188. Lyrik Cruz: Endless Enthusiasm for Career and Culture

November 01, 2023 01:03:59
188. Lyrik Cruz: Endless Enthusiasm for Career and Culture
Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
188. Lyrik Cruz: Endless Enthusiasm for Career and Culture

Nov 01 2023 | 01:03:59

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Show Notes

Dana Wilson hosts Lyric Cruz this week on the Words That Move Me Podcast! All you need to know about Lyrik is that he’s a proud Puerto Rican who shines brighter than the sun!... They also talk about his very atypical experience growing up in Chicago, breaking cycles of body shaming, dance activism with the Choreographers Guild, and the importance of mentorship. So, settle in and enjoy the cup of energy that is Lyrik Cruz.

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Episode Transcript

Hello, my friend. Before we get into this episode, I want to let you know that on November seventh, which is a Tuesday at three P.m. Pacific, I'm hosting a career coaching call. This is for anybody who's ever thought I'm not good enough. I don't have enough money or the resources to make this creative life happen. If you're feeling overwhelmed, if you're feeling confused, if you're feeling impostor syndrome, this call is for you. We co-coach directly on these issues, so if you're interested, please RSVP to get the link. You have to RSVP to get a link. The link to RSVP is in the show notes below. I really hope to see you there. Hello. Hello. I'm Dana Wilson, and this is Words That Move Me. I move people. I choreograph movies, music videos and TV shows. I dance for pop stars. I coach some really awesome people. But what I truly love is to learn, share and inspire clarity and confidence in my fellow movers and shakers. So if you are navigating a creative career or simply want to live a little more funky and free, then settle in because this is for you. Hello. Hello, my friend. I'm Dana. This is words that move me. This on my lap right now is my dog wristroll, aka rizz. And I am stoked that you are here. Today's guest is a friend and a powerful force in the dance world, the dance community, specifically the Latin community. His name is Lyrik Cruz. And if you are not already familiar with Lyrik, your world is about to get brighter. I don't know how else to say it. This person shines so bright and I'm so excited to share this conversation. But first, let's do some wins. Today I am celebrating taking my second ever Whacking class and I'm so embarrassed to actually say that out loud. It seems so natural. It seems like such a natural fit theory maybe wrong and please somebody come tell me otherwise. But it seems to me that Whacking is the center circle of the venn diagram between jazz and funk, which are the two things I love the most. So how have I not completely submerged myself into this style? I don't know, but I'm telling you what I'm about to. I love this and my arms are sore. Thank you for loving my arms, Riz. Okay, so that's me. That's what's going well in my world. Deep diving into a new style that I think is going to feel so good. Now you go, what's going well in your world? I do think it's important that you say this out loud. Yay. Congratulations, my friend. I am so glad that you're winning Lyrik Cruz, my friends, is a force to be reckoned with. I've known it since the day we met. I knew it when I put him into formation. One day on in the heights. You're going to hear about this story in just a second and I double down know it right now. Lyrik and I are both ambassadors and advisors for Bopsidy which is an online dance platform for learning and sharing. Lyrik is also a founding member of the Choreographers Guild, a world renowned and world traveled choreographer and teacher. Still a performer, Lyrik is a leader in his community. He's an example of what is possible for young Puerto Rican boys from Chicago and beyond. He is truly a gift that I am so, so excited to share. My friends, please enjoy the one and only Lyrik Cruz. Let's do it. Holy freaking smokes. Lyrik Cruz. Welcome to words that move me thank you, thank you. Thank you for having me. This has been a long time coming. I'm so glad you're here. Okay, we'll start at the beginning. I ask all my guests to introduce themselves. Okay, take it away. What would you like us to know about you? My name is Lyrik Cruz. I am happily Chicago-born and raised. Yes, I am a proud Puerto Rican. Yes, you are. I am a proud choreographer. Yes, you are. And I really love the life I've created for myself. All right, thanks for coming. That's such a beautiful introduction and true on all points. Although I do want to clarify something. Is it true, Lyrik, if that is your real name, that you received your name Lyrik at Performing Arts High School in Chicago? Tell me about this. Why do we call you Lyrik? Okay, so I got into the theater department. I didn't even get into the dance department, which is always a funny part of the story. I love this plot twist. I always used to write a lot of Lyrics. I am no MC, I am no rapper or none of that. But I had a really good pen for poetry and to write verses. So I used to share that with a lot of the music majors and they used to sometimes spit the rhymes that I would write. And I would do a lot of my poetry in my theater finals because I believe that my poetry was theater. So I did that a lot. And then one of my friends was like he just coined it. He was like, every time you have to do a dance piece, you always go to the Lyrics of the song first and you're always writing and it's like you're just Lyrikal. It's Lyrikal. It's always Lyrikal with you. It's always Lyrikal. And then it just stuck by my sophomore year. And funny enough, I just really felt like that manifestation was that was me. I was Lyrik because my real name is and I don't share this often. I happen to know it, though, because I happen to have seen your. Know, my my real name is Anderson Cruz and then my family only calls me Andy, so I've never even heard my mother say the name Anderson. Really? Yeah. They named me after my father's favorite brother. But Anderson is so official, right? Anderson Cruz. But I never felt like an, you know? Plus, I got teased at school, like, oh, you have two last names. And I went through all of that a little bit. But then when Lyrik clicked in, it was just like, yeah, this is the stage of my life. I am a performer through and through. And when my friend coined it, I was just like, I think this is it. I love this story. Thank you for sharing. And sorry to put you on blast like that. No, that's great. Sharing the thing that you don't usually share right out the gate. You mentioned going to school for musical theater, not for dance, I'm assuming because you're Puerto Rican and because I've seen you dance, that dance is deep in your DNA, in your roots, in your family. Is that where you were introduced