Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you.
—Henry David Thoreau
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
There are scads of meanings for the word happiness, but the only one that matters…is mine! Happiness to me is witnessing someone who has mastered their physical being. That’s how I felt when I saw a performance by the dance artist, Alan Ramírez. Describing his skill is tricky. It’s like a tablespoon of Cirque de Soleil, a pinch of the American Ballet Theatre, and finally a scoop of Nijinsky. Now you begin to understand the complex dynamics of this fascinating pro.
I was introduced to Alan’s talent in his debut film, I Am Happiness on Earth. Since then, he’s made two more films, all under the direction of Julian Hernandez. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to witness Alan in concert. His gift extends to aerial (Lycra, Silks, Straps, Trapeze, Spanish Rope), Flamenco, point work, and modeling, which includes dancing in various TV commercials.
Alan, thirty, lives in Mexico City, where I’m now working for a couple of weeks. Early in his
career Alan landed two full summer scholarships, one at the Bartholin International Ballet Seminar in Copenhagen and the other at American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in New York City. He’s danced in The Nutcracker Suite—and has even played Romeo. I wish I were Juliet!
In 2016 and part of 2017, he toured Italy, France, and Greece with La Fiesta Escénica Circus Show. Currently, Alan is dancing in a Rock show called Catarisis (catharsis). I caught it a couple of nights ago and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Watching Alan is a study in strength, flexibility, and focus.
A couple of days ago I attended a seminar conducted by UNAIDS, a global advocacy and support organization co-sponsored by the United Nations—but ya’ll knew that! Today, I’m visiting the awe-inspiring team of IMPULSE, where they do divine work. Afterwards, I meet Alan following his nightly performance, at a nearby pub in a small plaza, located on a cobblestone street adjacent to soaring 100 year-old trees.
Ruby Comer: This is my first time to Mexico City. I had no idea it was so charming and cosmopolitan. Happiness! [I plainly blurt out, as I scoot up to the bar.] What is happiness to you, Alan?
Alan Ramírez: [He ponders, looks away briefly.] It is the capability of allowing yourself to be amazed.
Hmmm, I like that. Evidently Julian Hernandez is crazy about you, since he continues to place you in his films. Of course I understand why! [He beams shyly.]
Julian is a great guy and I really get along with him. After working together we developed a nice friendship. [He pauses and sips his Perrier.] Believe it or not, he initially contacted me through Facebook after he saw my photos.
What was your experience filming I Am Happiness on Earth?
It was a discovery. The first time I did something like that. I was very nervous and also in disbelief that I was actually doing it. I’m so glad that I was able to work with such amazing people.
Tell me a backstory while filming.
Before I had to do a scene with my top off, it was lunchtime. To avoid being bloated I ate just mandarin oranges—a lot of them! I ate so many, I ended up feeling nauseous.
Oy! [I grab a handful of popcorn that’s near.] Dancing is demanding. Do you manage to have a personal life?
I hang out with friends. I like going to a party, but I don’t do it often. I love to go to a club and dance, and I love the cinema. I also watch Netflix almost every night.
Ahh, Netflix, which is where I discovered you! [You can find I Am Happiness there.] What’s a typical day for Alan Ramírez?
It depends on the day, but I usually get up—always late and running [I nod in agreement of the familiar behavior], take a shower and then have a quick breakfast. I go to ballet class, then stretch. After that, I go to Pilates, Gyrotonics, or Castings. I have lunch in different places. At night I go to my circus class, return home, eat while I watch or read something and sleep.
What book are you reading?
A Body of Work by David Hallberg.
Say, the other night when we spoke briefly backstage after your performance, you mentioned that you had a friend who’s HIV-positive. First off, what comes to mind for you when you think of the epidemic?
Oh, Ruby….Fear. Fear. [He shakes his head endlessly back and forth, striking a painful look on his face.] I first heard about AIDS when my father took me to a gay festival. I was four.
Four? Startling you remember that. As to your friend, tell me about him.
Well, I listen to him and give my full support, and when he asks, give him advice. I think the hardest part for him has been assimilating the fact that it’s something that not everyone will be okay with. In the beginning, he wondered if he would find love, having HIV. [He clears his throat.] He’s better with that now. We have both done enormous research and we know that if you take the proper care there’s no need to worry. I try to let him know I love him very much every day.
He’s blessed to have a dear friend like you, Alan. Say, are you straight and are you in a relationship?
I am happily single and happily homosexual.
O…M…G, I like your reply. That is the best retort I have ever received after asking those questions. You made my day, Alan!
Your reputation for not mincing words precedes you, Ruby!
[We both giggle and clink glasses in a toast.] Have you seen any HIV stigma in Mexico City?
Yes, even though there is a lot of information on the subject, people still have wrong ideas. Some even think HIV refers to having AIDS. There’s a long way to go.
Were you educated about the virus in school?
Yes, we learned about all STDs in school. They told us pretty much everything there was to know…at that time.
That’s right. You turned thirty this year! How does it feel?
Well, it’s bittersweet. [He slides his hands up and down the icy perspiration around his glass.] As a dancer, aging is difficult. There is certainly a social stigma to turning thirty, as one constantly hears. Stress is put on you to have done certain things by that age and you feel bad when that’s not the case. Although I know in reality it’s not like that, it still gets to me.
What’s the current HIV campaign circulating Mexico City today?
It is always about using condoms, and checking yourself [through testing]. I know people of my generation, and younger, are getting infected…[Alan halts.]
Glad you brought that up, Alan. How do we all reach out better to them?
It’s all about education, Ruby. Having innovative and attractive campaigns. Using technology to reach out to everyone.
Good point. When did you first get tested, and what was your encounter like?
I was nineteen. I remember I was very anxious about it and wanted to know the results quickly. I did it at an STD clinic.
How do you feel about PrEP?
I think it’s a great way to prevent the transmission of the virus, but I don’t like the fact that a lot of people are taking it as a replacement for condoms. We should all have a conscious, healthy sexual life.
Sí! Muy bien. Have you always played safe?
No. [He states this simply and straightforwardly.]
Thanks for your honesty, Alan. Are you currently on PrEP?
I don’t think it’s available in Mexico yet, but I’m not sure I would take it. I’d have to do further research. [I inform Alan later that PrEP is available in Mexico City, but accessibility outside of the city is nonexistent.]
Fair enough. Alan, who do you look up to?
I think everyone has something to teach—and to learn. My ex-boyfriend, who is now a good friend, is someone I really admire. Those afflicted with the virus also inspire me. [A Madonna tune comes on and we sing a few bars together. All of a sudden, Alan puts up his hand, as if to say, “Stop.” His smiley puppy brown eyes begin to glisten.] I really hope that we find a way to eradicate the virus. Can you imagine, Ruby, what it would be like if we didn’t have to worry about HIV? That would be happiness to me!
Connect with Alan on Instagram @alanramir3z.
Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected].