Joseph Gordon-Levitt is famous as the star of such hit movies as Inception and (500) Days of Summer, but his older brother, Dan Gordon-Levitt, who died this week at age 36, was a superstar in his own circle.
Dan, (known as “Burning Dan” to his friends), is being remembered as an innovator and inspiration among those in the insular world of fire dancing, which he was passionate about. Dan was often seen spinning and twirling with fire at Flow Temple Arts School in Venice Beach, Calif., which he founded; at Renaissance Fairs, where he often worked; and at the annual arts festival Burning Man Project.
“In the world of fire [performing], Burning Dan was a icon,” Sean Driskel, a partner with Gordon-Levitt in the Flow Temple Arts school, tells PEOPLE. “He did amazing things with fire and anyone who saw him would come away believing that they could do it too.”
Says his friend and former student John Routson, “All of a sudden, the world seems a bit less bright.”
Among those he inspired was his little brother Joseph, who called Dan a “super hero” in the Tweet announcing his death.
“Those two adored each other,” according to Dan’s close friend, Sean Driskel. “Joe is like a smaller version of Dan, in that Dan was so much like him but even more expressive and over-the-top. My heart goes out to Joe.”
Out of respect to the Gordon-Levitt family, Dan’s friends aren’t speaking about the mysterious way in which he died. According to sources, he died Sunday Oct. 3, surrounded by friends. Early Monday, emergency workers took him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
According to the L.A. Coroner, police do not suspect foul play. They are awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
For now, his friends privately call Dan’s passing a tragic accident, but prefer to remember the positive aspects of the man they call Burning Dan.
“Everything about that man radiated positivity,” says Diskal, “And as sad as we are right now, Dan would want us to continue to push that passivity forward through the work that he loved so much.”
• With reporting by MELODY CHIU