to dance, or was it much later? Well, I think the blessing of being Puerto Rican in the United States is that you are born into so much music. Yes. The blessing on top of that, that I grew up in Chicago, the home of house music. So much great hip hop music. I lived in a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood, but in my neighborhood was very mixed with black and Mexican. We really all lived together, indulged in each other's cultures. So it was really great. It was great. So it was something I was really born into. And I am one of those kids know, there's a phrase that we're puerto Rico. Puerto Rico, nacio and me. Which means I wasn't born in Puerto Rico, but Puerto Rico was born in me. No one taught me that. I just grew up in a very proud neighborhood, and I indulged in my culture from the time I was nine years old, which is when I started dancing, learning all the Puerto Rican folkloric dances. Cool. Which I got to know intimately and got to witness you getting down way back, way back now in the pre pandemic times in the Heights. Yes. A magical moment for all of us. Yes. In my adult life, in my movie making life, for sure. But as an adult person, getting to be a guest in a culture so very different from my own and feel so wildly, warmly welcomed, I will never forget how much a part of a family I was at that time is really special. I'm going to tell you something funny about the day that we worked together on set, please. You probably don't remember this because I know you guys were working like, crazy hours, and it was crazy. Weather was so hot those days. Or if not, it would rain and be super cold on the pool day out of all of them. It was just such a crazy thing, right? But I remember I had just flew in on a red eye from La. Because I literally had got the call like at p.m.. The day before. So I jumped on a flight at midnight. Yes. I do want everyone to know that we were prepared, but there were several occasions that we were still casting or being able to wiggle to accommodate more people. So we're still taking people on sometimes the day before, yeah, but which was. Great, though, because it also allowed so many more people that are part of the culture to be a part of it. But I remember you guys showed up to this church that we were rehearsing in Washington Heights. Yes. And as soon as we know Eddie was teaching us some of the choreography, you're kind of dancing with, you know, you and I hadn't officially met, but of course I knew who you were. And you looked at me really quick and you were like, no, I have to put him here. His quality of movement. And then you just walked away. But it made me feel so good. I was like literally. We had already did like maybe three acres at that point and you were like, no, let's put them right here. The quality of movement and then you just walk. I love sometimes my complete lack of. Transparency, but it's great because I am someone that I've always felt deserving of things. I've never felt entitled to things. And I walk into spaces where I've been blessed that so many other choreographers invite me to their party, but I also show up with a lot of humility because of that. I've been very fortunate. That choreographers that I love and respect, like Chris Scott or like Chloe Arnold, they've always invited me to the know. So I was just so happy to be part of a project that I knew was going to be life changing for my community and for the dance know, we hadn't seen ourselves like that on screen. And what you guys created for us to do was like I still get goosebumps talking about it because it's just that people don't understand that when you're a part of that. I don't care if it was only three seconds. The thing is that it's being there part of something that meant so much to all of us. So thank you for that moment because it just solidified why I went through what I went through to get there and it counted. The quality, the texture, the quality. You are a quality being in many different modes and you're shining light on something that I wanted to get to. You are a choreographer in your own right. You have worked your ass off to find yourself in spaces, to create spaces for yourself and for others, to be in leadership positions, bringing a community with you. And I think you're a great example of somebody who still does many things and does many things well. Being a leader, being a community leader and being an on the job leader, like being a choreographer on a set as well as being an educator in this community, as well as still performing. And I think that a lot of people have a misconception about hanging up my dancer hat to go be a choreographer. So what you're pointing to is that whether you can choreograph or not, if you can dance, enjoy dancing and people enjoy you, then you can continue to dance. I don't think there are any rules that say you have to be one or the other. I think you're a great example of someone who does both. All yeah. You know what it is? I'm happy that very early on, I never cornered myself into anything. I knew that my energy was for a lot of things. Me and my drama teacher always laughed about this, but she said, how do you best describe yourself? I was like, Well, I'm a mindless wanderer who knows exactly where he's going. Again. End of podcast, right? Shut it down. Remind you that I had that type of conviction at . You had those sound bites at . I was that kid. And mind you, I grew up in a neighborhood where people laughed at me when I said I was going to do this for a living. You don't always get all that support. I just had really incredible mentors that saw it, offered me whatever they had at hand, and knew that I could make something with it. I hate that we have to multi hyphenate ourselves to anything. I'm an artist. I'm an artist, and I've studied my craft. I studied concentrations of my craft in such an in depth way, and I could lend myself to so many things. It's kind of a blessing when people do see that, you know what I'm saying? Because not everyone is so approachable. Not everyone always brings that energy to, like, invite me. I want to come to your party, too. I love directing the party, but I. Love coming to dance with the great guest. Yeah, I feel similarly. I love to be a dancer on set. I love to be told what to do. I love to deliver, I love to over. Deliver comes up a lot on the podcast. Texture, quality. But I think that as long as that's an interest of yours, and as long as there's fuel for that, you can absolutely be that. You're a great example. Well, I think we've talked about this before, and there is just also something that I like to always share is that I'm still excited about this career. And how long you been doing this? This dancing started when I was nine, professionally, since I was . So I'm almost years in and I am still as excited. I'm still as excited. And, yes, the hurdles have