This fifth-generation Taoseña knows a thing or two about pole dancing. And, for that matter, about belly dancing, sword dancing, lap dancing and, especially, flamenco.
'There was a group of young ladies from Pagosa Springs, Colorado, who were standing across the street and I could see they were staring into my pole dancing studio windows," said Julia Fernández de Maez, owner and operator of The Body Shop. "I called out to them and said, 'Hey! It's time for your class!' And they did come in and had the best bachelorette party experience they could have ever imagined."
This fifth-generation Taoseña knows a thing or two about pole dancing. And, for that matter, about belly dancing, sword dancing, lap dancing and, especially, flamenco. Dance is her life's dream, one that she's followed since she was a young girl, and one she's anxious to share with anyone who is so inclined.
So join her on Friday (Jan. 18) when, beginning at 7 p.m., she and her fellow Southwest Showgirls will be heating up the stage at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership in a showcase that's guaranteed to serve up a memorable evening and maybe have you -- or your partner -- rethinking your workout routine.
Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets to the performance are $15. Children 12 and under are free, but parents are advised to consider the appropriateness of the show for their children. "There's no nudity, but this is a super-sexy dance show," Fernández de Maez cautioned with a wink.
"Accompanying me on the stage are Lisa Vigil, who I call the pole dancing star of Taos; Paula Mascareñas performing flamenco; and Monique Pacheco and Karin Eberhardt performing belly dancing," Fernández de Maez said. "The costumes have a bit of a fun Día de los Muertos vibe going on and, believe me, these ladies are smoking."
Looking at their photographs you might think it's impossible that there are grandmothers and moms in the quintet. "They all met while they were training with me here [at The Body Shop]. Neither they nor I saw such a dance troupe forming out of my member base, but here they are. They fought hard for this. They're fitness enthusiasts who turned into dance performers," she said.
Of that Fernández de Maez is especially proud because she, also, fought hard to achieve the success she now enjoys. She was largely raised by her grandparents, Bea and Loren, who made sure she continued classes with the famed Taos flamenco dancer Catalina Río-Fernández (no relation).
"People nagged me: 'Go to college and get a degree in dance,' and I wondered why," she recalled. "I was already a dancer. A degree would take me where? I had already studied with the best and knew what my body could do."
She said she followed training opportunities across nine states, and even opened two other studios, "but when my grandfather got sick I returned to Taos to spend time with him before he passed. Opening The Body Shop was a confluence of life events and opportunities."
The studio, which has been open for two years, began with Fernández de Maez offering fitness classes and personal training. Last year she added the dance classes which have elevated her professional reputation even more.
"Having traveled so much and having experienced so many different styles of performance, I really wanted to bring a big-city element to the studio, something that didn't otherwise exist in Taos," she said. "For example, there's a Las Vegas style which is more sensuously moving the body, and a New York style which is more athletic and feet-off-the-floor." Fluent in a multitude of dancing and fitness training, she offers her students a choice that is comfortable for them.
"I think of my studio as a safe haven, one where people -- women and men -- can come and re-own themselves. Besides being something new and exciting, my classes are all about confidence building, healing and finding a way to go forward in life where you own who you are."
The former captain of the Duke City Gladiators cheer team also teaches fitness at The Blake, Taos Ski Valley's newest hotel, and in the warm weather you may also happen upon one of her impromptu street performances around Taos Plaza. "I love doing flamenco and sharing that part of my cultural heritage, especially for visitors. It might plant a seed and make them want to come back and learn more about us," she said.
Capturing and believing in the power of one's body is not just physically transformative, she believes, but emotionally and mentally, as well. "Dance, fitness and a whole lot of stubbornness has gotten me to where I am today," she noted with well-deserved pride. "That, and my grandparents, Catalina and my awesome students."
Incidentally, she has been chosen to represent New Mexico -- "out of only 10 international performers" -- at the 2019 Orlando Bellydance Convention in August. She is also one of the headliners for the Taos Bellydance Festival planned this May.
In addition to her performance as part of the Southwest Showgirls, Julia Fernández de Maez will also treat the audience to a solo compilation of dances during Friday's event.
The Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership is at 20 ABC Mesa Road, just off U.S. 64 west near the airport. For more information, call (575) 758-1900. Advance tickets are available by visiting taosmesabrewing.com or holdmyticket.com.
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