Home Local News Kallpa House Student Showcase at Bartell Theater will highlight the power and...

Kallpa House Student Showcase at Bartell Theater will highlight the power and beauty of global dances

A group of Kallpa House dancers in bellydancing outfits at Centro Hispano. (R-L) Silvia Lopez, Iris Alpire, Marlene Quinto, Ingrid Siles, Irene Vargas, Nicole Corrales and Anupama Chakraborty (Photo: Carlos Guzman)

Guided by her Indigenous Andean roots and her experiences living and dancing in multiple communities around the world throughout her life, Natalia Armacanqui is the founder of Kallpa House of Spirit Dances where she teaches movement, rhythm and storytelling practices in a variety of dance classes that she hosts.

“It’s been my life’s work and I really strongly believe in dance as medicine and the power of dance,” Armacanqui tells Madison365 in an interview at Grace Coffee on Park Street in South Madison. “I believe in the spiritual and metaphysical power of dance … because in our indigenous societies, we believed in that. 

“Dance is transformative,” she adds, “and I’ve seen it with my students.” 

Armacanqui is a dancer, storyteller, teacher, performer, choreographer, administrator and scholar. A local and international performing artist, she has been a longtime professional exponent of Kathak dance. From 2002 to 2015, she continuously visited India to receive intensive tutelage from multiple dance maestros of Kathak.

A group of Kallpa House dancers in sari Bollywood dance outfits and meditation poses: (L-r) Silvia Lopez, Marlene Quinto, Irene Vargas, Iris Alpire, Nicole Corrales, Anupama Chakraborty. Natalia Armacanqui is sitting down. (Photo: Carlos Guzman)

Armacanqui creates her own original aesthetics by “weaving the multiple global dance styles she has loved and learned in depth, including Kathak dance, Peruvian, Middle Eastern and others, into one tapestry which connects her and others to spirit, culture and ancestral wisdom,” according to her personal website. The variety of the dance courses that she hosts are listed here.

“My family comes from a small village in the Andes called Laramarca, Peru. That’s a fundamental part of my artistic story. In our culture, dancing and playing music and just being artistic … it’s part of the air that we breathe and something that we do as a family and what we grew up doing,” Armacanqui says. Her brother is Richard Hildner Armacanqui, a well-known jazz guitarist musician in Madison.

Armacanqui explains that Kallpa means “strength” or “life energy” in Quechua and “cosmic time cycle” in Sanskrit. “I’m this mix of both cultures,” she says. Armacanqui has spent most of her life in training and being part of dance companies all over the world.

A group of Kallpa House dancers in a sari Bollywood dance outfits and meditation poses. (L-4) Silvia Lopez, Marlene Quinto, Irene Vargas, Iris Alpire, Nicole Corrales, and Anupama Chakraborty. Natalia Armacanqui is sitting down. (Photo: Carlos Guzman)

“I lived in India for many years and I specialize in a specific type of art form called Kathak, which is a classical North Indian art form,” she says. “I also learned other styles, although not as much in-depth as Kathak. But I’ve also trained in Bellydance, Bollywood, and a variety of Latin folk dances, including Peruvian folk dance.”

In 2008, Armacanqui was awarded a prestigious fellowship award as a Senior Performing artist by the American Institute of Indian Studies and has performed solos at renowned international venues such as Kamani Theater in Delhi, India in 2010, Sadler’s Wells in London, Englan in 2013 and Edinburgh festival in Scotland in 2016.

“Because I was touring a lot and focusing on my own dance career, and because these art forms are so historically deep, I really wanted to make sure that I was honoring them and I did proper training in them and that’s why it took me decades to get the blessings from my gurus and from my teachers to be like, ‘Okay, now you’re ready to pass on this art form.’”

Armacanqui adds that it’s very important in her dance traditions to give credit to her gurus: Dr. Mekhala Natavar and Smt. Sandhya Desai. 

Armacanqui was born and raised in Madison and earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in languages and culture of Asia. She would later earn a master’s degree in South Asian dance from Roehampton University in London.

After traveling the world, she took a break completely from dance for about five years, in part to rest her body. “I needed time to heal and I needed a break from a lot of the things I’ve gone through as a dancer,” she says. “[Traveling] was a beautiful experience but at times it was hard.”

She came back home to Madison 6-7 years ago.