been there, the challenges have been there. The breaking the stereotype, not being the ideal body type, but still feeling hella good about myself knowing what I brought to the table. I never let it get to me. Yes, there was rough patches, but not rough enough to ever make me lose the love I have for, you know, I'm still excited. That answers two of the questions that I actually had upcoming. So a little bit more context. You and I are both advisors and ambassadors for an online dance platform called Bopsidy. It's a place where you can learn, share, network. It is a truly well thought out and built dance platform. I could not be more proud to be a part of this, to be a part of this team. And so you and I started getting closer, I think, through our work with Lily and Bopsidy. But you have also really showed up for the Choreographers Guild, a completely separate piece of the dance community specifically built for choreographers by choreographers in efforts to gain us a contract, a professional contract as a union. You show up for dancers and you show up for choreographers. And my question was why and how? But I think now I have pretty good answers to both of those questions, but I would love to hear it from you anyways. As a kid, I lived in a community that I supported politicians before I could vote. I'm someone that was part of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and it mattered to me for Puerto Rican kids to be interested in what it was to be Puerto Rican and want to ask more questions of why should they be proud that they're Puerto Rican. And those things really mattered for me. And I am a kid that was raised by a village. My mother was a single mom. But the village of dance mentors that I had or community leaders that had these after school programs that I was a part of in my community, I sorted as a leader really quick because it mattered. So why do I show up? Dancers and artists are my favorite people in the planet. I can't imagine my life without it. I love it around me. I love to discuss it. I like to talk about it. You don't have to tell me to look up a dancer. I already know what you've done, where you've been, where you trained, where you went to school, because I think that we are interesting. Your eyes are lighting up. I'm so glad we're on camera because you truly are sparkling right now. And I don't mean to cut you off, but I had to just point it out because you're on fire for this. You're on fire for it. You're physically like, I'm looking at you catch heat right now. It's insane. Yeah. No, again, it goes back to I think that I walked into this career with so much respect for it and I had to do the work. No one ever had to tell me, Lyrik, you should learn these things. As soon as I caught wind that there was a platform in the salsa world, for me to be a part of and promote the music of my country, be an ambassador of Latin dance. That means so much to me. I always did my homework, but that never felt like homework. It felt like a treasure. It felt like gems that I was. Just treasure hunt, like going in search of the treasure and then finding the information, finding the people, sharing space and time with the people. That's the actual gold. And then it always worked in my favor. It always worked in my favor for all that. Yes. And when I walked into those spaces, it felt good to show respect where respect should be given. I never doubted what I had to offer, but I always knew that when you wanted a seat at the table, be sure that you're bringing something to it. Me showing up for dancers is because people showed up for me. To me, I want dancers to always feel and know that on my behalf. They matter to me. They are important to me. I can't create without them. My visions would have been obsolete if I didn't have them. Nothing would have mattered if I didn't have the bodies. And I'm talking about starting with that group of kids that I had in Humble Park, in my community, that trusted me when I was years old to start my own dance company. And they were all kids who were , most of them my friends. But that believed enough that my energy was going to give us something. I don't take that for granted because it could have not happened totally. So to me, showing up, it's what I owe dance. It's what I owe our career. It's what I owe to music. And I think that it's so important that we as dancers, as choreographers, show up for each other because we are always the ones left behind. It could get very disappointing when you see people who think this has nothing to do with them, when it has everything to do with them. But I'm happy that I'm at a place in my life where I will continue to educate as much as I can. Just yesterday, I had a meeting with Dion Warwick's team, and when I started talking to them about the guild pause for awesome. Cool. Yes. Listen. Another surreal moment in life. Right? But when I started talking to them about the choreographers guild, they got so excited they hadn't heard about it. Right? Okay. And they're like, oh, my God. Really? Did this launch already? And I'm like, yeah, you know, we're in the process. But seeing how excited they were that we're doing this, Dana, is why I will keep on showing up first. Yes. Okay. So that's both the why and the how is excitement. And this is part of the reason why the choreographer's effort in particular has ebbed and flowed or kind of pushed and paused for so many years. Decades. Because if it is up to a group of three people or ten people, then if they don't have a Lyrik Cruz in there, then they may run out of juice. Right. Sometimes you can run out of enthusiasm, but when you do, it because it lights other people up. Once other people are lit up, then you're lit up, and you kind of have this momentum that doesn't stop if your why is because of excitement and it gets exciting to you to see other people excited, then you keep on going. Exciting people. This episode is about enthusiasm. Somebody asked me once on a panel, they were like, what's your greatest strength? Or something like that in dance? And I was like, enthusiasm. I'm really excited about. I love it. I'm a simple mind, simple pleasures is what my mom always said about me, which I now understand as a dig. But it's so honest. I am a fan of people, and I'm a fan of dance. I do default to joy. I do my best work when I am excited. I can still work when I'm not right. Like, I know how to put the pedal down or sit and really do the work, put the pedal to the metal and put the pen to the paper. Those are the two things that I wanted to say, I guess. Okay. I know how to do the work even if the feeling excitement isn't there. Yeah. But it is a cash cow in terms of organizing, in terms of getting people on board for something, in terms of campaigning. People must care. And I think you're a person who's really good at making people care. Well, I think our pride can't