Justin Write speaks with Carol A. Cruz Valezquez about his new work, which premieres at Joyce SoHo Sept. 17-20:
“I’m sorry, did you say…violent?” I asked him. I had apparently misjudged the tone Carlos Cruz Velazquez’s upcoming show and was admittedly intrigued. The group colectivodoszeta is a modest 10 people large with Carlos’ bright, cheerful face acting as a poster boy for what I had originally thought to be a cheerful Mexican folk dance influenced ensemble.
I was admittedly unfamiliar with his group and had based most of my initial impression of him on what I had known about his background; born in Mexico, started dancing at age six, soloist of traditional Mexican folk dances, eventually making his way to New York to study modern dance. I asked him to give me some more information about the upcoming show, hoping to shed more light on what we have in store.
The entire show is under the title Purple Waves Fading Red, although it’s five completely different pieces by design. Each is a different style, yet are all connected intrinsically in the sense that they are all in one way or another special to Carlos. The concept itself took about three years to germinate, resulting in him being in a very different place in his life than when he originally started. He tells me that his goal is to show human nature, and that he was inspired by grotesque paintings made with blood. “What’s more human than blood?”, he asks me. (I’m admittedly at a loss for words, and one of the more human responses to a particularly thoughtful sentence is what I like to call the “huh moment”.)
“This show doesn’t have any of that,” he says to me. He’s careful to make sure to point out that he finds ideas of violence fascinating, although not necessarily something that he has explicitly in the show. He continues to tell me about the respect he has for performance artists who allow things to be done to their bodies that many of us would shy away from, to put it politely. “The extremity of the whole thing… I very much admire it.”
Much of the inspiration for Purple Waves Fading Red comes from three important women in his family – sister, mother and grandmother. While he says it’s not a political statement, he recognizes that the female figure still has hardships in Mexico; there’s a certain amount of oppression in the way they are treated. Carlos himself is unfamiliar with that feeling. The trio of women represent his reaction to that in the piece. His research started with frank conversations with his family, which he recorded and later studied. “They would not or could not say a lot of things. They just couldn’t bring themselves to say a lot because it wasn’t accepted.” The piece has feelings of restraint and how a person reacts if it’s necessary to let go.
The idea of an inner struggle is also apparent in his duet Nobody, which is his reaction to his experience with a friend suffering from the mental condition bipolarity. The two personalities are explored, although in the duet you’re not necessarily aware of that fact while you watch. “People will think we’re a couple, the same person or even in a different world. I’m not interested in telling people exactly what they are.” At one point there’s a physical struggle that he specifically didn’t choreograph in hopes that it would happen naturally, making it more real, and presumably more wild.
Carlos’ group colectivodoszeta will be performing in New York again at DanecNOW [NYC] Festival on September 26. An evening length work is his next big project, collaborating with musician Jeffrey Smith.