Leonard Cruz improvises a performance from memory and suggestion
Leonard Cruz wants to give you something willfully strange. It's an accumulation of experiences he has cultivated from years of dancing across boundaries, from Korea to Italy to Venezuela to France, experiences he will now present in his hometown as part of a new solo show that he dubs DanceChance, taking place January 14 and 15 at Jump-Start Performance Co.
The show's strangeness reflects the experiences of an American in foreign places. Traveling around the world to perform, Cruz says he often encounters circumstances that initially shocked him, such as 12-year-old prostitutes and gaudy transvestites in Indonesia, or a population steeped in drugs in Colombia. But Cruz has come to realize that what might seem out of the ordinary to one person is merely commonplace to another.
"`Traveling` opens my eyes that these are ways people survive," he says. Infusing this multi-cultural awareness into his performance through music, movement, and costume - the latter, he says, being "especially feminine" - Cruz hopes to offer his audience a glimpse of the uncommon.
Cruz edges even further into unfamiliar territory through improvisation. He says he is enamored with every new moment, an attitude that continually presents opportunities for "rich and spontaneous" dance. Cruz also eschews predictability in his show by allowing members of the audience to reach into a bowl and select a scenario; he might face a table, or perhaps a lone chair, which he is then obligated to incorporate into an entirely improvised routine.
Witnessing Tanztheater in New York 12 years ago inspired Cruz to settle in Bremen, Germany, where he now works as a dance instructor and choreographer. Cruz has known global eclecticism, however, since he was a child. As a Filipino-American, he learned Filipino folk dances at age 4 and experienced the eclectic nature of Filipino culture itself, which is steeped in both Spanish and Chinese influences.
Cruz says his style incorporates all his experiences, including those from his childhood. For those unaccustomed, that's a lot of strangeness, a fact Cruz is somewhat concerned about: "I think when you do something strange or odd in America, it's a bit hard for people to take." •