only be in vain. I'm a proud choreographer because of the world. It's given me back to what you. Owe to the thing. Yes. So too many people like to wear these titles as badges of honor. What do you wear yours as? It's my heart. Not something on the outside. No, it's way too deep. It's way too deep inextricable I bet. Yeah. Inseparable, like, can't separate you from it can't separate you from you. And I hope that even anyone who hears us now talking about it, that it kind of clicks back into them and show up again. You know what I'm saying? And again, we can't always show up all the time. I can because I will, because that's just me. I love that rational. That rationality. I can because I will watch this. But it's just important for them just to come once and let us know that we're supported those of us who are taking it a little bit more serious or not more serious. Maybe I just have the time right now. Hours in a day. Something as mathematically explicable as that. Yes. I'm so glad to have you. A part of our cause and a part of this moment in time that can have a cast of darkness. Right. We're in the middle of the strike, hopefully coming out of actually, I think today yes. SAGAFTRA this morning is meeting with AMPTP again. But this episode is if you're listening to this on the day of the release, whatever it is that I'm talking about has already happened, right? And hopefully we will not be sitting in the middle of the strike again. But choreographers don't even have a contract to strike for. So whatever happens with SAGAFTRA and the Writers Guild is an example for choreographers and what we stand to gain in being and standing together as a you. You Know, Dana, it's just our people have to remember how important this is. Just as a human, when I saw what you guys have already been working on before, you guys presented it to us, right. As a collective, it's things that take time, right? And it's the most unselfish thing to do, but it's the most necessary thing to do. Now, I try to educate in conversations because everyone always talks about how bad a gig was or how bad the bunny was. All right, but why are you not showing up then? Now that we're trying to make it better, fix that. Now that we're trying to unite. And again, I try to do it with some kuth so they don't feel attacked. I just want them to also realize that, well, there's a movement happening. Why are you not jumping on it? And hopefully we get a lot more to keep supporting us. I've been asking this question a lot because I get the opportunity to teach teachers. Occasionally I teach on a convention, and it's my favorite group to teach, and I get a lot of gripe from them about it's so hard to get kids to care. Kids these days, so entitled. Kids these days. Kids these days. And I like to ask instead of because coming at it from my end, I'm like teachers, you need to be doing something differently. Because here's what I'm experiencing, is the drop in teacher who gets all the glory and has to do this tiny little fraction of the work. I know it's the people on the ground. They're working every day. But I'll just make an example. I see a huge skill gap in a lot of studio trained dancers in the freestyle department. And what I try to encourage from teachers is that you must freestyle in class. Not all of the time in class, but every class, it must show up. If you're teaching specifically hip hop or a social dance or a street style, freestyle is fundamental to that style, and you must so instead of just saying, Shame on you for not, I like asking, Why haven't you yet? What are the hurdles that you face in approaching freestyle? For many of them, it's their own skill gap or insecurity. Most of the people teaching those classes aren't wildly confident with freestyle. So, of course, they're not jumping or chomping at the bit to be teaching it. I think the same is true in organizing. A lot of the people who are standing there having a hard time with something, complaining about the thing, are complaining about the thing because they themselves don't know how to fix it. But the greatest thing about a union, specifically ours, which is at least for the interim, being executive directed by Steve Sidawi. He is the only person part of our leadership who is not a choreographer. Steve Sidawi was a key player at SAGAFTRA for many, many years. He is an organizer. That is literally what he does. He is making himself available to us. What the have it's amazing. We have meetings with the US. Copyright offices. We have open town halls. Q as there is no world in which well, I can't say that entirely because there's this thing about herd mentality and how people get stupid when we're in big groups. But I was going to say there is no world where more brains is less better. Right? And so if you find yourself in a situation where you're saying, why isn't this fixed yet? I don't know how to make it better. Someone probably does. A lot of people have been coming forward about questions about IMDb. How do I get my credit here? How come I am listed below? Craft services? We have had so many people ask that question, right? At some point, there will be a tipping point where we have an entire community energized enough. I almost said angry enough. Which is true. You're definitely allowed to be angry about not being recognized, not being credited for your work. So maybe we will be angry, but we will soon have a big enough number of people to actually get the answer to these silly little questions. Who is behind the curtain writing credits on these big massive platforms that matter to us and in the movies themselves? We will know someday we'll have well. The community has to care with purpose. Don't care to complain because I've always. Had a big issue with important. You have to care with purpose. Because if you're just caring to complain, then that's all you're serving. You know what I'm saying? I could never understand in a collaborative space when someone wants to point out everything that was wrong. Okay, we heard you out. So what do you propose? Yes. There's no proposal at the other end, then I don't care what you think. Unfortunately, you get me. Yeah. That's really how real it has to be. So you have to be solution focused. Yes. This is one of the things I like most about our industry is that the people who are really rise to the top quickly yes. People who are problem focused and people who will tell you straight up all the reasons you can't without offering ways that you can right. Don't last as long. So I think absolutely, when you're in this for a long. Time, you're doing it with a lot of people who are solution focused. And I think choreographers in particular, that's one of our strengths. I personally believe that creativity is problem solving. So when you get wildly creative people, these people are wildly good at solving problems. And when you have a problem