Cruces de Fuego

Crosses of Fire - Cruces de Fuego

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Erik Santos has been chosen as the MTNA-Shepherd Distinguished Composer of the Year. Brave New Works will be presenting Crosses of Fire at the MTNA convention in Los Angeles on March 24, 1999 Visit the MTNA site for more information about the convention.

Cruces de Fuego

Specifically rooted in the powerful elemental metaphors of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, and the earthy surrealism of Mexican painters Frida Kahlo and Remedios Varo, Cruces de Fuego unifies music, dance, theatre, video projections and poetry to transform the University of Michigan Media Union Video Studio into a fantastic realm, somewhere between dream and reality. Presented by U-M professors Erik Santos (composition), Sandra Torijano DeYoung (dance), Vince Mountain (theatre), Rob Murphy (theatre), and New York costume designer John Schak in conjunction with Ann Arbor Dance Works.


Friday, March 12, 1999 - 8:00pm
Saturday, March 13, 1999 - 8:00pm
Sunday, March 14 , 1999 - 2:00pm


The Media Union Video Studio,
North Campus, University of Michigan
2281 Bonisteel Blvd. (off Fuller)

Admission: Free (for more info call, 647-3337)

 In the composer's own words:

Cruces de Fuego (Crosses of Fire) is the title of a full-length multimedia production which I(Erik Santos), in collaboration with several other artists, intend to perform in the Video Studio of the UM Media Union on March 12-14, 1999. Utilizing the full range of music and theater technology that the Media Union has to offer, we shall transform this unique space into a supernatural realm, somewhere between dream and reality, which physically and conceptually encompasses both performers and audience. In an effort to dissolve the psychological barrier which exists between the viewer and the stage, the production will employ a multitude of illusory lighting effects, surround sound, and fantastical costumes and make-up (for the musicians as well as the dancers).

Crouching in a pool of blood-red light, a mysterious shamanic figure clad in feathers raises the didgeridoo to his lips, and the conjuring begins - a call to the animal spirits. The deep, pulsing drone fills the air and begins to awaken a vast aural landscape flowing out of the speakers which envelop the room: a concoction of live and processed sound, a mixture of languages spoken and sung (i.e., Spanish, English, German, primal guttural inflections), a variety of musical idioms juxtaposed and synthesized with each other to form a unified statement. The membranous, spiral set is gradually illuminated and it seems to be reaching into the audience, dancers in the form of half-human other-worldly creatures emerge from cocoons in the walls with eyes that glow in the dark.... It is not enough to merely ask an audience to briefly suspend their disbelief; I seek to enchant them. By carefully orchestrating an alchemy of music, poetic imagery, art, theater and dance, I believe that it is possible to lead an audience into a rapturous experience of the sublime.

Within this unusual setting, five original pieces will be presented (four of them premieres) which are firmly rooted in the work of poets Pablo Neruda and Rainer Maria Rilke; also Surrealist painters Remedios Varo and Frida Kahlo. These four artists employed a richly metaphorical language which enlivens all of the senses and brings one into a supernatural perception of the natural world. Their aesthetics are deeply resonant with my own. On one level, I wish to provide an opportunity for the distinct voices of these powerful artists to harmonize with each other, thus illuminating unforeseen connections between them as well as cultivating fresh insights into their individual genius. But most importantly, I am captivated by the potential of this alliance to awaken new expressive possibilities in art.

Crosses of Fire is a metaphor that embodies my prime ambition as a creator: to integrate the highly specialized disciplines of art, poetry, music, dance, and theater into a powerful and magical experience. Power and Magic are thus the elements of focus in this endeavor, for I wish to provide a conceptual doorway which shall evoke and intensify a common sense of mission without dampening the ability of each participant to pioneer and excel in their own fields of specialization.

I have gathered around me five collaborators who are exceptional in their capacity to fulfill and transcend the demands of this project (pleaserefer to their bios for details on their noteworthy achievements): UM Asst. Prof. of Dance Sandra Torijano DeYoung, Choreographer, has toured world-wide both as a member of The National Dance Company of Costa Rica and as a soloist. Her fluency in modern dance techniques and popular Latin American dance styles coupled with her passionate lyricism will give the enigmatic and exotic qualities of this project a powerful resilient voice. The work of UM Asst. Prof. of Theater Vincent Mountain, Scenic Designer, and UM Asst. Prof. of Theater Rob Murphy, Light Designer, has been seen in commercial theaters throughout the United States.

Coincidentally, I discovered that their principal fascination resides in unleashing the particular strengths of unusual performance spaces. Vince and Rob will custom design scenery to enhance the unique architectural properties of the Video Studio while simultaneously providing a solid structure through which Sandra can let her creativity flow unihibited. They will also insure the portability of our set for transport and increase its adaptability to a wide variety of odd-shaped venues. Prof. Eduardo Torijano, one of Costa Rica's most celebrated muralists, has designed scenery for theater and dance throughout Latin America and is a member of the Faculty of Arts of The University of Costa Rica. UM Associate Professor of Dance, Bill DeYoung, who has collaborated with Torijano in Costa Rica, says, "Professor Torijano's intuitive grasp of movement and design facilitates a unified vision. His scenery becomes an integral part of the whole and resonates with the choreography."

Eduardo's strong familiarity with the work of Neruda, Varo, and Kahlo will give our set an added historical dimension. Finally, Rolando Trejos is the costume designer for the National Dance Company and the National Theater of Costa Rica His exquisite skills are recognized throughout Latin America, Europe and the United States, and they shall give him the power to transform human dancers into the denizens of a mystical realm.

