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Powerful Women: Let's Talk – 82: Laura Armenta

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Laura Armenta
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Laura Armenta

Laura Armenta, founder and creative director of Armentality Movement Arts Center in Grand Rapids, is today’s Powerful Woman.

Laura Armenta is the founder and creative director of Armentality Movement Arts Center in Grand Rapids. Laura is a Mexican-born performing artist, experienced educator, inspirational speaker, community leader, adventurous entrepreneur, and functional movement coach. Laura Armenta is our guest on this edition of Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.

Powerful Women: Let’s Talk is created by WGVU NPR and made possible by WGVU NPR sustaining monthly donors. Become a sustaining monthly donor now at wgvu.org/donate to support WGVU NPR’s local programs, including Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.


Full Transcript:

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Intro: Produced by women about women Powerful women Let's talk is a series of interviews with women who are trailblazers and have helped shape our world transforming who we are and how we live.

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Shelly Irwin: Laura Armenta is a self-described Mexican born performing artist, experienced educator inspirational, speaker community leader adventures entrepreneur and functional movement coach quite the powerful woman. But she does admit to a love for knitting and crocheting hence She knows how to balance. Probably God given energy and more. So welcome to our powerful women. Let's talk Laura

Laura Armenta: hello

Shelly Irwin: So, I bet you've made a lot of hats for the wintertime.

Laura Armenta: you know, I don't, I love sweaters. Scarfs for a while. I had a thing, sweaters for my family. Anytime that is a holiday of any kind I like knitting for my friends or whatever, So I do use it as a stress reliever

Shelly Irwin: we’ll get to that part of my fun facts and because knitting and crocheting does involve sitting and do so. But I want to take a bit a part of that lengthy self-description. So here we go. Mexican born performing artist. Tell me about your upbringing Laura

Laura Armenta: So yes, I was born and raised in Mexico City, big city. And I think culturally speaking, everybody dances in South America. In general. I come from a family where everybody, of course is into celebrations. My mom loved all the traditional dances, salsa, all the Columbia rhythms and I used to be an athlete, running. That was my thing. But I discovered that the dance was a way to communicate. And when I was 13, I officially discovery contemporary dance and that truly change my life. I was very lucky to connect with a teacher that really embraced my journey and trained me and guided me and that is plenty more from there. But yeah, I was 13 when I realize that dance was not just the fun aspect of the cultural tradition.

Shelly Irwin: How did you get to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Laura Armenta: Oh, goodness. Well, that's a big jump. Well, I was moving all over the states. Initially Washington, DC, New York City Detroit area.

Shelly Irwin: living your dream?

Laura Armenta: yes, training dancing. When I was in New York City I trained with Martha Graham company, Alvin Alley. I attempted to do some teaching in a state in Detroit area. And of course, I was a lot younger. So, I always had these adventures spirits just going all over the place. And eventually I ended up in West Michigan and decided to stay just because at the time were circumstances. And then I realize that I'm being into many bigger cities West Michigan community opportunity to be more a pioneer on the things that I do. So here I am. It's been 27 years since.

Shelly Irwin: On the educational journey, you are very highly educated. Tell me more.

Laura Armenta: So through, it translates as Mexico's fine arts Institute. I have education in contemporary dance and choreography. But I also study a little bit of dance anthropology. So, through the dance anthropology aspect. I focus on Middle Eastern dances. Some Indian dance. I like. I like everything. But interesting that everybody asks me. What's your favorite dance style I think it's more a matter of how I wake up? What's my mood changes. I have personally the tendency to be dramatic. So contemporary dance is really where my heart goes in those cases. But due to a knee injury back in 91 journey took me into this discovering yoga and that was how I yet have another transformation evolution of who I became, and I got certified in different approaches for yoga philosophy. So, from Contline so Tonga flows and things like that. So that flows into yet another aspect which has yoga Tai therapy and is like the sister discipline of yoga is body work. Energy work and I have always in addition to all that has been I'm a lover of martial arts. So, through my youth, I have training tai kwon do little bit of an aikido Tai chi, combat tai chi I think wa tai for a while at some point. But dancing is my life.

