Lord of the Dance
Considering that we’re all eating the same broccoli and buying the same brands of jeans and talking about the same three current events, it’s hard to keep in mind what our first-grade teacher told us: “Every person is unique. Like snowflakes. ”
And then sometimes there is a person who is so entirely original that meeting him is like seeing a leprechaun or a unicorn. Some mythical creature whose sighting calls for grabbing the digital camera before he disappears into a puddle of sparkles and goo.
Such is an encounter with Ricardo Mejia — who’s just Ricardo to most Hurricane regulars. The guy is such a vivid presence at the Westport nightspot on Fridays and Saturdays that the staff has adopted him as the bar’s mascot. He dances to whatever music is playing, whether it’s the Baloney Ponyz (whose leather-clad lead singer covers ’80s metal while a portable fan blows his blond hair for dramatic effect) or the thugged-out hip-hop on nights when women pop their pelvises to the newest club hit.
Ricardo has been dancing there for nearly a decade. And recently, he’s been doing it in a skirt.
He shows up at the bar early (wearing sweats and his signature red fanny pack, his long, gray-streaked hair tucked under a Hurricane hat) so he can get his stretching in. The staff gives him the privacy of the basement, which is where we tracked him down to inquire about his night life.
“Yeah, I dance at the Hurricane in a skirt. You?” He touches his toes, does side bends, little arm circles, squiggy knee bends. If he didn’t stretch, he’d probably get hurt, he says. He is a middle-aged guy.
Ricardo is a KC native whose grandparents emigrated from Mexico — though the Spanish he knows “isn’t worth talking about.” By day, he’s a delivery driver for his brother’s company, DaVinci ReproGraphics. And he has a horticulture degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he also learned modern dance.
At night, however, he says the music makes him see things — possibilities for movement and choreography. “I don’t drink,” he tells us as he shakes the ice in a Windex-colored drink that he promises is Gatorade. “It never really appealed to me.” He’s never done drugs, either, he says. The Hurricane doesn’t pay him to dance, though lately he’s picked up an extra buck or two by wiping off the tables during the night.
Ricardo flits off to change. He returns in a black-and-white-striped miniskirt and a yellow shirt with a giant, polka-dot tie. “My skirt’s been flipped up so many times, it doesn’t even matter anymore,” he says, flashing tight Lycra bikini bottoms and a crescent of butt cheek for demonstration’s sake.
His dance is like a skip, sometimes exaggeratedly flirty or spastic, like Mike Meyers’ kid-who-isn’t-supposed-to-eat-sugar character on Saturday Night Live. But he assures the Pitch he’s all man.
“Most of it is really for the women,” he says. “I meet a lot of them. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I don’t even know all their names.”
Sometimes macho members of the audience ridicule Ricardo’s chick-magnet moves. But taunt this precious snowflake and you’ll be escorted out by decidedly nonskirt-wearing Hurricane bouncers. Take that, conformity.