Grantee Spotlight: Calpulli Mexican Dance Company

Calpulli Mexican Dance Company in Queens, New York brings a wide-range of Mexican dance performances and workshops into the community.

As the Calpulli Mexican Dance Company celebrates 15 years in 2018, it continues to flower from its roots in Mexican folk dance to a company producing unique ballets appealing to broad audiences.

The first, “Boda Mexicana,” follows two lovers and the company’s 20 dancers through courtship, engagement, and marriage ceremonies across Mexico.

“Dia de los Muertos” takes an iconic piece of Mexican folklore and crosses it with the French ballet “Giselle.” A glowing review in the New York Times when it debuted in 2017 said Calpulli “expresses a love for Romantic ballet that doesn’t displace a love of Mexican culture.”

Managing director Juan Castaño said Calpulli will be expanding its oeuvre with two more original productions. “Navidad,” a Mexican-American Christmas celebration through the eyes of a child growing up with Mexican traditions in the United States, comes out this winter. It includes a a Nutcracker-esque dream sequence “where all of these cultural influences are spilled together and fused,” Castaño said.

Navidad, a Mexican-American Christmas - Grisel Pren Monje and José Maria Rojas - photo by Julieta Cervantes

“Puebla,” the story of Cinco de Mayo, the dance company’s first historical work, will debut in the spring. It traces the origin story of a key event in Mexican history—the army's unlikely victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

“These are entire productions that have one narrative from beginning to end,” said Castaño, “to connect to a wider community in the United States.”

Puebla, The Story of Cinco de Mayo, Felicia Avalos and José Maria Rojas / photo by Julieta Cervantes

The group also has a large repertoire of folk dances that it performs at its longtime home, the Queens Theater, as well as in Central Park and at venues across the city and outside, like the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

In keeping with its mission of celebrating the diversity of Mexican and Mexican-American cultural heritage, Calpulli gives classes for all ages at professional dance studios in Queens, Staten Island, and New Rochelle. 

Castaño said the organization offers customized programs, from costume-making workshops to Spanish-language through dance. It provides a range of free or low-cost community programs. Altogether, he said Calpulli reaches 250 students a week. Calpulli also provides lessons in choreography, guitar, and button accordion. “We want to start building music groups in these communities. We consider it training,” Castaño said.


Cover image: Boda Mexicana - Calpulli Mexican Dance Company With Maypole / photo by Julieta Cervantes