Shelly Irwin: Yes. And what is your present life here. Running a business called

Laura Armenta: yes. So, our mentality movement Arts Center coming up next year. We are going to celebrate 25 years of not the location. But my trademark per se. What I do, how I do it and it’s called art mentality, obviously, because it's a play on words is the mentality within the center. I do many things. So, I practice my yoga Tai therapy, which is 1 on 1, I do coach also for functional movement. I offer dance classes are from professional to recreational and for a while. I took a break with my dance company. But back at it thankfully now that the pandemic is becoming more at ease. I have done a lot of collaborations and the space also like a small venue occasionally We do events there and is also an open space for other to creatives so is a nest of anything that has to do with movement and holistic art,

Shelly Irwin: yes, Before I continue taking apart yourself described a Laura Armenta where did you get this motivation to follow the many passions you have. Was that do you go back to your mom. The dancer? what keeps you so passionately driven to succeed the way you are

Laura Armenta: oh goodness. Well, as far as a dancing aspect. The way I see it in the way I was trained is that life in general is a constant dance we are always in motion. I believe that stagnation is just the worst thing you can do at any level. So, evolving You know, I see people walking in. I see how everybody has a different rhythm of walking different pace. I love watching children’s babies how they develop their body mechanics. And that's also an exploration. So, I think Dance as what you think of social dances. One aspect. But Dance as the dance of life could be many things because they could be healing therapeutic and is movement in general. I don't like. Thinking Oh, I got this. That is always more, OK. What's next? What can I do? And it's always in relation to the body. But a lot of the culture interaction is it's what feeds my art per say

Shelly Irwin: Yes, you also are an inspirational speaker. What do you speak about?

Laura Armenta: Well, it all began because of my knee surgery. I had 2 knee surgeries, but obviously both of them were very dramatic and back in 91 when I was a professional dancer in a dance company. I thought I own the world ..surgery where like boom put you into now. You have nothing now you can’t walk. Of course, this is before arthroscopy surgery. Right. So, I ended up with a cast all the way to my hip wheelchair braces. So, the fact that emotionally I was in devastation mode, and I was able to not only come back but discover that beyond just being a dancer. I had the capacity to be a choreographer where I express my own ideas being a choreographer and artistic director of dance troupe is yet another step from being just a performer where you just listen to what the director tells you so learning how to move my own body empowered me to, you know, decide, hey, I can do this in when I do. My speaking presentations going to how emotionally I was into the deep down low and be able to be self-reliant and not only come back but really how the determination that this is not going to stop me and So in general, I want to encourage people to find that one moment where That is a click that says no, I still have this and later on to recent time when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was another moment where I thought, okay, this is a click where I have to figure out what to do and my conversations where I shared stories is more about what are those moments where you really have darkness. But that is a point bright point that makes you come back alive. So, it's a combination between what movement can do for us in the healing aspect in a way that we connect with ourselves so I share my personal story to inspire people to overlap your own story and say, hey, you can do that is

Shelly Irwin: do you see young women in your classes are young women understanding the importance of movement and finding their passions.

Laura Armenta: Yeah.

Shelly Irwin: If not how does one experiment with her passions.

Laura Armenta: Well, at Armentality I offer different options of movement and one of them is called organic flow, which is not a technical dance, not social dance is really an exploration in which the dancers the movers our prompt with emotion words. We do a little writing ahead of time to say, hey, what is one thing that you would like to improve or get rid of everybody has some kind of fears or trauma of some sort. recently I had a student that, for example, was they fearful of the entire world because of the pandemic. So, through this process, it was like this came to breath how the breath takes you into visions images and then translate that let your body speak not necessarily on looking a beautiful dancer. But into, even if it's abstract. And at some point, grotesque how is that your body is going to express things and that release is a kind of guidance that I do. So that is not always, you know, smiling in in in partner dance per se.

Shelly Irwin: Let's talk about your community. How do you look to see how you best fit in your community? niche

Laura Armenta: I love the diversity. And I think just I believe on the fact that your tribe comes. So, once you protect your vibe, right. So, because I don't like to stick to one thing only same in the connection that I do with community to a different organization. I knock at the door with different organizations to do yoga for some people or dance for others. And at the same time, I have a lot of the answers, I represent cultures from like west Africa the Dominican Republic. So, it's like by itself. I think is like one bee Follow

Shelly Irwin: don’t get stung

Laura Armenta: Yeah, ha-ha. But really, I guess I don't have an explanation is just me. Constantly knocking on the door and the fact that I do use a lot of social media, right. So, putting out there hey They what coming up with this new thing just random a friend of ladies and friend of students coming say hey I want to check this out.

Shelly Irwin: they feel your passion and want to be involved. You Love knitting and crocheting. When did this start and how do you sit down and do this?

Laura Armenta: Well, in part i was raised by my grandmother my maternal grandmother and she got me into. Absolutely. All the things that ladies are supposed to know. So, training into cooking and knitting crocheting and cross stitch. Was my thing I think I was probably 7 or 8 when I started doing all that and obviously be in Michigan. Knitting is the best because I was not used to the cold. So, I love layering in the winter. And then I realized that I read a book which I don’t remember which one but something about the energy that you put when you're knitting. And so, I realized that it was the best thing to do. You create stuff us a gift for friends and family because adl is that you are putting love and positivity into the knitting as you're going to gift it to someone. So, I really love it.

