she found it. She found what her heart was searching for. All she had to do was wipe the dirt from her eyes and look through the flames.
The 8 minute Wyoming PBS Documentary on Bressler, produced by Stengel Media, can be seen below.