A Maricopa entrepreneur is working to bring a ballroom dancing studio to the city.
She is taking small, but strong steps to get there.
Mandi Lopez, a 15-year professional dancer who ran the ballroom program at Heritage Academy for two years, has opened a pop-up studio on the premises of Desert Sun Performing Arts.
In February, she led a series of Saturday night sessions on the ballroom basics of the foxtrot, swing, rumba and salsa. After the fourth and final session, her Indigo Ballroom turned into a social dance party — observing pandemic health guidelines — for her students to practice their moves.
Her sessions are expanding to other locations in March as well, according to Lopez.
“When you come and take dance lessons, it’s to have fun, to have a hobby, to learn a fun skill,” she said.
A resident of Maricopa for about a year, Lopez is a Phoenix native who spent several years in Napa, California, where she was hired to open a studio, before returning to the area to work at Heritage Academy.
“I’ve always wanted to own my own business,” she said. “As a kid I would create ‘businesses’ that would help people around the house. I created this little mobile service where I would deliver lunches I made to people on my roller skates.”
She began teaching dance classes in Phoenix and Tempe in November, deciding the time was right to open her own business after working for other studios. She also offers private dance lessons.
“I’m brand new to the neighborhood,” she said of her Maricopa pop-up events. “But I’m finding a lot of people who are excited to hear about it. My class is small, but it’s growing.”
She’s heard from so many interested people she has now decided to discontinue her group classes in Phoenix and focus efforts on her home city, including plans for her own facility.
“As soon as I can, I’m going to open up a studio and I want it to be in Maricopa,” she said of her dream project. “I’ve been looking for a way to share my passion. I want to bring joy to people’s lives, and I was trying to figure out a way to do that on the biggest scale that I can, with the resources I have.”
In addition to ballroom dancing, the facility would likely offer wellness, nutrition and meditation as she continues to work toward certification in yoga instruction. In short, she said, it will be a space with “all things that bring people joy.”
“My favorite thing is that you get this group of people together who all just love this music in the movement, and they support each other and help each other grow,” she said. “It’s a good place to go and hang out and take a class. I want to build a community here since there isn’t much for people to do.”
Lopez makes her students feel comfortable, whatever their skill level, according to one of her students.
“If you want some pep in your step, Mandi is the right choice,” said Dustin Parker of Mesa. “She makes you feel at ease, like you’re not even learning, just getting lost in the music.”
‘IT CHANGED MY LIFE’
Lopez met her boyfriend, Jasper, about five years ago when she was managing a dance studio in California and he was teaching there. Today, he teaches French and Latin at Heritage Academy.
“He and I love it here,” she said. “We’re thinking about buying here. We really like Maricopa as a community, as a town. It’s just so friendly and beautiful.
“I’m trying to convince my family to move out here from Phoenix.”
She works as a nanny for a family in Chandler for her day job. Meanwhile, she is reaching out to small business coaches to learn how to establish and grow her business.
Her work as a nanny and at Heritage Academy made her realize how much she loves children and making an impact on their lives.
“Part of what I want to do with an actual brick-and-mortar studio is have an outreach program for underprivileged youth so they may be exposed to some of these things,” she said, adding that might be achieved through scholarships or a youth dance program.
Lopez said she was never exposed to arts and culture before seeking it out as an adult. “It changed my life,” she said.
She’s hoping to change a few more lives as she glides across the dance floor.
The Indigo Ballroom pop-up studio is held Saturdays from 5 to 5:45 p.m. at Desert Sun Performing Arts and from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Honeycutt Coffee for Latin Saturdays. Classes are also held at 5 p.m. Wednesdays at Copa Craze.
Occupation: Professional ballroom dancer
Family: “I’m dancing through life with my wonderful partner, Jasper, and my perfect puppy dog, Ella.”
Favorite dance style: Cha cha and Argentine tango
This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa magazine.