W.Va. natives entertain with feats of heat
CHARLESTON -- Davi Della Fiamma and his wife, Pixie, don't seem to have fun unless they are lighting something on fire, preferably something in the vicinity of their own bodies.
He prefers to eat fire or blow it dramatically into the air. She twirls flaming torches or dances with a fire belt.
The feats get them gigs at fairs and festivals and even bars and other entertainment venues around the country.
Of course, fire alone does not a living make, so Davi and Pixie have plenty of other talents in their sideshow bag of tricks. He plays guitar, sings and juggles. She sings, belly dances and most recently started dressing as a mermaid.
They've got lots of ideas for adding tricks and Pixie said they have a "beautiful, constructive competition." If one thinks up a new trick, the other is not far behind.
"I think glass walking is next for me," Pixie said. She also plans to upgrade her mermaid tail for a version that would allow her to swim with it.
And for Davi: "I'd like to do the human blockhead." That's where the performer hammers a nail or other item into his nasal cavity.
Pixie is against that idea. She would prefer that he learn some magic tricks.
"We really love old Vaudeville-style performance," Davi said.
Their skills and show material are enough to keep them busy weekends during the summer season, and this year the couple hopes to start booking more events in earnest.
Their family knows them as Dave and Pixie Bragg, both West Virginia natives who now live in York, Pa., but they prefer to use their stage names most of the time. "Della Fiamma" means "of the flame" in Italian.
Davi, a 1996 graduate of Winfield High School, has a degree in religious studies from Marshall University and had aspirations to study world music in graduate school when life plans changed. He met Pixie, a 1997 graduate of Beckley's Woodrow Wilson High, four years ago at a belly-dancing event in Beckley.
"Neither of us had real jobs," she said. He was working as a manager for Husson's Pizza and she was a barista at Starbucks.
Both had enjoyed dabbling in performance -- he as a musician and fire-eater, she as a dancer. They started trying to make a little money at it.
"We were basically busking," Pixie said.
At the time, she wasn't interested in anything to do with fire.
"I swore I'd never do it -- I was afraid of it," she said, but Davi eventually won her over and Pixie started twirling flames and dancing with a belt holding flaming torches.
And an act was born.
The couple's location in York allows them to load up their 1979 flame-painted Ford Bronco and get to regional locations easily.
York also is home to Father Dunn's Jewelry, a company that makes unique and higher-end pieces favored by belly dancers and others. The couple sells items for the company, often in booths at fairs.
This past year, the couple has been invited to popular events in West Virginia including the Smoke on the Water chili cookoff that was part of FestivALL and the Golden Delicious Apple Festival.
At the former, Davi burned himself when the wind kicked up.
"I lit my own face on fire, aspirated some of the fuel and ended up with chemical pneumonia," he said. "You're not a true fire performer until you burn yourself."
One of their best times in the last year was the Golden Delicious Festival in Spencer, where they were treated like royalty.
"People were just so sweet," Pixie said. They've already been invited back.
They may live in York, but Davi and Pixie are proud West Virginians and hope that their performance schedule will keep them returning often. They already do to see family -- they have four children between them, all of whom live in West Virginia.
The two also work with a group of performers who call themselves Po' Folks Cabaret. Davi said sideshow and Vaudeville performers tend to be a tight circle of folks.
"A lot of performers, we help each other out and share tricks," he said.
"It's like we speak our own language," Pixie added.
Both Pixie and Davi can be found on Facebook by their names. Po' Folks Cabaret also has a Facebook page.