Professional theater of the Great Western Catskills!

Calpulli Mexican Dance Company


Calpulli Mexican Dance Company

Calpulli Mexican Dance Company began its artistic journey in 2003, growing from of a love for its community and Mexican traditions. In the process, the company rediscovered and affirmed the power of storytelling through the universal language of dance and music.

Calpulli tells narrative-based stories portrayed through movement, sound, and elaborate and colorful costuming, with the passion of performance. Their repertoire is a carnival of folkloric traditions mixed with original creations. Calpulli performances are a celebration of the cultural legacy of past and present with stories that combine the vocabulary of dance and music with the Mexican-American spirit, expressing the company’s universal messages of love and hope.

Co-Founders Alberto Lopez Herrera (former Artistic Director) and Juan Castaño (Executive Director) conceive and create stories that come to life through the vision of Artistic Director Grisel Pren Monje.

Calpulli tours a portfolio of stories that share an enlightened perception of the voyage of immigrants and Mexican-Americans. With a contemporary voice, they seek to highlight and celebrate history and the shared humanity of our experience.

The Company tours across the USA and made its international debut in the Kingdom of Bahrain in 2013 and its European debut in Istanbul, Turkey in 2019.

“This terrific company of warm, generous dancers and a mostly female band gave a quick, vibrant tour of Mexican traditions – from Yucatán, Oaxaca, Jalisco – with eye-popping costumes for every stop.”
—The New York Times

Juan Castaño (Executive Director & Co-Founder) co-founded Calpulli Mexican Dance Company with the vision of celebrating and serving the Mexican and Mexican-American community across the USA. Mr. Castaño, a native of El Paso, Texas, holds an MBA in General Management from the Metropolitan College of New York. He also holds a BA in Chemistry and studied Latin American Studies while at Grinnell College in Iowa. There he also began his studies of folk dance with student instructor Alicia Gonzalez. He continued his training in NYC with several choreographers most notably Noemy Hernandez, Daniel Jaquez, and Alberto Lopez. With over 20 years of dance experience in Mexican folk dance, Mr. Castaño is a Master Teacher with the Young Arts Foundation. In recent years, he is a guest choreographer for Calpulli Mexican Dance Company, setting pieces for several productions and co-writing “Puebla: The Story of Cinco de Mayo” and “Navidad: A Mexican-American Christmas,” with the latter pulling from his upbringing on the US-Mexico border. Mr. Castaño is inspired by the quality of the artistic and cultural programming by Calpulli, with whom he is still a dancer. Accessibility of high quality community programs, serving hundreds of students and families, is also a driving force for his dedication to the performing arts.

Grisel Pren Monje (Artistic Director) is an accomplished director, choreographer, and teaching artist, adept at leading a team of dancers, choreographing innovative performances, and spearheading the artistic vision of programming. She was born and raised in Cancun, Mexico.. Beginning her dance training in local dance studios, she became a professional dancer and entertainer in the Resorts in the Riviera Maya. In 2007, Grisel moved to the United States to study ballet, jazz, and musical theater in New York City under the International student visa program for dance and has continued her dance training in renowned schools such as Broadway Dance Center, Steps on Broadway, and The Alvin Ailey school. She made her Off-Broadway debut in 2012 with “Zapata! The Musical” at the New York Musical Festival with a principal role.  In 2008, she joined the Calpulli Mexican Dance Company, moving from dancer/performer to teaching artist, choreographer, associate artistic director to her current role as artistic director. She’s toured with the company, both nationally and internationally. She currently works as a Dance Teaching Artist for Society of the Educational Arts, Center for Modern Dance Education, Grunin Performing Arts Academy, New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Calpulli Community. Grisel holds a Mexican Folk Dance teacher certification from El Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez, and has completed Traditional Mexican Dance workshops and a Stage Production training program in La Escuela Nacional de Danza Folklórica in Mexico City.

