A contemporary Charlotte circus company portrays the journey of Latino migrants in a new show
Acrobatics, music and lights. These are three of the elements that Charlotte’s New South Circus will use to showcase the journey that migrants take when traveling from Central America to the United States.
The show took eight years to prepare. Alexis Cruz de Carlo is from Puerto Rico and says when he arrived in Charlotte nine years ago, he noticed a lack of diversity on stage.
A year later, he received the McColl Prize from the Arts and Sciences Council, a non-profit organization that helps fund and advocate for the arts in Mecklenburg County. His goal was to bring communities of color together through a contemporary circus company, Nouveau Sud, which translates to the New South.
“I started in the community to reactivate and unite communities that have been separated, that are separated,” Cruz said.
Cruz says that since that moment he has always wanted to tell the story of migrants who travel from Central America to the United States.
In 2020 Nouveau Sud received a grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts to do just that and create “La Bestia”.
“We use art to tell stories that no one dares to tell but are very real,” Cruz said.
“La Bestia,” which translates to “The Beast,” isn’t just the name of Cruz’s circus show. It is also a term familiar to many immigrants. La Bestia, also known as “El tren de la muerte” or “The Death Train” is a network of freight trains that cross Mexico to the United States.
Migrants, mostly from Central America, ride atop trains, a dangerous and often deadly experience.
“He’s an iconic figure for me,” Cruz said. “Even though it is not used as often these days, it is still today an emblem of the need to tame this fear in order to achieve one’s goals.”
The Nouveau Sud circus show follows the migrants on this journey. The show will include acrobatics, narration and music. In the lobby, the public will find information about La Bestia and other immigration facts.
Cruz says he wants to present this story as a way to humanize Latinos and immigrants in Charlotte.
“I always say immigration doesn’t happen on a whim, it happens out of necessity,” Cruz said. “And if people could just think about that, I think they would see immigrants from a different perspective.”
Cruz himself did not have to go through this trip. He is an American citizen and has what he calls the privilege of not having to go through an immigration process. But he says that because of his accent and skin color, he is considered a Latino immigrant.
“It’s my responsibility to represent the Latino community in general,” Cruz said.
Susana Morehouse is originally from Chile and is a performer in “La Bestia”. Similarly to Cruz, she says coming to the United States wasn’t easy for her, but it certainly wasn’t as difficult as the story she now helps tell.
She moved to New York to study dance. But while she doesn’t entirely relate to the story, she says as soon as she heard about “La Bestia,” she wanted to be a part of it.
“I loved it,” Morehouse said. “It intrigued me a lot because I’ve never heard of a circus company talking about immigration, so I thought it was very interesting and necessary.”
Lucas Gabriel Morales Bravo had a similar experience. He is another guest artist on “La Bestia”.
Morales Bravo is originally from Argentina but has traveled the world training and performing different circus acts. More recently, he performed with Cirque du Soleil. He says he got a call from New South and as soon as he heard about “La Bestia”, he was into it.
“I feel really lucky that they chose me for this, because it’s really difficult but it’s also a very important story that we tell,” said Morales Bra vo.
Morales Bravo says that while researching for his lead character role in the series, he learned about the experience of Central American immigrants and their journey to the United States.
“Honestly, it was really shocking and hard to learn,” Morales Bravo said. “But that’s also what made me love the project, because I know it’s important to show people what’s really going on.
Morales Bravo says audiences will be greeted with a range of emotions, from sadness to joy to anger.
“La Bestia” is filming Jan. 20 – 22 at the Booth Playhouse. More information at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center website.