Peterson de la Cruz is a choreographer and dancer. Born in Brazil, he built up the local gymnastics club in the municipality of Götzis in Vorarlberg (Austria) to become an internationally renowned acrobatic group in a very short time and led it to the finals of the TV show “America’s Got Talent”. Peterson de la Cruz is not only a personality with special talents, but also a person with an extraordinary heart connection.
Looking at your life and career, your motto seems to be, “Follow your heart.” Is that true?
Yes, that is indeed the case. The only gift I have is dancing and acrobatics. I am convinced that I´ve received this gift from God. I cannot do anything else. Of course I´ve tried other things, but it never worked out. And that is why I am convinced that God gave me this gift. It has been my experience that whenever I receive a God-given inspiration, I am 100% successful. In my 13 years of work with Zurcaroh I have done about 30 choreographies. Developing a choreography on a specific theme can take anywhere from a few months to a year. I always receive the theme as an impulse. One of my sources of inspiration is the Bible and there, as an example, the fall of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from paradise. Or the death of Jesus and the resurrection to save humanity. In the choreography “New Jerusalem” e.g. girls in white dresses dance on stage, which represents our relationship with God. In all my choreographs there is this message about the importance of our relationship with God. I am convinced that this relationship with God protects us, especially in crazy times as we live in right today.
And where does your close relationship with God stem from? Did you grow up with this belief?
It’s a bit different in my family. Usually, families always follow a certain tradition. This is not the case with us. I come from a mixed culture: my maternal grandmother is from the Amazon region, she was an indigenous woman. And the paternal grandmother is from Africa. In both cultures there are certain traditions that represent a philosophy of life. Unfortunately, both cultures also live beliefs that are superstitious and very exclusionary or discriminatory. For example, in Africa, albino children are cast out in the voodoo cult, or in the Amazon there is an ethnic group that “sacrifices” certain children. This is very cruel and I often asked myself, how can that be!? My whole family has since converted to Christianity. And here is a word that is particularly important to me: love.
The love for God and Jesus changes us, builds bridges and creates a culture of togetherness and peace. For me, love is much more than just a word. For me, love means actively doing something for it. You know that I work in Africa, among other things, with the support of the aid organization “Stunde des Herzens” for outcast albino children. In recent years we have implemented a number of projects there by donating aid and hygiene articles as well as school supplies for the children. I traveled there myself when we delivered the donations and also taught dance there. I have also educated trainers so that they can now teach the children to dance independently and regularly. Dancing not only gives them fun and joy, but also shows them other perspectives.
Finding your heart’s path is not always easy. How was it for you?
It was a long process for me, too. I am a person with a wide variety of interests. Among other things, I have followed Buddhism, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other cultures. My first contact with Christianity was in 7th grade at school. For the first time we had to give a presentation in front of the whole class. We were free to choose the topic. Most of the children talked about their father’s job or their hobbies. But one boy spoke about Jesus. That was something very special: I remember feeling like time had suddenly stopped. The atmosphere in the class was all of a sudden completely different – very calm. I could even hear my heart beating. The boy spoke passionately about Jesus. About the fact that Jesus is always with him and that he spends all his time together with him. At that time I asked myself, how can that be? How can that boy have such a special relationship with Jesus? I wished to have that, too, and since then my life has changed: my dancing and my acrobatics and this new relationship with Jesus suddenly felt like a long-awaited heart fusion.
How has this heart fusion specifically affected your life? And how do you live this connection?
In this relationship I find inspiration, creativity, love, joy, peace, trust and much more.
I actually live this heart connection in my everyday life at all times. Specifically, by praying. And it does not matter where I am in that moment. And it does not matter what time of day or night it is. I especially like to pray when I am in the car. In my dreams I often receive messages from God: information about what is good in my life, what is not so good; what I need to change and what I should watch out for. But I have also received inspiration on a plane: once when I had my eyes closed during the flight. And when I opened my eyes again, I had completed a whole choreography. Or in 2003: we prepared for a competition in Brazil. However, up until three weeks before the competition I had neither a choreography nor music, and of course we had not rehearsed either. I still remember one day sitting on the stairs of the training hall and talking to God: “Look, dear God: I have no idea, no music, no dance, no acrobatics and there are only three weeks until the competition. If you help me, I will always talk about your help; about giving me everything.” And God helped me! We even won a gold medal. And that is why I know that everything I achieve is thanks to him or my trust and belief in him. When I pray, it does not mean that I always get everything. Sometimes it takes a while and sometimes it is different from what I was hoping for. The reason for this may be that I am not ready for it yet: sometimes because something bigger is still waiting for me and I still have to prepare and grow for it. But I have found that there is always a reason for everything. God and Jesus are a mystery (laughs).
Do you also teach this heart connection to your dance students?
Of course, I always tell them how my choreography came about and the thoughts behind it. But I do not “teach” that. I just live it.
I let everyone feel, find and build their own heart relationship. It does not matter if it is to God or not. The nice thing about being an example is that then the children and adults actually often choose to have a relationship with God as well.
I´ve read that you once said that dancing helps with anxiety. Can you explain that in more detail?
Dance is therapy. Moving the body rhythmically to the music has played an important role in all cultures and across all ages. Dance and music were used in praise of God and the divine. When dancing, far-reaching processes and transformations often take place. Both on a physical and emotional level. Dancing can be used as an expression of our sensitivities, states and needs. The music and the rhythm give the dancers the momentum to move. The music inspires to move creatively and collectively. The dancers sometimes enter into a dance relationship with one another, synchronizing and creating unity as a group. If you look into the faces of the dancers, you can see how the feelings and moods are reflected in them. Dance and music is a wonderful heart fusion!
Can you tell us something about your current aid project?
I come from a poor area in Brazil. God has given me everything I have achieved so far and I am very grateful for that. That is the reason why I would like to give something back to others, to people who are not doing so well. For this reason I´ve initiated these projects in Africa and that is why I also work regularly with the organization “Stunde des Herzens”. The members of this association all devote their time on a voluntary basis to people who are affected by serious illnesses (especially children) or old-age poverty. They do this in addition to their main jobs and some even get up at 5 a.m. every day. I´ve recently made a video film about the commitment of this association.
To me, the commitment of these people to their fellow human beings is a visible expression of God’s love in action.
In Brazil I would like to start a dance talent factory. I am currently looking for sponsors for this project. I would like to train dance coaches there so that they can teach as many young people as possible to dance. The crime rate is very high. Dancing can help to positively change the lives of children and young people. When they discover dance as a gift, they can steer their future in a different, better direction. Above all, dancing helps them to express their feelings and shows them other possibilities to resolve conflicts for example.
In the end it is about truly living love, by taking on empathy and responsibility for our togetherness. And if I may wish for something, it would be that in the future we live our heart connection to God or the divine more consciously in everyday life and express it vividly in our relationships.