Dancing With Fire

After years of dancing with fire and balancing on stilts, Crystal Cruz, owner of House of Cirque, is more than just a performer. She produces brilliant shows, creates intricate costumes, and teaches students of all levels to face their fears and venture into new and daring experiences.

Write On Downtown (WOD): When did you first become interested in cirque?

Crystal Cruz (CC): It’s one of those things that just evolved over time. I got involved in performance arts as an adult, beginning probably about 18 years ago…it was starting with belly dance…and then of course, with belly dance comes fire. And then you just start going through all the different things…Actually, for a long time, I ran Provocatease, a burlesque company…we kept taking up more and more skill sets. And then eventually, I’m like, ‘we’re not this’. We’re not burlesque anymore. We’re a circus company. So it just keeps evolving, right. And so that’s where we’re kind of at this point where we’re primarily known for Cirque. But everyone knows that we still dabble in a wide range of performance arts, so we get a lot of different types of requests.

WOD: When was your first or favorite performance? What was it like?

CC: I can’t even remember my first performance anymore because I’ve done so many different types. Favorite performance…probably some of the larger scale ones where either I was in a supporting role where I was managing a really cool crew of artists, or very large, immersive experiences…whenever I get to do something unique, though, that’s probably going to grab my attention a little bit more than just the pass the day stuff that pays the bills.

WOD: What inspires you to perform?

CC: I’m going to get really basic right now, because I’ve just entered another age frame. So part of it is for my body to not stop working. Like if I stopped doing what I’m doing. I’m my, my joints are gonna lock up from all the different things I’ve done over the years…So that’s my plan to live forever, or at least to be able to walk until I die…Now, that used to not be my incentive for all this crazy. They used to be ‘Oh, that’s really cool. I’m gonna try it out’…In my younger years, I wanted to be the star or I wanted to do this cool thing. Now, the reality of do I want this art form to live on?

WOD: What’s your favorite thing about doing cirque?

CC: It’s partial therapy for a lot of people. So I don’t only teach people that are interested in becoming performers, I also teach people that are just interested in stepping forward for themselves, getting out of their own comfort zone, and getting out of their head. So I’ve had people that have extreme fear of heights take myself classes, where they’ll stand on the corner holding a wall the entire time, but the whole goal was they stood up, and they stayed up while sweating it out.

WOD: What are the effects of being a woman in the world of cirque?

CC: The funny thing is a lot of behind the scenes, at least in this area, is actually run all by women. Most of the companies in this area are all women nowadays. I hired one of my friend’s companies a while back there, and it was funny because we were on site and their kids were actually surprised that I was the boss. I’m like, ‘How could you be surprised? Your mom’s the boss of your company.’ And that’s a circus company too. There are males, don’t get me wrong, there are males that are part of the business; we let them in. We’re nice like that. I’m kidding. I’m kidding. There are some companies that are truly run by male leads. A lot of them are actually run by couples.

WOD: How do you stay involved in the arts community?

CC: What I found, though, is a lot of nonprofits, even for their fundraiser shows and stuff like that, we tend to get involved with them because they actually have a lot of money. If I provide them a quote, they’re not able to pay, they normally will find a sponsor to cover our costs…sometimes it doesn’t happen, and when it doesn’t happen, normally, it’ll happen the following year or two…there are reasons to perform for free, absolutely.