Alberto Lopez (Co-Founder & Education Director) is a Choreographer, Wardrobe Designer & Maker, and Teaching Artist with over 30 years of experience in Mexican folk dance and story-telling. Originally from San Antonio Chiltepec in Puebla, Mr. Lopez began his studies of Mexican folkloric dance at the age of 12 at the Centro Escolar Benito Juarez de Acatlán de Osorio. In the USA, Mr. Lopez was a dancer and choreographer with Grupo Folklórico de Greatneck, Don Juan Dancers, and the Ballet Folklórico Mexicano de Nueva York, working with distinguished choreographers Francisco Nevarez, Daniel Jaquez, and Noemy Hernandez. Under his Artistic Direction, Calpulli Mexican Dance Company has performed at noted venues including Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (Inside/Out Series), Wortham Center (Houston, TX), Humboldt State University, the Kingdom of Bahrain, Penn State Erie, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors. Mr. Lopez was named “Star of Queens” by the Queens Courier for his artistic accomplishments and commitment to community arts programming. He was also recognized by Time Magazine in the series “American Voices.” Most recently, Mr. Lopez was Dramaturg and Folk Choreographer for the Off-Broadway production “The Crossing” produced by the Barrington Stage under the Director of Joshua Bergasse.

George Saenz (Musical Director) Multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger and educator, George Saenz is originally from Laredo, Texas. He graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA where he studied music performance and Jazz Composition and currently resides in New York City. He serves as musical director and educator for NYC’s Calpulli Mexican Dance Company, and works as a freelance musician with various acclaimed musical projects in and around NYC, including as Musical Director, trombonist-accordionist and arranger with multi Grammy Award-winning artist Lila Downs. His travels have led him to performances and productions around the world throughout Europe, Latin America, as well as extensive tours of the United States and Canada.

Christoper Cortez (Dancer) is a California native who began his Folklorico training around 17 yrs old in Righetti High’s The Marimba Band and Ballet Folklorico group and then continued at Allan Hancock College where he graduated in 2011 with an AA in Fine Arts: Dance. In 2012 Cortez joined Calpulli for their 2012/13 calendar year, attended Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and graduated in 2015 with a Certificate in Dance. He continued in his professional career primarily with touring companies Calpulli Mexican Dance Co and Ballet Nepantla. Christopher chose to return to the West Coast in 2020 and began studying the healing modality of Massage Therapy where he graduated in 2021 from San Diego’s Pacific College of Health & Science and is also certified by the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC). His return to NYC in 2022 also marked his return to dance.

Lucero ‘Luz’ Velazquez (Dancer) was born in Queens, NY and raised in her parents’ hometown in Puebla, Mexico. There, at the age of 6, she began to dance folklorico. She then moved back to New York and joined Ballet Xochiquetzal where she danced for 4 years and later joined Ballet Nueva Juventud. She joined Calpulli in 2016 and initiated her dance training at Hunter College, where she received her BA in psychology with a minor in dance. Lucero has had the opportunity to perform works from Kyle Abraham and participated in intensives by MODP and Contra Tiempo Company. She has worked as a dance specialist with various youth ages, teaching dance movement and creating works. Aside from dancing, Lucero works as a case planner and is a mommy to a baby girl.

Yahir Montes (Musician) is a Mexican guitarist, vocalist, bassist, composer, songwriter and arranger originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco. At the age of fourteen he enrolled at the Instituto Universitario de Bellas Artes in Colima, Mexico where he completed a Bachelor of Music with honorable mention. He also has a Masters in Composition and Arrangement from Universidad Tito Puente in Puebla, Mexico. Yahir has performed at Lincoln Center, Joe’s Pub and Mass MOCA for Frida, The Musical and Broadway in Spanglish and has written, arranged and produced for several film and musical theater projects in New York City. Yahir is part of Calpulli Mexican Dance Company which brings Mexican folklore to the stage.

Taya Ricker (Musician) is an avid chamber, orchestral, and jazz musician and has performed across the US, Canada, and Europe. Taya currently lives and performs regularly in New York City where she can often be found on the stages of Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Additionally, she holds the position of Assistant Concertmaster of the West Virginia Symphony, is the newest member of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra’s violin section, and is serving as Asheville Symphony’s Principal Second Violin this


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