Ring of Fire

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Not that Lozano has an aversion to sex. She just thinks there's a more creative way to explore it. But she says it's a challenge to get local club owners to take a chance on anything other than go-go dancers. "We know that sex sells; we don't ignore that," she explains. "But we try to do something more than just shaking our ass. We'll do some titty girl -- but even when we do the titty girl, we do it over the top so it's still fun and unique." During one of crobar's recent Wet parties, for example, Lozano held an oversize syringe at her crotch and shot a twenty-foot stream of water into the air. "I was totally making fun of it," she recalls. "I was like, öYou want sex? Let's go!'"

"They're just totally different," says Pawn Shop Lounge marketing director Michelle Leshem. She employs Circ X for Pawn Shop's Saturday-night parties, during which performers have played everything from Married with Children-inspired trailer trash to I Love Lucy jokesters, giddily unraveling toilet paper rolls in Fifties polka-dot party frocks. "Looking at some girl in hot pants -- anyone can do that. Some don't know what to think about Circ X, but whether people like it or not, they get your attention. In that way, they do more for business than 20,000 ads. That's why companies like Bacardi hire them."

Leshem is referring to the year-long tour Circ X was hired to do for Bacardi Limón last year. Performing at nightclubs such as the Limelight in New York City, the troupe captivated the attention of crowds that often numbered in the thousands. "We weren't supposed to do any showstopping stuff. Bacardi didn't want to stop the drinking," says Campos. "But during this one number Diana and I did, where we were both inside this cocoonlike bag, everybody stopped."

The Bacardi-sponsored tour gave Lozano a preview of where she wants to go. Although she enjoys interacting with nightclub crowds, Lozano's ultimate goal is for Circ X to have its own show, one independent of DJs and two-for-one drink specials. It's a dream that isn't too far-fetched. Performance troupes such as Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, and the Pussycat Dolls, who began in LA and now have their own performance space in Sin City, are cleaning up at the box office. With few other local entities (RKM and South Beach Divas come to mind) to compete against, Lozano sees no reason why Circ X can't have similar success in Miami. "Stomp, Blue Man Group, De La Guarda," she cites, "all started in night clubs."

Back at Nikki Marina the crowd has thickened. The dance floor is no longer a stage for angel theatrics but drunken, Tone-Loc-driven booty bumping.

Circ X artist Natasha Tsakos, looking Borg-like in a helmet sprouting black tubes, wanders among and toys with unassuming men who don't know whether to be scared or aroused. Campos, who is covered in feathers, dances playfully with a group of girls as they all sing out, "I ain't no hollaback girl!" while real-life ballerina Anna Courter, in a white tutu and ballet slippers, makes the bar her barre and casually kicks her leg up next to her ear. Situated on two low platforms, Nicole Lloyd and Jasmine Betances look every bit the Vegas showgirls: disco-ball bras, glittery silver hot pants, sequined headdresses, and white feathered fans. Although Circ X's core members -- Lozano, Tsakos, Campos, and Lloyd (Courter and Betances were hired specifically for the Nikki Marina party) -- claim that working in clubs is both mentally and physically draining, they all feed off the high that comes with putting on a good show.

Lozano recalls one particularly rough night when she decided to simply get on a platform, let loose, and dance. "I had fishnets on and I took them off and put them over my head and did all these weird contortions with my face, and I just went crazy," she says. Afterward a man in a wheelchair approached her. "He says to me, 'I just want to thank you. I've been here all night and I watched your entire performance and it was amazing.'

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Jessica Sick