Thursday, July 7, 2011

Interview 9: Danielle Berggren-A “Fire storm” around the World

Danielle Berggren (DB) our weekly interview in DUBAI PROFILE NEWS (DPN) blog plays with the fire and states that is never easy at all. From Dubai, to Iraq and Afghanistan, these days in USA, a global citizen is sharing with us some interesting and exciting life time experiences. A person who manages to combine the events industry and the risk management along with the scuba diving has loads to share with. Enjoy this unique interview.

DPN: Danielle you are a co-founder of “Fire Storm”, a group of LED Light and Fire dancers specializing in performances throughout Middle East. Tell us few words about your project.

DB: In 2008, a group of five of us started meeting regularly to practice spinning poi and generally having a laugh. After taking on a few private events and a reoccurring weekend event at Chi@Lodge, we realized that there was a huge market for fire performances and decided to start our own fire troupe. From there, we started experimenting with LED lights, fire jump ropes, costumes and stilts. It was a bumpy road starting off since we had to pull together quotations for agents, make sure we had the appropriate fuels on-hand, and guarantee payment, but we had loads of fun and I have a lot of great memories. Recently, one of my fellow co-founders and performer began working with Infusion Entertainment, who now manages all FireStorm bookings.

DPN: How dangerous is sometimes to “play with the fire”?

DB: It’s VERY dangerous! Early on in our performances, we began providing a fire safety for each event. The fire safety was responsible for helping to set up and take down of equipment and was always on-hand during the actual performance with a wet towel, fire extinguisher and a first aid kit. We believed that this was the most important part of a performance, particularly because of the fast pace of events and the risks to fire dancing or fire breathing.

DPN: Up to now you have performed in major events worldwide, describe us the most impressive one, which first comes in your mind.

DB: The best event that I performed at was a private event that took place in the Maldives. Our agent had requested four fire performers for two 15-minute sets of performance at the One&Only. In addition to the payment costs, we were flown out two days earlier and provided accommodation in water villas at a nearby location. So, three days in the Maldives, water villas, meals provided, and only 30 minutes of performance… probably the best “working” holiday that I’ve had! I also really enjoyed the Nasimi events with Infusion – the events were always packed and had different themes which made the performances a lot of fun.

DPN: As you have participated in various events in Dubai, do you find this city to be the hot spot of the Middle East?

DB: Absolutely. The events in Dubai are always unique and typically amazing!

DPN: Apart from playing with a fire you are at the same time an open water scuba instructor. What role “water” plays in your life?

DB: Whilst I enjoyed the fire performances, they tended to be intense, fast-paced and exhausting. With scuba diving and swimming, I was able to relax and focus only on my breathing, marine life, and students (if I was teaching). It was a completely different experience that perfectly complemented the fire dancing.

DPN: Will you share with us any unique “underwater” experience?

DB: I actually met my fiancé on a dive trip. We were paired up as dive buddies on a trip with the Pavilion Dive Center to Sipidan, Malaysia. Both of us decided to ditch our cameras and instead we created funny hand signs or motions for different types of fish and marine life. On another dive, we took down an umbrella and a rugby ball for some fun pictures. We became great friends, started dating and have a wedding planned for this October. Since we’re both dive instructors, diving has been a huge part of our lives and our relationship. We’re actually planning to start our wedding week with the infamous shark dive at Stuart’s Cove in the Bahamas.

DPN: If a young person asks you why to begin scuba diving, what would you advice?

DB: Scuba diving is a hobby that you can do anywhere in the world. There are many fabulous places to dive that it can be incorporated into almost any holiday. Also, there are so many types of diving (cave diving, shark diving, commercial/technical diving, freshwater diving, wreck diving) that every diver can find something that interests them.

DPN: You were born in Korea, grew up in the U.S.A and spend some years of your life in Dubai, before returning back in the U.S.A. What lessons did each of these places teach you?