as clearly definitive as this, choreographers do not have their own credit line on IMDb. That is certainly a problem that we can solve with enough manpower, with enough excitement, enthusiasm and patience. Also, this is one of the biggest things, I think. You talk a lot about expectations and how you don't feel like anything is a given for you. Yeah. You're not coming with entitlement? I think it's unfortunate, but thanks to so much hard work done by dancers for dancers now, SAGAFTRA dancers are quite well taken care of. Certainly can improve, but quite well taken care of under most SAGAFTRA agreements. Most choreographers have been dancers at some point. And I think many of us expect it to be there already because it has been there for us as dancers. The community of choreographers is a little bit further behind. We are I'm going to backtrack a little bit to how we started this part, how I feel about the new generation. I am still very inspired by a lot of them because I have been in spaces where they are working just as hard as my generation did. They take this just as serious. They are sacrificing, just as know. I am so lucky to say that I am one of the master instructors at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. And we run an academy program there where most of our students are with us from the age of four till they graduate out and we send them into great dance institutions throughout the country. So it's not always fair to say, well, this generation totally. You can't. No, because every generation brings something different. And I'm sure that the generation that saw us coming up thought we had more things accessible to us than they had. Totally. And then our generation comes in and what do I explain to our kids? Listen, I used to have to send VHS video auditions to things. Yeah. Like, please understand what I created in my mother's house as a production office. I had to find a friend with another good VCR to come and wire up with mine so I could dump the listen, it was a few steps beyond AirDrop. Yes. Oh my God. But then now the generation has switched again. And I think that it's quick to fall into the negatives, but there's so many positives. I am so much more connected to my students worldwide because of social media. I am so connected to so many people's work that I want to show them love for, I want to give them flowers. And we get to now, what studios don't do for us, we get to do for ourselves. Or we get to do for each other to make sure know. Dana was an associate choreographer on this. Giving credit, getting recognition, right. As we share it. So it's all to, what are you paying attention to from this? I'm so proud of my students and, yeah, they have a different way to learn things because they're living in a different day and age %. They have to have evolved. Yeah. And on top of it, we are also dealing with students that just dealt with a pandemic in their lifetime, in. Their teenage years, or if we go younger. My youngest that I teach on convention is seven, and they spent three, some of them, almost half their life in zoom, learning in zoom. Not half their life in zoom, but half of their student life as students learning dance in zoom. So some compassion is definitely necessary. And I love thank you for pointing out is a fool to make a monolith of an entire generation or to make these big sweeping arguments about a huge range of people, especially if we're talking about the global community. There's so much range in there. I think we have a long way to go in terms of a community, specifically choreographers, when it comes to being excited about the like, I think it's more characteristic of a dancer to be excited than of a choreographer. Right. And it's something that there are exceptions for, especially lately, and I want to shout them out. Chloe Arnold, Kat Burns, Mandy Moore still shows up, maybe not every day, but so many days. Excited, firecracker, just excited. And I think that that goes so far. I do want to go back to a little bit, though, actually. I want to go back to a few things that you said, but number one, your relationship to your body and having an atypical experience through the coming up of the dance industry, which I have a lot of compassion for, because I don't remember ever until maybe, like, , saying I love my body and believing myself. I had said it before, but I knew I was full of shit. And so you and I had a great conversation at Lily's house and talking about your relationship to your body and how you're showing up for yourself right now. I'd love to hear a little bit about how you related to your body in your come up and where you're at right now. I was one of those kids that puberty is what hit me, right? I was a very scrawny kid, super frail. Like, I had these huge ears and really skinny body. But then puberty came and I started getting chubby, healthy and all of that. I am very happy that whatever my mother gave me, it gave me enough to never have a complex about it. I was still very aware of it because I have always been a realist about life. When you don't grow up with much and when you grow up fighting to break cycles that are generational and all of that. I found a way to channel all of that and a way to always stay empowered. I know that people judged me. I knew that some would laugh, some would try to get a reaction out of me. I know it was uncomfortable wearing tights to go into my first ballet class and knowing that I just don't look like everything else that's in the room, but still, knowing that I was good enough and knowing that, yeah, maybe they could ballet their way around me, but I could also salsa circles around them %. You know what I'm saying? Do you think that knowingness came from your mother or did that come from you? Where did that knowing that you were enough? I think this really came from a lot of the teachers that I had. Yeah, you mentioned your mentor. I think my teachers always saw worth in me and expressed that. Two of my jazz teachers who are still in my life, and I remind them every chance that I get, and their name is Kirby Reed and Elaine McLaurin from Chicago. Elaine would always look at me in class and we would do something across the front. She would go, Boy, you're going to be in music videos. I know she she would say that with such security to me. Kirby knew know I didn't have all the facility of a jazz dancer, but it is the style that I love, that I honor, that I respect. It's everything I saw myself ever doing. And I didn't come from a lot, so he would let me take his classes for free. And because he saw it, he saw something. So I think I knew how to drown out noise really early on. I knew how to drown it out. And I was a ham. I loved the stage. So, girl, I was part of the cultural choir when I cannot sing to save the life of me. But it was another opportunity to get. On stage and perform. I was