Shelly Irwin: All right. I don't need the whole list. But you have a very eclectic Spotify lists. What does this mean? Music still is in your life everywhere. I trust.

Laura Armenta: Yes. Yeah. In the morning. I just have to boom I am awake. Set it up. It has from mariachi from led Zeppelin. The doors, little bit of sting really is a mix and match. So, when you shuffle it, you cannot believe that we went really from mariachi song to hard rock sometimes. But yeah, that's my thing. I just it changes.

Shelly Irwin: Some have a couple cups of coffee. You get your jam on, as they say

Laura Armenta: I am not a coffee drinker, so music is it.

Shelly Irwin: you love spinning. Tell me about what.

Laura Armenta: as I mentioned before, I used to be an athlete and I used to be a sprinter and to the intensity of like in few seconds go as fast as possible. Now that I have 2 knee surgeries is something that I cannot do. And I have never been a long distance. Runner is just a whole different mindset. But the same energy I get it when I'm on my dance studio basically anywhere and spin You know how kids do that.

Shelly Irwin: Yeah, you're talking spinning on a body not spinning on a bike

Laura Armenta: just spinning dancers we called spotting and if you've seen the dervish dancers, turkey in-person dancers I don't think they spin as fast but is just this constant rotation, which is almost like meditation for me is a nice vibration. Well, I just love spinning

Shelly Irwin: well time We tried it How many languages do you speak.

Laura Armenta: Well, I study many. But I'm fluent in obviously Spanish is my first language English because I live here is What I have to do Arabic more on, not North African cause I study Arabic. The North African. It's a little more complicated because it has a few shares with French but the west African version so I can read Arabic. I can write Arabic, but more like kids do so not I can read the paper, not really know everything. So, in addition to that, I've studied Japanese. A little bit of Persian I attempted Chinese. But it was very difficult. So, within 3 days. I'm like no thank you. I'm done currently actually, I'm looking at learning navjote which is the traditional, the ancient language from Mexico. And I figured if I love languages. Got to go back to my roots. My Grandma used to speak it. But I never did.

Shelly Irwin: Thank you for that. And when you choose lunch, you're going to go vegan, and minimalist expand that.

Laura Armenta: Well, vegan yes, it's my diet per se, but also the combination of being minimalist is I personally don't like furniture because I like open spaces because I like moving and dancing. So, I figure. Okay. This tendencies of mine since being a teenager not only didn't disappear but just remain. Constant fear open spaces. Minimalism super basics. You know, I don't do crazy shopping. I am not addicted to shoes. Jewelry. Nothing bare minimum I think is important too. Live life experiencing and enjoying the experience rather than gather things in. You know, I don't have a big closet with the stuff is like your basic phone basic colors just believe being a minimalist in as many aspects as possible.

Shelly Irwin: Although you pick the best color red. What's your advice to the young Laura's to gals that are looking to find their way? Will all make a mistake or two but what a look. Look back what’s your advice.

Laura Armenta: I think everybody needs to look in the mirror and appreciate what they see no matter what this is something I learned in my own journey because I did come from a dysfunctional childhood to some degree and self-love self-appreciations is something that took me. decades to accomplish. But I do believe that that connection of the body mind is somehow like socially is missing. So not only a specific gender in general. I think if we're going to make mistakes, that's okay. Make your own in learn from the lesson but don't punish yourself forever. I have learned to really look in the mirror and appreciate what I see because for a long time. I didn't. It is such a basic thing we really think about it. Mindfully every morning to stand the mirror about to brush your teeth or whatever and say, hey, I got you yes, your cool those tiny things that you do in daily basis to really appreciate who we are, I think is a must do

Shelly Irwin: you going to leave us with an inspirational motto.

Laura Armenta: Oh, goodness. I thought that was it. Ha-ha be adventures is an open mind and have an open heart as well. Same as I mention earlier. no stagnation. Same. You've got to be open to receive a nice thing.

Shelly Irwin: Alright say goodbye and one of the languages that, you know,

Laura Armenta: arigato sayonara

Shelly Irwin: thank you very much, Laura. It for this edition of powerful women let’s talk

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Outro: Produced by women about women these powerful podcasts focus on powerful women and how their strength transforms who we are and how we live. Want to hear more powerful women. Let's talk get additional interviews at WGVU dot org or wherever you get your podcast, please rate and subscribe powerful women. Let's talk is produced by WGVU at the Meijer public broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University, the views and opinions expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU. Its underwriters or Grand Valley State University.

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Shelley Irwin is the host and producer for The WGVU Morning Show, a newsmagazine talk-show format on the local NPR affiliate Monday through Friday. The show, broadcast from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. features a wide variety of local and national newsmakers, plus special features.
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