DB: After living in Dubai (and now moving back to the US), I’ve realized how many lessons I’ve taken with me that pertain to my professional career as well as my financial outlook on spending vs. saving. I also learned a lot about different cultures and religions through some amazing friends and feel as though this has provided me with a better understanding and view on events that take place worldwide. But, living in Dubai has also made me realize how many wonderful opportunities that living in the US provides, especially when it comes to buying a house (with a huge garden and trees!), raising children, and taking holidays to the beach, mountains and cities (Los Angeles/Miami vs. Denver vs. New York City – all in one country!).

DPN: It’s been said that after they pass away, the most important people in our lives “live within us.” Is there anyone from your past that lives within you?

DB: My mother died unexpectedly when I was six years old and though very upsetting, it’s taught me to live life now, not tomorrow or next month, and always make sure that your loved ones know how much they mean to you.

DPN: Danielle, in your life you have worked in the industry of “Risk Management and Security” and as a result you had a number of trips in Iraq and in Afghanistan. May you share with us your experiences there?

DB: For my role, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, there is only so much a person can understand by watching or reading the news or reviewing intelligence updates. I was able to visit Iraq once in 2006 and Afghanistan once per year that I was working in Dubai (five trips total). Although I didn’t inform my parents of my business travel until I was safely back home (they asked me not to so they wouldn’t worry), I was never apprehensive or nervous. Working for a risk management and security company, I had full confidence in the personnel we have in-country to take care of me! Each trip was eye-opening and brought new experiences… but I was always glad to board the plane back to Dubai.

DPN: You seem a person who loves living with the risk. Pierre Corneille, a famous French tragedian said that “to win without risk is to triumph without glory”. Do you agree with that and why?

DB: Yes, I’d definitely agree with that quotation. Recently, I was on a trek in Nepal through the Annapurna range. It was extremely hot during the day and as we progressed, it became very cold at night. The first couple of 8-hour days that we had climbing up (equivalent to climbing to the top of the Burj Khalifa 3.5 times) were difficult as it was my first real trek. During the climb, I injured my knee and ended up using my poles more as crutches. But after we finished the trek a few days later, I felt empowered by having completed it, despite an injury. I’m hoping to get back to Nepal and do some longer treks!

DPN: Is Risk Management an industry with a future and why?

DB: I wouldn’t say that risk management is the future – I’d say it is the present. There are so many companies and non-profits expanding their business models to challenging and high risk locations that it’s necessary to prepare for and manage business in accordance with the environment in that country. This could mean a completely different set of policies and procedures, additional insurance requirements, training on cultural sensitivity, etc. and many companies require this assistance to operate effectively.

DPN: May you let us know how come did you choose the jobs you had up to now?

DB: I completely stumbled into the job and company that I’m currently working for by accident. When I was at university in 2003, I had participated in a 10-day trip to Kuwait with a Washington D.C. area non-profit organization. On that trip, I met the faculty adviser who later contacted me in 2006 to see if I was interested in moving to Dubai and working with the company on a short or long-term basis. Since I had just been accepted for a Masters Degree program in the US, I agreed to move to Dubai for 6 months, at which point, I’d return to the States. I ended up staying in Dubai for 4.5 years.

DPN: How has your life been different that what you had imagined?

DB: Well, I never thought that I’d live in Dubai for almost 5 years, become a dive instructor and fire performer, travel to Afghanistan/Iraq, meet so many fabulous friends from around the world, or find my fiancé on a dive trip! So, I’d say it’s exceptionally different and much better than I’d imagined.
DPN: Asia, Middle East, Europe or the U.S is the place to be?

DB: I think it really depends on what you want out of life and where you’re at in life. Living in Dubai for almost 5 years was fantastic. But, my fiancé and I are also pleased with our recent move back to the US and the opportunities that we have in this area. On the other hand, we haven’t completely written off the idea of some day living overseas again...

DPN: Define us happiness.

DB: Happiness is no regrets and a realization of all the good things you have in life – not a focus on all of the things that you do not have.

DPN: At the end share with all of us a word of wisdom that your life taught you.

DB: Live life to its fullest. Have no regrets. Be able to forgive. Be happy with what you have!


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