Rehearsing “Arrive”

Norbert De La Cruz III (Photo by Sharen Bradford)

Bruce Wood Dance and Norbert De La Cruz collab for a world premiere

RICH LOPEZ | Staff writer

Norbert De La Cruz III is returning to Dallas for two world premieres — clearly this city has been good for the queer choreographer who’s based in New York. He premiered a commissioned piece for TITAS last year at its Command Performance Gala, and this year, he’s bringing new pieces to Dallas Black Dance Theater and Bruce Wood Dance.
For BWD, he will introduce audiences to “Arrive” this weekend.

De La Cruz shares his personal experiences in this world premiere for “SOAR”, alongside Wood’s “Home,” returning for the first time since 2014. The program also includes artistic director Joy Bollinger’s “In My Your Head,” set to music by Radiohead.

De La Cruz said his new piece for BWD stems from a gift he received.

“I was given this illustration book by Shaun Tan, The Arrival, and I was mesmerized by the illustrations,” De La Cruz explained. “Immediately I was thinking, how can I translate these images into a dance, because it’s a wordless illustration book. I wanted to convey its movement.

“And so, I thought it would be brilliant to do a dance to images that are very familiar to us.”

For him, the story was about alienation but also finding your ground and rebuilding your community. As an artist, De La Cruz said he felt compelled to create a piece that speaks to different truths — especially his own.

“I think it ties a lot into my immigration story as being Filipino-American and moving to the United States in 1982,” he said. “This piece is really an homage to my older sisters and brothers and my parents, too.”

He understands too that those themes also often apply to queer lives — a truth not lost on this new piece where he employs same-sex duets as a way to bring queerness into the vocabulary of “Arrive.”

To bring that part of his life into his art isn’t just fulfilling; it’s also comforting.

“That all really reminds me of the people in my life, like the best friends that I’ve had, who have really carried my weight — my partner, my ex partners who have broken my heart deeply but who have also taught me a lesson about who I am, and how I embrace my own sexuality,” he said.

“I see that there is comfort in being able to pursue that with them. I think it’s important to see those dynamics when it’s not so traditionally hetero.”

With that, De La Cruz also notes how, within his work and queer perspective, a certain undertone has become part of his art.

“There’s queer melancholy in my body that I like to explore as well, like just the sadness of hiding, the sadness of coming out of the closet in many different ways,” he revealed.

“Even though I’m out, there are certain aspects of my life I’m still keeping to myself.

“I just want to be able to showcase more of these couples on stage so that it becomes more normalized, and [so the audience] can be reminded of their gay son or daughter who are exploring who they are.”

Eleven days: That’s how long it took De La Cruz to conceive and create “Arrive.” From there it was planning and workshopping the music. He had to arrange the soundscapes to create the arc he wanted. He knew that when he then got to the Bruce Wood Dance studio with the dancers, he had to be mentally prepared for the fact that everything he created would be likely altered.

He said he had to be okay with destabilizing his original plans so that the dancers could bring their own translation into his piece.

Although he hadn’t quite expected to build a relationship here in the Dallas world of dance, De La Cruz said, “I’ve absolutely loved Dallas. The people I’ve met who are mobilizing our art scene are really inspiring. It is inspiring for me to engage with the city and its people and what it has to offer,” he said. “It’s been really empowering to support these two organizations and have them receive what I have to offer.

“Oh, and the food is amazing here too!”

For more information and tickets, visit