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Downtown Full Moon Party does spirituality, Miami style

Erik Spoelstra's twin twirls heat.
Chris Joseph

The monthly Downtown Full Moon Party is ostensibly a holistic journey geared to getting our earthly bodies closer to their spiritual being so they can harmoniously connect with the rhythms of the universe. But it's really just another excuse to get shit-faced and watch some dude swing a stick of fire.

"We don't have to constantly practice spirituality to be a spiritual being," the party's organizer, Fritz E. Romeus, says. "One just needs to believe and strive for oneness. The full moon tends to drive this message home, and that's why we celebrate its coming."

Romeus, who is in the marketing and promotion business, and a couple of his friends started the festival this past June and plan to hold the event every month. Next month's event falls on September 11.

August's festival took place at the Miami Art Space on NW 35th Street, which is not far from Miami International Airport. Tough to find total astral consciousness when jumbo jets roar overhead every 15 minutes.

But I'd give it a shot anyway. The full moon is traditionally associated with high crime rates, heightened fertility, and lycanthropes running amok. Hell, there would be booze, women, and revelry at this thing. And there would be performers and tarot card readers. So I ventured forth.

Ignoring the woman at the entrance asking for a $10 donation (poster said, "free," lady), I walked into MAS, passed a scantily clad belly dancer standing around like she was waiting for a bus, and went looking for lunatics and werewolves. What I found was a party like any other Friday-night party. Except this one had fire and drummers. It was a club party disguised as a full-moon festival.

There was a drum circle. Well, it was really more of a drum semicircle — a drum shoehorn, if you will. There was a bonfire. It was a 95-degree evening with sweltering, suffocating midsummer mugginess. But fuck it. You gotta have a goddamn bonfire at one of these things.

There were plenty of candles, incense, beads, mood rings, and sundry new-agey merchandise being sold on tables scattered throughout the venue. There were people — some looking like they were tripping serious balls­ — laid out on couches and beanbag chairs. There was music booming. There were white people with dreads. And, yup, the moon was full. It's a full-moon party. Let's do this, I thought.

First things first. Shuffling through the crowd that clogged the air-conditioned art gallery, I made my way toward the bar. Scotch neat for me. And then it was off to find oneness with the universe.

Outside in the open courtyard, a fire performer did his thing. His baton was lit aflame on either end. He swung it back and forth across his bare chest, his muscular arms pivoting the stick in swift, dangerous rings. Holy shit, he's fantastic, I thought. Holy shit, he looks exactly like Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra!

The DJ spun a tribal tune as the crowd cheered every impressive swirl and spin. Erik Spoelstra Fire Performer breathlessly traversed the courtyard while swinging his fire stick, each fluctuation sending bright red-orange waves across the darkness.

The impressive routine abruptly ended when a woman emerged from the crowd to say something to Erik Spoelstra Fire Performer. He inexplicably handed her two chains with flaming balls on each end. She began to swing them. She wasn't as adept. She labored to swerve the chains in proper circles. Excitement turned to angst when one of the chains slipped from her hand and slid into the crowd, almost burning a guy's foot.

The fire baton was placed on the ground, and moments later, an attractive girl wearing nothing but striped panties and a shredded black shirt that clearly revealed her breasts began to seductively dance around it. Fire Dance Girl sat on the ground and stretched a leg toward her head. Then she jumped to all fours, arched her back, and moved her body to the DJ's rhythm. This immediately caught everyone's attention, mostly the men. Because, titties!

She pounced with full-body lunges and made her way around the circle, tantalizingly moving with the music as if trying to sexually arouse the flames from the stick. Her performance was brief, but provocative all the same. As she faded into the shadows, the music became festive again, and folks were brought back to Party Mode. I looked for Fire Dance Girl so I could introduce myself and get an interview for this piece. But mainly to introduce myself. I lost her in the crowd.

Off in a corner by one of the food carts, two dudes randomly started some sort of dance-off. Their bodies flailed in every direction as a small crowd gathered to watch. It was a spaz-dance fight! But they weren't performers. Just two guys fightin' for their right to party.

It was clear that the mystical part of the fest began and ended with the fire dancers. The drummers did their part to keep things spiritual, but in the end it was just a bunch of dudes endlessly banging on drums in front of drunk people.

Full-moon festivals for years have been a ritualistic gathering in Miami. Most of them take place on the beach, where participants can commune with the ocean and moon, away from noise and traffic.

This Downtown Full Moon Party was an odd marriage of trendy revelers and holistic seekers, and it killed any vibe you might get at a traditional full-moon party.

But this is Miami. Our festivals are parties. And we use any excuse to throw down. My only regret was not seeing anyone turn into a werewolf. That and not being able to make the acquaintance of Fire Dance Girl.


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