A contemporary circus troupe from Charlotte portrays the Latino migrant journey in a new show | WFAE 90.7

Acrobatics, music and light. These are three of the elements Charlotte’s Nouveau Sud circus will use to showcase the journey migrants take as they travel from Central America to the US

The show has been eight years in the making. CarlosAlexis Cruz is originally 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 Award from the Arts and Science Council, a nonprofit organization that helps fund and promote the arts in Mecklenburg County. His goal was to bring communities of color together through a contemporary circus troupe, Nouveau Sud, which translates to the New South.

“I started in the community to reactivate and unite communities that are separated, that are separated,” Cruz said.

Mary Ramirez Uribe

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WFAE

CarlosAlexis Cruz, director of Nouveau Sud, rehearses the company’s upcoming performance, ‘La Bestia’.

Cruz says from then on he always wanted to tell the story of migrants traveling from Central America to the US

In 2020, Nouveau Sud was awarded a grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts to do just that and curate ‘La Bestia’.

“We use art to tell the stories that no one dares to tell, but that are very real,” Cruz said.

“La Bestia”, which translates to “The Beast”, isn’t just the name of Cruz’s circus performance. It is also a familiar term for many immigrants. La Bestia, also known as “El tren de la muerte” or “The Death Train” is a network of freight trains traveling through Mexico to the US

Migrants, mostly from Central America, ride on top of the trains, a dangerous and often life-threatening experience.

“It’s an emblematic figure for me,” Cruz said. “Even though it’s not used as often these days, it’s still emblematic of having to tame that fear to achieve your goals.”

Nouveau Sud’s circus performance follows migrants on this trek. The show will feature acrobatics, narration and music. In the lobby, the public will find information about La Bestia and other immigration facts.

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Mary Ramirez Uribe

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WFAE

Nouveau Sud performers rehearse for the upcoming premiere of ‘La Bestia’.

Cruz says he wants to show this story as a way to humanize Latinos and immigrants in Charlotte.

“I always say that immigration doesn’t happen on a whim, it happens out of necessity,” Cruz said. “And if people could think of that, I think they would see immigrants from a different point of view.”

Cruz himself didn’t have to make this trip. He is a US citizen and has what he calls the privilege of not having to go through an immigration process. But he says he’s seen as a Latino immigrant because of his accent and skin color.

“It is my responsibility to represent the Latino community at large,” Cruz said.

Susana Morehouse is originally from Chile and is a performer in “La Bestia”. Like Cruz, she says it wasn’t easy for her to get to the US, but it certainly wasn’t as challenging as the story she’s helping tell now.

She moved to New York to study dance. But while she can’t quite relate to the story, she says she wanted to be part of it as soon as she heard about ‘La Bestia’.

“I loved it,” said Morehouse. “I was very intrigued by it because I had never heard of a circus troupe 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’.

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Mary Ramirez Uribe

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WFAE

Lucas Gabriel Morales Bravo is an Argentine guest artist on ‘La Bestia’. He has traveled the world training and performing various circus acts.

Morales Bravo is from Argentina but has traveled the world training and performing various circus acts. Most recently he performed with Cirque Du Soleil. He says he got a call from Nouveau Sud and as soon as he heard what “La Bestia” was about, he was there.

“I’m really lucky that they chose me for this because it’s very tough, but it’s also a very important story that we tell,” said Morales Bravo.

Morales Bravo says that by researching for his role as the main character on the show, he learned about the experience of Central American immigrants and their journey to the U.S.

“Honestly, it was really shocking and hard to learn about,” Morales Bravo said. “But it also made me fall in love with the project, because I know it’s important to show people what’s really happening.”

Morales Bravo says audiences will encounter a range of emotions, from sadness to joy to anger.

“La Bestia” runs January 20-22 at Booth Playhouse. There is more information at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center’s website.

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