 “As I made a complete break from dance, I focused on victim advocacy, also helping victims of violence. And it was through that community work, that it just really helped my own healing as an artist, as a woman as an indigenous person,” Armacanqui says. “And it also opened my eyes to just so much that’s going on in this city and in this country.

“I already had a deep understanding of social justice because of my identity but I began to really see how social justice affected others, particularly violence towards women,” she adds. “So it was through that work where I started to learn victim advocacy skills and crisis counseling.”

Kallpa House of Spirit Dances founder and teacher Natalia Armacanqui while she was earning her master’s degree in dance at Roehampton University in London. (Photo: Kallpa House of Spirit Dances)

As Armacanqui began to get back into dance again, she felt it was an opportunity to bring two of her life passions together. She started a class called “Awaken your Inner Goddess / Despierta Tu Diosa” which involves femme empowerment stories from Latina, Indigenous, Afro-Latina and BIPOC dance students at Centro Hispano of Dane County.

“It’s a combination of femme empowerment and dance at the same time. So we do meditations, we do bodywork, and we do also dance, of course. But with the focus of healing from trauma, and also empowering ourselves,” Armacanqui says. “As you can see in the names, it’s like very much like, we are goddesses … and we’re allowing ourselves to shine unapologetically. Because of the feedback that I’ve been getting, I feel very humbled and I feel like my life’s purpose has come full circle. My students have shared very personal things with me like that my classes are one of their only safe spaces or that they have helped them through divorces and other tough times. 

“I think an important message from all of this is that dance … and dancers … can be healing, as well.”

Kallpa House student Irene Vargas (Photo: Carlos Guzman)

Irene Vargas, a student at Kalipa House, says she has been enjoying the classes and describes them as “beyond wonderful.”

“It has just been a spiritual experience mixed in with a great physical experience and just such a great group of women and just such a welcoming environment and so inclusive. So I absolutely loved her class and would totally recommend women to try it,” she tells Madison365.

Vargas found out about the class, she says, from a friend who handed her a flyer for the class.

“It’s a real sisterhood there and it was just so nice to have women from different parts of the world and the Spanish-speaking world come together and share in their spiritual and metaphysical journeys and feel safe,” she says. “I felt really, really safe.”

Kallpa House student Iris Alpire found the classes on Facebook and decided to try it out. She says that she really looks forward to the classes and to the final talent showcase coming up.

Kallpa House student Iris Alpire
(Photo: Carlos Guzman)

“I’ve had great experiences going to her classes. I love dancing,” Alpire tells Madison365. “I like that the first part of the class is a little bit of downtime, kind of like meditation time, and that’s something that I really enjoy. It’s a chance to talk about things that happen to women in general. And it’s very informative in a way, too.

“I think it’s important to have the quiet time and to do some breathing and then some stretching before we do the dance part, which I really love, as well.” she adds. “I really recommend the class. Especially if you like to experience new things like belly dance or even Bollywood. I love the freedom of the dances and trying something new. I definitely will recommend it to other people to try it.”

Armacanqui says that she has anywhere from 10-15 students that come regularly to this class at Centro and has taught 25-30 women in this class over the past year.

“A shout out to Centro Hispano for allowing us to use that space. It’s really hard sometimes to get accessibility to dance studios,” Armacanqui says. “They can be very, very expensive and they can be difficult to get to but Centro Hispano, because they saw the value in what I do for Latina women and for indigenous women, they opened up their space.  

“I have done a lot of research to develop the curriculum of the class. I also want folks to know that dancers are not just movers, we’re scholars, as well. We’re storytellers. And also having done a master’s in dance, I like to put that research aspect into the curriculum.”

Kallpa House of Spirit Dance’s students and guest artists are excited to showcase their months of hard work and their talents at the upcoming Kallpa House Student Showcase on Saturday, April 20, 7 p.m. at the Bartell Theatre in downtown Madison. The event will feature a variety of global dance techniques and choreographies including Kathak, Bollywood, Bellydance, Flamenco, Bharanatyam, Mexican, Colombian folk dances and more.

Tickets for the Kallpa House Student Showcase are $15 and a portion of the ticket sales will be donated to Palestine emergency aid organizations.

Alpire says she hopes people at the showcase will be able to see the evolution the group has made from their first class all the way to right now. “We are all really looking forward to being in this event,” she says.

“The Kallpa House Student Showcase is going to be all of my classes. I am so proud of the students,” Armacanqui says. “It’s pretty cool and it’s something special that we are all looking forward to.”