A skill that unfolded in a local Six Flags has led Nathan Spare to national television.
There’s a certain spark to Voorhees native Nathan Spare.
As a matter of fact, the spark has been blazing, quite literally, into flames over the past decade.
While his talents have enthralled audiences from Hershey Park to Universal Studios, the performer has most recently braved the stage of NBC’s reality show “America’s Got Talent” with his fire-breathing abilities.
Spare, who successfully made it through the first round of auditions in mid-June, unearthed his audacious aptitudes right here in the Garden State.
While concentrating on auto mechanic studies at Manalapan High School, Spare started following his theatrical brother to Six Flags in Jackson, where the siblings performed in various shows. Somewhere within the walls of the park, Spare realized Six Flags was fostering several of his abilities, including drumming and martial arts.
“That park itself really allowed me to harness my skills and do different kinds of shows,” he said.
Being only 15 years old, he could only work a certain number of hours, so Spare often found himself in break rooms where he’d come across illusionists who were mastering techniques such as juggling and tightrope walking.
Spare was thunderstruck.
“I just started to absorb everything and wanted to learn everything, and juggling kind of showed me the specialty skills side of performing. … I was almost learning their language,” he said. “And I loved being able to talk to them about their skills.”
Amid working costume characters and even participating in an award-winning tiger show, when he was 17 years old, Spare was introduced to fire breathing and eating by a friend.
Spare realized he had met his true match, as he started practicing the craft before claiming the chance to do his own fire act featuring nunchucks with the former “Batman & Robin: The Chiller” roller coaster serving as a backdrop.
“At that point, I was like ‘fire is my favorite thing,’” he said. “I love something about controlling this unpredictable, destructive element. … Something about being able to not really perfect it — it’s just to learn how to control it.”
Spare says when he had to choose between a summer internship in his auto job field or working at Six Flags, he reached a crossroads, realizing had he not taken the performance path, his life would have been “more 9 to 5ish and less breathing fire.”
That “life decision,” as Spare describes it, paved the way toward his graduation from Rutgers University-News Brunswick, where he served on the cheer squad, in 2014, earning a bachelor’s degree in theater.
After college, Spare’s set of skills took him across the country, including performances as a juggler in Hershey Park, a percussionist at Busch Gardens and as a character in the USA and Canada tour of Marvel Universe Live.
Over the following year, his talents took him to Orlando, Fla., where Spare and a few performer friends wound up “with no jobs, but also with hopes.”
While in the Sunshine State and taking center stage at parks, including Disney World and Universal Studios, Spare connected with choreographer David Greenhouse who has made a name for himself producing “Magic Mike”-esque shows with the Rock Hard Revue dance troupe.
Although Spare was suffering performance-related injuries, Greenhouse, and his band of merry naked men, served as the impetus for the fire breather’s return to the big stage — the national spotlight of “America’s Got Talent.”
“This is my jump back into doing fire stunts for a large audience,” Spare said.
Spare and the Rock Hard Revue ventured across the country to L.A., where they enacted a spectacle of inferno with a touch of seduction crafted by Greenhouse, showcasing the spectacular for celebrity judges Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Mel B. and Howie Mandel and sea of roaring audiences.
By the end of the act, every dancer winds up shirtless while playing with fire.
Although the full audition didn’t make it to air, the energy in the room was unlike anything Spare’s ever experienced before.
“I was really blown away from the audience,” he recalled. “I’m not sure what I was expecting for that, but everyone pretty much was on their feet.”
Despite common misconceptions about the personality, Spare says Cowell was surprisingly receptive and appreciative to their audition, as the only judge to not give them the greenlight was Mandel.
“Simon was the opposite of what I expected — in a good way,” he said.
Spare stresses that, even though it’s reality television, the performance genuinely feels like an authentic audition, as very little is staged or scripted.
Experiencing backstage, Spare says he was moved from simply coming across countless gifted individuals.
“Just being in the same room with so many talented people … there’s a lot of really good stories that I think are even better than mine,” Spare said. “So, it’s nice to meet some of those people.”
While the act is onto the next round, Spare feels grateful for just having his fire-breathing ability take him this far, as he attributes New Jersey as the birthplace of this particular talent.
Aside from friends and family, Spare is thankful he has the whole Garden State supporting him, saying Voorhees especially will always have a special place in his heart.
As far as making an impression, Spare wants viewers at home to feel inspired and empowered by his act.
“‘America’s Got Talent’ wants anyone out there to realize that it can be them,” he said. “And they can find a way to make it work no matter what your story is — that stage is for everyone.”