going to do it. And to learn something else in music. I got to learn what it was to read music, to have a book and all of that so I could vocally produce, because I know what it takes to vocally produce someone. Yeah. So it was my teachers. They really empowered me. And I'm telling you, I confronted even certain parents of kids in the group that they would try because my mother wasn't a stage mom or a mom that could always be there. I was the kid that was always alone. But I think it's why my mentors always kind of I gravitated to them and they saw that I really wanted to be there, so they really became my pseudo family for the rest of my life. It's crazy what people will do when you're shining bright, you know what I'm saying? And they can't take it at this point, I'm probably twelve years old, and parents would try to whatever they could do to try to intimidate me, or they would try to tell the director, why is Andy always in the center? Don't you think he pulls too much attention? And these are parents. Parents. And they would say it in front of me, in front of me. But all that matter when I talk about drowning out noise, you know, all that mattered to me, that my choreographer and my director fucking loved me. Go ahead. At that point, I was already kind. Of like, you knew that that wasn't important. You knew that their opinion was not important. No, and I think that's also what I gained from living in my fantasy land since I was a kid. No one was going to tell me that my fantasy was not going to become my reality. No one was going to interrupt or disrupt that thought, because that is the only thing that kept me happy. And it was my only way out of what I grew up in. That's just the way that I was when I wanted to start my own dance company. I was seventeen, I was in my senior year of high school. It was like, yeah, right. I was like, Listen, I have to create what I don't have for myself. And I also saw so much talent in my neighborhood, because at this point, I had already been dancing in the community for years. And there were so many great community leaders that had these little dance groups that would perform at every festival and stuff like that, and I was like, I'm ready for something more. So I have to make that because it doesn't exist. I don't see it. I have to fill the void. Yeah. And listen, I started that company when I was seventeen. By the time I was twenty, we were an international touring company. I was not aware of that. Yeah. And this is when I got heavy into the salsa world. Yes. Because then I saw this platform was available, and mind you, with that little dance group I had from Chicago with teenagers who were all in high performed, we were the first land dance company to perform on its Showtime at the Apollo, because we went to this audition against all hip hop companies. We went and did our last, Mind You. We got a standing ovation in a very hip hop room situation, and we got the acceptance letter, and I jumped on a Greyhound with my fourteen dancers, and we went and danced on the follow. Does this footage exist somewhere? So I'm going to tell you something so amazing, right? Tell me, please. So I have all my VHS encyclopedia of my entire career. I have stuff when I was ten years old still on VHS. Yeah. You've got to convert that stuff soon. It will not last. I started okay. I started to so this particular video. I couldn't locate it. Couldn't find it. Anyway, I'm at home one day and I have Roku. But I also have Apple TV. So I just turned on my Roku TV to get to my Apple and work. But one day I was like, let me surf this Roku channel and see what they have. Girl, they have every episode of its Showtime at the Apollo. You are kidding me. You are kidding me. Sixteen years of not seeing. The last time I saw that footage, I literally started screaming in my apartment. I started crying. I called all my old dancers. I was like, oh, my God, monique, I'm sorry. I was like, oh, my God, Monique. Our episode, it's on. She was like, shut up. This was, like, midnight, and she was in Chicago tie. She was like, Let me get out of bed because my husband's going to wake up. Hold on. And we're like, screaming. This literally happened just this past year, and they have the full episode on Roku. I can imagine this night I can imagine this night for you. Oh, my God. No. And it's you know, I filmed it right away. Oh, I cannot wait to see this. I can't wait to share. Yeah. I will be sure to link to this or to share this. Follow us on Words That Move Me. Podcast on Instagram. And I'll put a little story highlight up for you because that is so exciting. Oh, my God, I love it. So how are we getting into all of this? Again, my body is this is what I had to express. This is what I had to let go of. As much as I expressed my joy, I did know how to channel my pain through my movement. I knew how to channel all my challenges through my dance. Anger. Yeah. My anger. Yeah. Again, there's also the other side of life that was very real. And this is why I say I just couldn't allow anyone to disrupt this thought of my fantasy that I needed to make a real thing because life wasn't nice and it wasn't easy and it was really rough in a nutshell. And I don't say this to get in a somber place, but just so people could also know the reality of what life is for us. Right? My older brother was murdered when I was Nineteen. My father passed away when I was nine to HIV AIDS. My mother is the only saving grace that we had who managed to keep us alive and afloat and do everything she can to be a great mom. And I grew up in one of the most gang infested neighborhoods of the nineties in Chicago. But what I did have on top of all that was a lot of music and a lot of dance and a lot of living in my own fantasy. And being okay with it was part of what empowered me. These community leaders that saw that I either had that leader quality or things meant something to me. I was a kid that at nine years old, I had depth. And I know that's why it was awkward to make friends sometimes because I was just too deep always for the situation until I got into that high school where I found my tribe, right? And then it was, oh, my God, there's sixty more of me here in this space. And that is why that representation so matters. And that is why I'm thrilled that you are a part of the projects you are a part of. It's so important. I have people who have also asked me, Lyrik, you always talk about being Puerto Rican. Yes, because I'm going to tell you why it's so important for me. First of all, that I am really fucking know. I love everything I am composed of, but I need to keep talking about it so another chubby Puerto Rican kid from my neighborhood could run into something of mine and know that there's space for him and know that this is possible. And you're going to get all of the above. You're going to get a lot of critiques, you're going to