Ice From The Sky

A California Artist In the Frozen Midwest

Editor's Note:

Read the Peace Dancer's December message. Khalilah Ramirez is a performance artist and author whose personal mission is to spread joy, love and peace with her dance.

Greetings to all who are reading! All of us here at De-bug wish the happiest of holidays to everyone. It is December now, a time of the year normally reserved for feasting, gifting and "chilling" with family & friends. I'm taking the liberty to include a reminder that it's also the season of giving. This is not giving in terms of the expensive excess that permeates our culture. I'm talking about the generosity of spirit. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have family, friends or presents. Let's make time this season to contribute to the happiness and well-being of those less fortunate than we are. Even giving a smile to someone who doesn't have one goes a long way toward brightening the world. This idea may seem silly or simplistic but it WORKS.

Speaking of seasons, The Dance of Peace debuted in real life snow last week while visiting Appleton, Wisconsin. It was my first time dancing while crystals of ice drifted from the sky. I traveled there to collaborate with Professor Ann Ellsworth at Lawrence University. We worked on a performance art piece about early American immigration and its parallels to the current US border crisis. Professor Ellsworth was passionate about awakening the privileged upper class to the plight of immigrant families at the border. She wrote a song for the play entitled "Silent White," which impressed me with its frank call to action. Its first line, "Silent White, stand up and fight!" set the tone for radical action rather than a comfortable night at the theater. She said, "Rhyme is my superpower. It lulls people into the rhythm, then you can slip almost anything past them." Word!

Appleton, Wisconsin is number three on the list of "Top 10 Most Alcoholic Cities in America," so naturally we went to the bars to find audiences for the Dance of Peace. The first of these was called "The Jackal." It was lit entirely by red light. It looked like it could double as a waiting room on the fourth level of hell. The owner, a forty-ish man named Ben, worked the bar. Professor Ellsworth and I told him about the Dance of Peace and proposed doing an impromptu performance in the bar. "I don't know about that," Ben said nervously. "I'm not sure we would be a right fit for something like that. We like to keep the atmosphere a certain way, if you know what I mean." We had no earthly  idea what he meant, but we thanked him.

One of the first rules of conducting a successful practice of renegade art is: Never ask permission. Proposing anything out of the ordinary makes most people uncomfortable. This is true everywhere, not just in small town bars. It's a rule that the Dance of Peace has followed to the letter for over a decade. If we as a people wait for permission to carry out our ideals, there would be no De-Bug, no Dance of Peace and probably no one left with new ideas to act upon. The best thing to do is to make a mental play of the idea, then execute without asking questions or permission. Ann and I headed to the mounted jukebox, paid, and started dancing immediately. As far as I could tell, the quiet, 12 person atmosphere was completely unaffected.

Later that week, delighted to be home, I ventured out to see the San Jose annual tradition, Christmas In The Park. It was moving to see thousands of diverse people in such a small area, somehow getting along effortlessly. Security spent most of their time shooing away unlicensed food vendors instead of breaking up fights. Vendors that had been reprimanded and asked to leave simply pushed farther down the sidewalk, continuing their businesses as if nothing happened. Secretly, I was proud of them. 

In a few moments, I heard music playing near me. A masked man on a bike appeared to have a speaker in his backpack. I said, "Hi. Do you have music?" He said, "Yes, it's right here." He seemed friendly enough although I couldn't see his face. "Turn it up and I will dance," I said. "Hopefully people will join in. Do you have any dance music?"

"I don't know," he said, "It feels like a 2Pac kind of night to me." 

I laughed and waited. Eventually he came up with Morris Day and The Times' hit 80's single entitled "777-9311." Surely this song hadn't been played in years, yet it was danceable. I incorporated an extra dose of silliness in the dance to make it seem more fun and accessible. Tony (the masked music player) was amazed when a random teenager ran over to us and added his fresh dance moves to the mix. In Dance of Peace world, this happens all the time. In Tony's eyes, the appearance of the rogue dancer was almost miraculous. "The kid came out of nowhere!" he exclaimed with a laugh, "Hey, I gotta shake your hand, man, you called it!" 

I didn't really call it. I already knew that music can be an irresistible magnetic force. We can all use our musical powers for good more often this season. The goal is unity, joy and harmony. Even within oneself, these are worthy pursuits. Thanks and see you out there!

More This Week in Peace:
A Tale of Three Cities
Angola Bound