My interest in cross-fertilization extends beyond new aesthetic possibilities and technical innovation. I am also intrigued by the large potential for cultural interaction which shall result from this project. As you have seen, we will be hosting a number of artists from Costa Rica: Eduardo Torijano, Rolando Trejos, and Sandra is inviting seven dancers from the National Dance Company of Costa Rica to perform her work based upon the life of Frida Kahlo. In addition, she shall invite dancers from two different universities in Mexico. (In my budget statement you will note that Sandra is seeking funds for their travel expenses from a number of different sources.) In light of the fact that this project is enlivening such a cultural exchange, and that so much of our project is grounded in the work of three preeminent Latin American artists, I am sure that the entire university community will benefit. In a discussion with Katlin Berdy from the Minority Student Services, she had suggested many ways that our visiting professors and dancers might share their knowledge with the university community. Vince and Rob voiced their enthusiasm at having the opportunity to bring Eduardo Torijano into their classroom and Eduardo affirmed that his students would profit equally from their knowledge. Recently, Eduardo, excited about the potential of the project, has invited me to visit Costa Rica with the hope of sustaining this partnership. (I have enclosed this letter for your perusal.)

It seems that Crosses of Fire is a powerful idea which is beginning to generate a great deal of interest, even in its formative stages. My collaborators have assured me that they have maintained contacts with many professional companies and performance venues, both in this country and internationally, which would love to host this production. (Portability is already being factored into its design precisely to enable it to have a life beyond the confines of this university.) I believe that this growing interest is due to the fact that Crosses of Fire is a vehicle which is fueled by the awareness of its own powerful synergy: the individual participants are inspired to tell the story of their inspiration - the mirrors are reflecting each other. In time, I am confident that this process and product of discovery will begin to nurture and perpetuate themselves.

Relationship of Past and Future Work:

This project is very much a song of myself. In retrospect, I can perceive my arrival at this point in my career as a logical progression of events; however, I must admit that the steps I have taken to reach this point were not motivated by logic. If anything, my decisions were motivated by hunger, and as I mature as an artist I find that my definition of artistic success is based upon how purely I obey my hunger. "To obey my hunger" does not imply the acquisition of food; Rather, it refers to the seeking of food. In my field, a piece of music is given the designation "great" if it "survives the test of time." Therefore, to be a great musician one must move, and keep moving, in time. One must continue to search, to hunt, to maintain one's hunger for life. I have never sought an end but a new beginning - this is the essence of my creativity.

All of my work has been an embodiment of this perspective and it will continue to be so. One need not go any deeper than the titles of my compositions to assess my artistic viewpoint: my very first composition (at age 9) was called "Subway." The piece was driven by an aggressive rhythmic ostinato and marked by the repetition of a three-chord pattern: clearly indicative of my restless spirit which was compelled to move forward, but yet I was so enraptured by the sound of one simple harmonic progression that I could listen to it over and over again without tiring and forget that I was traveling in a circle. As I grow older, I still travel in vigorous oscillations around a solid center - my revolutions become more and more fanciful, executed with greater patience and refinement, but no matter how broadly I spread my circles, I remain hungrily fixated on a central theme. I suppose this quality of my attention is what gives my work its particular cyclonic coherence. I rarely turn away from the core of my art to find new knowledge, preferring instead to wait for the gravity of my fascination to draw in individuals who are attracted to same center. Frida Kahlo, for instance, painted almost two hundred self portraits. She said, "I paint self-portaits because I am the person I know best." Her chronicle of her life has certainly given the world a more intense understanding of the depth of humanity which is unprecedented and unsurpassed. Remedios Varo, in her delicate and unique style, painted many strange half-human creatures as the central figure of her imaginary environments - nearly all of them bore a distinct resemblance to Varo herself. Her metaphysical renderings are frequently referred to as "surrealist" even though she painted most of them after she parted from Andre Breton's aggressively political group and relocated to Mexico. They speak less for French Surrealism and more for a carefully-conceivedmagic realism of her own design.

These artists took a stance against the artistic currents which swirled forcefully around them, not for malicious reasons, but simply because they were drawn towards a different source of inspiration - and somehow they speak to me. I am gradually becoming aware that I attract artists who resonate with my attitudes. The rapidity in which all of my collaborators have "popped out of the woodwork" to join me in this project is astounding. It is almost as if they had been there all along waiting for some signal to start. I can't dismiss this as an isolated coincidence - the last several months have produced a veritable flood of synchronicities - initially tiny, then gradually larger and larger - which have startled me enough times to make me begin to sit up and pay attention. In reference to my previous statements about hunger, I must say that I am beginning to feel a tremendous sense of anticipation growing within me - every day seems to be filled with more and more arrival. Something is happening.

Andre Breton once referred to the art of Frida Kahlo as "a ribbon around a bomb." At this point in my career, Cruces de Fuego is a project which is ready to explode. All of my efforts in music (composition of concert pieces, music for theater and dance, electronic music, my experience as a performer and a teacher) are leading me to a new landscape of expression in which they may transcend themselves. Amazingly, this feels less like a changing of identity than a reawakening of one that has lain dormant for years. In any case, I am ready to find out. In the words of Rilke, "Take your practiced powers and stretch them out to bridge the chasm between two contradictions. For the god wants to know himself in you..." 

  Members of Brave New Works will join this collaboration :

click on the picture!

Alejandra Urrutia, violin
Micah Heilbrunn, clarinet
Andrew Bishop, alto saxophone
Jack Chan, bassoon
Eli Shapiro, percussion
Thomas Hoppe, piano
Chris Younghoon Kim, conductor0

  For more information contact us at :

Brave New Works
TEL: 800-896-7340