get a lot of people trying to humiliate you at a time. I was also a feminist, so I was gay dancer in a neighborhood where none of that could fly, but I made it fucking cool. Yeah. Again, created a space for a thing. That didn't exist by the time I was eighteen. Then all the guys from the neighborhood was like, no, he throws down the way they talk, but I got my street cred one way or the other. Yes. So my body has been my temple, and whether it was perfect for someone else or not, it was perfect for me. And yes, I could have always wanted a better body and all of that, but I was happy with what I had to move, because one thing that didn't change was it didn't change my flavor and it didn't change my dance. And if it was a way to make people notice me because I was the different one, then so be it, you know what I'm saying? Then so be it. And again, people doubted, which was great that they doubted because it makes that little thing in you like, Ha, I can't wait. Because I walked into many rehearsal rooms where other dancers were like, confused or in doubt right away. And I'm like, let's go. So you love changing people's minds? Oh, my God. Yeah. And even now, one thing I try to educate people with, even I have gotten so much support on social media and people who love what I do, and I have gotten a lot of comments like, for a big boy, you dance good. For a chubby guy, you know how to move. At first, I never gave him much mind because to me, it was the reality I was a chubby guy who danced. So I'm okay with that. Now, at this point, I'm just like, well, I don't want that to sound like such a throwaway to the hard work that I did to become a disciplined dancer, to be a dancer who's knowledgeable. Just like when people say, oh, well, he's a salsa dancer. Well, that's a facet of mine. It's a concentration. It's something that I was able to perfect to a degree in knowledge. But don't throw away everything else I am by saying that. Again, people always want to somehow corner you into something, put you in some box. And all I say is just when you're giving a compliment, just give the compliment. Don't give the prefix to the compliment. I think I'm a pretty good fucking dancer, so I just wanted to make it a teachable moment where very cool. Well, thank you for the compliment, but I think that I'm just a pretty good dancer and having the conversation with people who would always give me that type of compliment. Like, do you know that that sounds like a little bit of a dig? Yeah, like a dig. Again, are you aware or has this been a challenge? Is it hard for you to give a direct compliment without the caveat? But I'm going to tell you, a lot of people will say, oh, my God, I apologize. I'm like, well, I also want you to understand I'm not heartbroken by any. Of trust me, I'm resilient. But it's just letting you know because there's a lot of kids that won't be able to handle comments like that. You know what I'm saying? And it's why we have to be so aware of what we say. I feel that because I grew up in a rough neighborhood, I came with a different armor. In that sense, I'm very grateful that that's the way I grew up, because I was able to weather all of this. But there's kids that don't, and kids who are sensitive, and it's okay to be a sensitive kid and let them be sensitive. And you should watch how you're talking to them or how you give them a compliment. And it shouldn't be backhanded. And it shouldn't sound like a charity compliment either. If you're going to give someone a compliment, can you imagine someone saying, well, Dana, you're a pretty good choreographer for a woman? Are you kidding me? So this is why people have to be careful with these prefixes and these subtitles that they put. Even the only subtitle I carry with pride every day. You could put Puerto Rican in front of my name, and I am good with that. Yes, I want to be known as the Puerto Rican Lyrik Cruz, but I never needed to have to wave this gay flag all the time. Yes, I am a proud homosexual man that doesn't need to talk about it all the time. Because you know what? I am over any of that I'm an artist and I am Lyrik. That's who I am. And that's who I am first, second and third. And the only thing that I need to be said before that is that I'm Puerto Rican. You don't have to say he's a salsa dancer, he's a salsa teacher. He's a chubby dancer. He's a plus size dancer. Exactly. No. And I think that I've earned that respect at this point %. I worked really hard to gain my respect and to create my little corner in this incredible world that we live in and in this dance world that sees so many talented people. And not everyone gets to see this all the way through. Not everyone fights for it the way some of us did. But I fought the good fight, and I'm here and just respect my space and who I am, my friend. That is the third time I've wanted to just case close the end. That's so profound and beautiful and important. I needed to hear that message. I think you're right. And I think it's human that people want to put titles and boxes and make sense of this huge and nuanced world. Right. It helps us to make sense of things by categorizing. But there is as many instances where that is hurtful as there are where that is helpful. Yeah. And so to be mindful of that is so important. Thank you for bringing that today. I really appreciate it. Of course. Okay, now, as much as I would just love to be like and on that note, go get more Lyriks. I have one more segment. We're calling this Wrist Roll With It, which is our rapid fire round. Are you ready? Okay. Usually I have these written on a cute little words that move me card. But today was just one of those days where favorite scene from in the Heights. Go. Not because it's a scene that I'm in. Fair. No, totally fair. Respira. Breathe. I think Nina's song is so something that I've lived. I think that I still hear that whenever I shuffle my phone and it comes on and I hear it and I tear up. I tear up because the words are so significant to my journey. Thank you for that. It's one of my favorite scenes as well. Don't sleep on that scene. No. Beautiful. Well, it's chills, actually. Powerful. It's powerful. So powerful. Yeah, it's more than beautiful. Favorite dance scene in a movie musical period. The opening to A Chorus Line is what changed my entire existence. Come on. As a kid. Come on. I had to be five, six years old when I first saw it. And I remember rewinding that till I ruined the tape because I just so in awe of this synchronicity, this power, this jazz. Listen, can I tell you something funny? Please. Daniel Polanco and I, whenever we're together, this is what we do. We will watch A Chorus Line and Mommy Dearest. Yeah. This is like because she's a super old soul. Yes, I was seeing it. And when we knew that we had this love for a chorus Line girl, we would watch it like you don't know, in hotel rooms and