Adrift in Translation
It's about 10:30 p.m. linear time on a Saturday night, and 40 partially conscious humanoids have just completed an hourlong, energy-generating "Dance of Power" and drum circle beneath towering light sculptures. Dressed in everything from earth-toned linens to tacky lycra, they are splayed across the dance floor like massacre victims.
After ten minutes of silence in the back room of Lumonics Light Museum (3017 NW 60th St., Fort Lauderdale), Siberian shaman Bus Beloyar's raven-haired translator, Yana, whose eyes are shock-black lined, says in soothing tones, "Now, sit up."
The adorable, bearded, bald shaman, whose pale eyes stand out beneath a fur cap, communicates his sincerity with sweeping arm gestures and says something in Russian, which Yana relays in broken English as, "I can see that many of you have separated from physical body. I saw that many of you had a great, deep experience. Tell us."
Now sitting Indian style in the circle, the placid crowd, an equal number of men and women ranging from their early 20s to early 60s, answers with awkward silence. Then a young, dark-haired woman in a long skirt and black tank top pipes up with, "I was like a shooting star." She smacks her hands together and says, "I went... psshht... straight out to the universe the second I lied down."
A skeptical blond dude in a leather jacket sitting outside the circle mutters "Shut up" snidely under his breath.
Then, another woman echoes the first, "I was floating in the cosmos." It seems like she's reading from an out-of-body-experience script.
Relaying the shaman's seemingly unimpressed response, Yana says tepidly, "I ask you, give a little effort. Overcome yourself a little bit. Give more emotions to it."
As the translation continues, she tries to nudge us into laying out $80 for a workshop so we can, among other things, get rich. "Learn how to develop abilities that open up this magnet inside, which is attracting money. We will develop our tentacles to attract success with special practice of shamanism and trance and also dancing, but much more and deeper."
Oh, crichey! Invisible tentacles?
Speaking of tentacles, but the extant variety, the long arm of the law laid the smackdown on Lumonics two years ago, shutting its doors after cops nailed a guy selling GBH in the parking lot from a gallon jug amid 400 spaced-out partiers. The police arrested five people that night and confiscated $8,000 in drugs.
On this night, there are no signs of narcotics. There's not even any booze. The doorman, Mo, responds to my query about a stiff drink by saying, "We don't serve alcohol, and we don't want anything to do with alcohol or drugs."
Instead, our buzz emanates from the extremely hot, five-foot-nine shaman, who, according to the website of the Russian Esoteric Academy of Happiness, for which he works, is a "master of astral karate, with which he purifies the karma of individuals and families." The place's founder, his mentor, Bogomudr Altai Kagan, is into something called "transcendental sex."
One way or another, Lumonics is all about departing from the plane of ordinary consciousness; what with the statues, fountains, retro lounges, light projection shows, trippy New Age music, and near-weekly guests like the Siberian shaman, it is a circus for the spiritual traveler afflicted with ADD. The maze of cozy rooms feels like a space-age party pad as conceived in the coke dreams of a sleeper in 1972.
The cosmically disconnected might find the experience overwhelming; last week, the performer at a Deepak Chopra event frightened people away when she went so deep into a trance that she started speaking in tongues, says Barry Raphael, the thin, endearing, red-bespectacled Lumonics spokesman. But the place is certainly an ad nauseum-free response to the question, "What should we do Saturday night?"
The technology/art environment began in the year of the moon walk, 1969 -- huh huh. Hence the low-chaired, geometrical, retro-spacey décor in the light-and-sound theater and sitting room. Dorothy Tanner and a few associates have been carrying on the vision ever since. Talking to Tanner -- a short, thin woman with close-cropped, gray hair -- is serious business. She cuts to the quick with, "What do you want to know?"
The shows? The lights? The drugs?
Tanner has actually used these sensory-enhancing environments to rehabilitate acid addicts. "We encourage people not to go too far out. We can create our own space with light and sound. They can get high just with the show. It's a sensory thing and magnifies space."
Space is right: It's tough to find a cadet in the place who responds to gravity. This I learned when I asked participants in the "dance" if they felt the power.
Suzanne, a heavyset brunet who appears to be in her early 40s, was sitting in a plastic chair in front of the museum when I caught up with her. "I felt the dance of power was a really good exchange of energy. Everyone -- I call them luminous fibers -- was exchanging energy and power, and as everyone was dancing, the energy was getting higher and higher. The boundaries of separateness kind of dissolved, and as it got higher, it was apparent that we were all one."
High and one? Orgy-porgy, dude!
Round 'bout 12:30 a.m., I left her and headed for the Tanner/Billard light show. Twenty-six-year-old Mitchell, who said he likes to "journey" at Lumonics, was cooling it in a baggy flannel, beat jeans, and a baseball cap. He was planted in one of the low-slung chairs in the light-and-sound theater.
With thick-tongued relaxation, he said of the dance: "Tonight was amazing. I was just so impressed to see just everything that happened, and there's not much more that needs to be said about it once you've seen it. Basically, this place is like a seed, you know, planted in society, and it's growing."
What makes you think it's growing?
"Wow. Think? I mean, you don't even have to do that."
"Just be. It's like, here it is. It's all just like this invisible message, and it's the place, and you have the choice to be there or not. I like to journey, and that's what this place is: You can come and journey and see where you end up. Eyes open and eyes shut. You're still seeing visions inside, like dream world, dream state: DJ pillow in club bed."
He nodded his chill head.
"You start out on one side of the world, the global sphere and whatnot, and it's just gonna end up... you're gonna get that moment again and you'll just see in an instant... ah... the mind goes too fast sometimes."
Funky beats started to drop from the surround speakers in the studio, drowning Mitchell's voice. Melding patterns of light took playful and passionate turns across the projection wall. One red-and-blue image resembled the pattern of my favorite T-shirt in the '80s, but it quickly melted into a ride on a green rushing river that was spilling over a cliff.
Whoa! The sound of a heartbeat fills the theater.
"Can you appreciate?" Mitchell asks.
Yeah, for sure. But, it's pretty difficult not to imagine what the light performance might be like stoned out of my fucking head.
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