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Volunteer Spotlight: Dani Torres

Fires in Waterplace Park Basin. Photo by Erin Cuddigan.

Dani Torres is one of WaterFire’s most reliable and hard-working Special Ops leads – in other words, one of those pesky volunteers keeping guests a safe distance from lit torches. Torch processions truly make each event stand out from the others, marking a special occasion or celebration, and Dani plays a key part in those special moments running smoothly and beautifully.

She got started with Special Ops when she discovered that its fast-paced nature fit pretty well with her own fast-paced tendencies.

“I have trouble staying in one spot. So when I came to the volunteer orientation, and they said ‘oh, Special Ops runs around all over the place’ I instantly was like ‘Oh! That’s for me’ — raised my hand. So, getting to run around a lot is why I love Special Ops.”

Dani Torres, photograph by Jennifer Bedford

Obviously, doing crowd-control and similar tasks can be pretty tough work for a lot of people. Luckily, Dani is not only capable of succeeding in all the challenges, but gets to witness a lot of amazing moments being right up front and where the action is.

“We did have a couple of people who were coming in from Portugal for the Portuguese Festival, and I was doing crowd control for that. The woman asked me why they had to stay behind the ropes, why there was wood on the river, and I told them about WaterFire, and she was saying ‘It sounds like a beautiful thing; I can’t wait for it to start.’ So when the one flame started on that little wick, she was all disappointed and I said ‘Give it a minute!’ About a minute or two later the whole thing was engulfed and she was just amazed. She was so happy; she almost had a tear in her eye. She had two little kids with her and it was so cool to watch them be in awe.”

Ask a WaterFire volunteer why they keep coming back to help put on these events, and most likely you’ll hear the same thing: being able to see guests in total awe of WaterFire’s magic. Being part of Special Ops is no simple task, but the reward is always worth the effort.

Dani Torres clears a path for torch bearers. Photograph by Jeffrey Stolzberg.

Dani Torres clears a path for torch bearers. Photograph by Jeffrey Stolzberg.

Coming to so many WaterFire events, Dani had plenty of chances to see the fire spinners gracefully and dangerously illuminating the river and dazzling crowds. “In the back of my head I always thought ‘That’s a really cool skill to have – I could never learn it, but it’s a really cool skill to have.’” Soon after, she decided to give herself a taste of that brand of magic. “I bought some fire fans, and my collection slowly grew into seven props, and I’ve been practicing with each one of them. It’s madness. It’s addicting.”

Fire spinning and Special Ops share the same sense of controlled chaos and stunning quality of production, and Dani’s the right fit for both. As a fire spinner, with a lot of hard work, she is beginning to master the movements of the performance and of the flame. As a Special Ops volunteer, the hard work pays off in an even more grandiose ceremony of flame. Dani advises anyone attracted to that magic to jump right in.

“If you’re thinking about it, just do it. Understand that it is hard work, so signing up to volunteer is easy, but if you’re not used to all the movement and all the chaos, it can be hard to stick with. But if you can stick with it, it’s totally worth it… especially Special Ops.”


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