By Bernie Petit
CarlosAlexis Cruz may be an assistant professor of voice and movement at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, but he really is a bridge builder.
Instead of connecting paths across physical obstacles by way of concrete or wooden structures, however, Cruz is bridging unspoken divides between several Charlotte-Mecklenburg communities through movement.
“Cultural separation is the norm here,” Cruz told The Charlotte Observer. “We have diversity, but groups don’t communicate with each other.”
Over the next year and a half, Cruz will work to change that by engaging in deeper conversations with Latino, African-American and Asian-American communities and bringing them all together through his project “Nouveau Sud, Nouveau Cirque,” which translates to “New South, New Circus.”
His work is supported by the Arts & Science Council (ASC) 2014 McColl Award, which Cruz received earlier this year. The award, named in honor of Hugh and Jane McColl, is a $25,000 grant with the purpose of investing in the creation of a new work of art.
Given every three years, ASC grants the McColl Award to inspire originality and imagination in the presentation of creative products and to recognize artistic excellence in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community.
Cruz will use his award to learn and incorporate the “underground” dance, acrobatic and physical theater scenes that thrive within local ethnic communities into cirque-style performances.
“Nothing like this has ever been done in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, so we are excited to see what Carlos creates,” said ASC President Robert Bush. “It’s something that will bring our community together in the truest sense – not only will Carlos bring talented underground performers to the forefront, but his project will tie their stories and traditions to the larger story of our city and county.”
“Nouveau Sud, Nouveau Cirque” will include neighborhood residences that take place between January and December, 2015, and a main stage production in the spring of 2016.
“I have good things in line with the project, for which I am very excited,” Cruz said. “It’s going to kick off in a staggered fashion, instead of everything all at once just because of the nature of the different communities. I’m okay with it – I think it’s a healthier way for me and for the project.”
Cruz has already started identifying “underground” talent with which to work. He offered a glimpse of the ground “Nouveau Sud, Nouveau Cirque” could cover at ASC’s “Imagine 2025” event in September.
In the colorful, breathtaking performance, African-American and immigrant experiences were linked by break-dancing, Latino folk dancers and poetry recited in both Spanish and English.
Bringing cultures together, he said, is at the heart of “Nouveau Sud, Nouveau Cirque.”
“I always say you put two different things together and a third thing emerges,” he said. “By itself (a culture) is already communicating, radiating information to us. Putting it with another is like mixing two colors in and getting a new vibrant color out.”