Mayte Garcia recently published a book titled The Most Beautiful, detailing the intense relationship that she had with Prince. (The two were married from 1996 to 2000.) Mayte has a special importance for Prince fans. She was close to him throughout some of his most prolific years, sharing a rare intimacy, especially given his enigmatic nature. When she came through the Twin Cities on her book tour last month, she taught a belly dancing class at Barre Bliss’s Uptown studio.
I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into by participating in this event. I have never taken a belly dancing class before and wondered if I would feel out of place. I was a little relieved to experience something that felt a bit more like a relaxed fan event than a technique class. The people taking the class were giddy to share an experience with Mayte, and the majority were unfamiliar with belly-dancing.
Not surprisingly, the class attendees were largely Prince fans, dressed in purple or wearing their favorite concert tee. What was great to see was that most were equally fans of Mayte — several had already attended one, or both, of her book signings earlier in the week. There was eagerness to engage with Mayte. As soon as she arrived at the studio a merch booth was set up and immediately drew a crowd of people wanting to purchase a Mayte t-shirt, and also get a chance to say hello to her or peek at the small puppy she brought with her.
Mayte was accompanied by several members of Prince’s inner circle, including Prince’s brother Omarr Baker and his wife, photographer Allen Beaulieu, and others. It was evidence that Mayte still maintains a loving bond with his inner circle, and also an opportunity to up the ante of Princeyness.
The class offered an opportunity to indulge in the best aspects of Prince nostalgia while celebrating the future of his legacy. She used Prince’s music for both the warm-up and the cool-down, explaining that she felt it was the perfect sound to elevate her energy. Aside from her personal relationship, Mayte’s artistic relationship with Prince took her career to a significantly higher level. Prince didn’t exist in a vacuum, despite his notoriously reclusive nature. To see someone like Mayte continuing to thrive so long after their relationship ended was inspiring.
Mayte kept things flowing a lot like an aerobics class, repeating simple steps over and over to slowly build a movement phrase. When the music would pause between tracks, she would clap her hands and shout “just keep moving!” She invited everyone to revel in the feeling of getting sweaty.
Mayte’s presence is powerful. She offered each attendee individual, focused attention and took the time to take a photo with each of the 35 people in the studio. She was kind and charismatic. The class was geared to be accessible to any skill level or body type. It was energetic, fun, and approachable. All of these elements combined made it surprisingly feel like a wild dance party — in the middle of the afternoon at a side-street fitness studio.
Overall, the class was a like a blanket of positivity. Mayte embodies a unique relationship with celebrity that makes it feel special just to get a moment of her time. Getting a full two hours to dance with a person like that — and to have her shout encouragement over a beat — was a shot of confidence. Every attendee, myself included, was grateful for the experience.
Karen McMenamy is a member of DaNCEBUMS, a Minneapolis-based dance ensemble who regularly collaborate with local musicians.