One of Kelly Miller Circus’ most daring performers aims to be flame-ous — burning brightly onstage in a way the audience hardly will soon forget.
How else can you possibly begin to describe a man known mostly — and what seems to be mostly accurately, by the way — as The Human Volcano?
“To do this, you have to have both some respect for what you’re doing and some fear,” said Lamount Dais, a 47-year-old veteran circus fire-breather who makes a few storybook dragons look rather unspectacular.
He is a main attraction in the Kelly Miller Circus scheduled for two shows May 12 under a 1,100-seat, portable, waterproof big top at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds, County Road 200S, Columbus.
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Dais’ performance offers no smoke and mirrors. He handles what appears to be flaming candelabras the way a marching band majorette handles multiple batons, twirling them this way and that as if they are simple children’s toys — and with a Cheshire cat grin all the while.
“In the beginning, there’s a lot of trial and error, just like there is in any art,” he said.
Growing up in Lisbon, Connecticut, he always dreamed of being a performer. Early on, he tried an acting class from Butch Patrick of Eddie Munster fame. It wasn’t for him, but in the class he met a circus performer.
“They opened the door to me, and told me that if there was anything I wanted to learn, to let them know,” he said, chuckling at the memory.
He jumped into magic before transitioning to the magic of lighting his fire 18 years ago.
“It eventually just worked for me,” he said.
His performance passion has burned from nightclubs to Universal Studios to several circuses. He performed in the circus’ show that stopped in Columbus in 2014. Organizers say he was quite popular with two sold-out crowds.
Still is, in fact.
“You look so happy with fire,” one Facebook friend wrote under one of his recent, flaming shots.
He does indeed look delighted. In fact, maybe the only thing brighter than the pair of flames he usually wields like torches is his megawatt smile.
“But I don’t care how careful you are,” he has said more than once in interviews. “You play with fire, you are going to get burned.”
Perhaps his worst burn happened in 2010 offstage with the Cole Brothers Circus, his first such touring troupe. At a barbecue, cockiness nudged him to show off his skill with friends. He inadvertently became the barbecue.
Part of his face very briefly caught on fire — one of about seven times his face or head has been alight.
Maybe that explains why every online clip of him is accompanied by the red-letter, all-caps warning: “DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME — OR ANYWHERE!”
Yet, he is all smiles during his act, even as he playfully seems to catch on fire his very fanny, wiggling it humorously at the crowd as it seems to smolder, video clips show. But he is more than lighthearted rump roast.
“I would say that his is probably the top act in the show,” said Jerry Simo, one of the main organizers of the local performances for the Columbus Lions Club. “One reason is that it’s fire.
“And two is the presentation. It is just so big.”
Simo referred especially to Dais’ closing signature move: squirting a container of what he describes simply as fuel — “I don’t want to give away my secrets” — into his mouth and then blowing only millimeters from a politely burning torch to produce a shooting flame worthy of an Olympic cauldron. For those into stats, he mentioned that admirers have claimed the plume sometimes has billowed two stories high.
“Not a doubt in my mind,” Simo said.
Though Dais’ circus responsibilities sometimes include grooming the animals or the tent set-up, his chief role stands as a more succinct duty: his Bonfire of Insanities that moves like a fast-paced Vegas act before intermission.
“Five minutes,” he said with a laugh. “That constitutes my work day.”
The man who has toiled as everything from a truck driver to a hair product distributor cannot imagine any other life.
“Traveling is just my way of life,” he said. “I don’t even own a key to a single building.”
He hardly seems to need to. Clearly, he’s a lock on opening the door to sizzling drama.
What: The one-ring Kelly Miller Circus, based in Hugo, Oklahoma, and featuring a fire-breather, tigers, elephants, acrobats, clowns and other attractions.
When: 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. May 12.
Where: Under a portable, waterproof, 1,100-seat big top erected at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds, County Road 200S, Columbus.
Tickets: $6 for children and $12 for adults in advance at MainSource Bank in Columbus, Hope and Taylorsville and also Kroger Marketplace on select days; $8 for children and $16 for adults on the day of the show. Nearly all shows in 2014 and 2015 were sellouts well before show times.
Fundraiser: Benefits the Columbus Lions Club and Bartholomew County Reserve Sheriff’s Deputies.