A Journey with Global Rhythms: Calpulli Mexican Dance Company

Our Arts in Education Global Rhythms program brings cultures and traditions from across the globe to schools in Brooklyn, through performances and workshops led by professional musicians and dance companies. Students explore live music traditions, music-making, and participatory performance skills in songwriting or dance through hands-on, interactive workshops that happen both before and after performances.

This month, Calpulli Mexican Dance Company visited PS 222 in Sheepshead Bay for the school’s second Global Rhythms series of the year.

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Calpulli Mexican Dance Company teaching a Global Rhythms Workshop in 2019

Calpulli brings the rich regional dance traditions of Mexico’s cultural history to the community through folkloric music and dance. Central to the company’s mission and programming are arts in education and community outreach; in addition to performing locally and internationally, Calpulli offers classes for kids and adults in its studios while providng an array of programming for educators.

Managing Director Juan Castaño says that the educational focus came about organically through the ways that Calpulli dancers connected with their audiences during performances.

“Calpulli Mexican Dance Company loves audience interaction and we have always brought this element to our performances where possible,” says Juan. “Educators saw this at our events and began asking us to bring programming to schools, so we did!”

 

Founded in 2003, Calpulli’s repertoire includes traditions from all over Mexico, from the German-influenced polkas of Northern Mexico to the Spanish, African, and Caribbean rhythms of dance battles in Veracruz.

Whether Calpulli dancers are performing in school auditoriums in Brooklyn or theaters across the country, impressive costumes and high energy are guaranteed. Students even get to join in on the dancing even during performances.

“What is different is that audience participation is throughout the entire event, says Juan. “Audiences practice their footwork, their Mexican gritos, or cheers, and even join us.”

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Students dressed up for a Calpulli residency at PS 245K

For BAC Arts in Education Manager Wéma Ragophala, pre- and post-performance workshops are a key part of what makes Global Rhythms special. By learning particular hand movements or adding their own lyrics to a song, students develop a deeper understanding of the material than they would if they could only see a performance.

“The workshops help students internalize the practices and ideas that performers are teaching,” says Wéma. “They’re able to build on their knowledge of themselves and of cultures from around the world.”

With Calpulli, students learn dances that demonstrate particular regional rhythms, along with cheers, costuming, and cultural backgrounds associated with each dance. 

“Students really respond to our colorful costuming. We hear students cheer and aw with our broad hats, big skirts, and tons of ribbons. They also love our gritos,” says Juan, of the excitement that comes with seeing the group perform.

As BAC’s Global Rhythms program expands to serve more schools in Brooklyn, we’re grateful to have groups like Calpulli who are committed to immersive education. Stay tuned for more from Global Rhythms, and visit our website to learn more about Arts in Education programming at BAC!

 

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