just live. Time and time again, I believe, for. What these dancers did in that film. Yeah. Life changing. Exquisite. Yeah. The bodies, the outfit, perfection. Sweat, the hair. Every shot too good. It's too good. It's too good. It's too good. Song that if it comes on, you cannot not dance. You must stand and be dancing. So because I live kind of in two worlds, I have to say two of them fair. One is my favorite house song called you don't know me by Armand van Helden. Okay. It is tattooed on your arm. Look at that. The Lyriks are tattooed on my arm because it is my life in a few verses. Care to read know? Yeah. It says you don't even know me you say that I'm not living right you don't understand me so why do you judge my life? And it's my favorite house, you know? And then there's my favorite salsa song is called Indesuk Tible by Ray Barretto. And the whole song is just talking about in life, we suffer wounds, we suffer upsets, we suffer loss. But because of what you were given from your ancestors and what you were given through with music, you will create something that's indestructible. So indesirtible. Again, the end of the podcast, but we've got a few more things. Can you tell me about your dream gig? Whether it's happened or it's out there in the future? Dream gig. What is it to you? Dream gig. So at this point, I will tell you what I thought was my dream gig. At one point, more of my dream situation was when I got the opportunity to work with Debbie Allen when I first moved here. That is not something that you can ever plan for in this lifetime. She is many of our first dance teacher. We knew the word dance teacher because we knew her on Fame. So to ever think that I was going to be sitting in front of her or having a Thanksgiving dinner at her house with her and her family or have conversations to create with her, there's nothing that can prepare you for that. That was beyond, beyond, beyond, beyond anything I could have thought I wanted right in this. And I don't take for granted it has been such a beautiful journey and that she loves salsa. So we dance. Every time we're together, we dance. Can you imagine the first time that she was like, come on, dance with me. I was like, need to go change pants. How do you make sense to this kid from Chicago who just always have been in love? And so again, how I told you I always did this research. So I saw every episode of fame and I have all the DVDs, collectors items, you name it. To think that in my thirties, I'm going to come here to La. With my last hope and prayer to make dance my living. Dancing hand in hand with debbie allen. Is with debbie allen. And when I say dancing hand in hand, I also mean working hand in hand, teaching hand in hand, creating, being. Part of her creative team, just still unbelievable to me. But you see but it's why you cannot take this for granted, you know what I'm saying? And you can't let anyone sway you from your past. No. Or what was your words keep you from your fantasy? I was determined to be the master of my make believe. And all these things that I literally had thought about, I was manifesting before I even knew manifesting was a thing. Right before we had a word. Before I couldn't even spell the word. Before morning affirmations were a thing. Exactly. Debbie was definitely something too huge for me. But my dream dream gig would be where I can work on a film that will focus on the contributions of puerto rican musicians to the world. That would be the dream because it will wrap up everything I love in one. I will keep my ear to the street, and I know some producers, so let's stay in touch. Yes. That's wonderful. Thank you. Two more. Yes. You can do a duet with anyone, living or dead. Who is it? And you can't say debbie allen just because we know you've already done. Yeah. That has one one duet that I would have to do, living or dead. And she is living. Okay. Would be rita moreno. I want to see that so bad. I would love to see that. And I'm gonna speaking of manifestations yes, I'll be thinking of you. My last question that I ask every guest is what are the words that move you the most? This could be a poem. It could be a Lyrik from a song. Although you did already give us that. Thank you for that, Jackpot. Could be a sentence, a meditation, a short story, a joke, or actual just words. Yeah. So I would say there's the Lyriks to this song called finally by julie McKnight. It's a house song. And it starts with saying, time marches on, never ending. And I think that's how I treat my life, how I deal with my life. Time march is on never ending. And I feel that I'm going to be on this earth for a very long time. I think that I have so much more I want to share, so much more I want to give. And I think my full purpose is still in production out there. Oh, Lyrik. I love that thought. And I cannot wait to stick around and watch that go down. Thank you for shining your sparkle on us today. It's such a treat to sit this close to you. And talk shop like this because we have not had this long, uninterrupted time, right? Maybe ever. So this is a treat. Thank you. You've definitely rubbed off on me. I feel excited and I'm so grateful for you for being here and for sharing. Well, thank you, Dan. And thank you for this platform. Thank you for this platform again, for our community. We think we know each other, and we don't. We all come with history. We all come with a backstory. It's wild. Knowing dancer stories, knowing choreographer stories have been so important for my career, for my growth. And you will gain a different respect for your peers. Totally. You will gain a different respect for the people that you're working with or working for you. It changes. Thank you for that. I think you should have a podcast. You told me that before. Hey, you let me know. I will make myself available to you and I will tell you everything I know. Awesome. Thank you so much again, Lyrik. Thank you for being here. Thank you. Everybody listening and or watching, get out there into the world and keep it exceptionally funky. Yeah. Bye. This podcast was produced by me with the help of many big, big love to our executive assistant and editor, Riley Higgins. Our communications manager is Ori Vajadares. Our music is by Max Winnie, logo and brand design by Brie Reetz, thumbnails and marketing by Fiona Small. You can make your tax deductible donations to Words That Move Me, thanks to our fiscal sponsor, the Dance Resource Center, and also many thanks to you. I'm so glad you're here. And if you're digging the pod, please share it. Leave a review and rating. And if you want to coach with me and the many marvelous members of the Words That Move Me community, itty, visit wordsthetmoveme.com. If you're simply curious to know more about me and the work I do outside of this podcast, visit thedanawilson.com.

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