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Make America Groovy Again

Kitty's Retro Dance Party sets the stage for nostalgic fun

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Turbulent times often create nostalgia for days gone by. If you're looking back wistfully on a "Saturday Night Fever" youth spent festooned in glitter mousse and neon, then singer and happenings-creator Kitty ("Just the one name," she said, "like Cher or Madonna") has got you covered.

Kitty will be hosting a Platinum Gold Retro '70s and '80s Dance, beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday (March 24) at the Eagles Club, 1016 Dea Lane. Revelers are invited to dress up in their "grooviest rad threads" and dance the night away under a bona fide spinning disco ball.

Costume contests and trivia challenges, with theme prizes will be offered. Kitty herself will be belting out the songs. The Eagles Club bar will be open for business, so patrons must be 21or over with valid ID.

The odyssey that brought Kitty to Taos a year and a half ago began in her native San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her parents moved the family to Brooklyn, New York when she was a child.

A self-described "geek girl," Kitty spent most of her free hours in public libraries, studying and ultimately qualifying herself for the academically exclusive Mary Louis Academy in Queens, New York.

"I knew that an education was the only way out for me," she recalled. "I was so lucky to get into a great school. I took the train an hour and a half every day and just studied and studied. Without education, there was just that tenement future I saw all around me. I saw people get lost in drugs and prostitution and never come back."

Her protective parents were aware of the neighborhood's hazards and kept the children in the house unless their outdoor play could be closely supervised. "Back then, being in the ghetto where your parents watched you so much, you could come out to the block and play if other kids were out, but otherwise you were indoors. That's where I started getting involved in music and dance," she said. "It was how we entertained ourselves as indoor kids. I would put on my old metal roller skates, the kind you tighten on with a skate key. We'd play music, and we made our own roller disco in the basement."

A singing role in a school play gave her confidence and stage presence. "I was shy as a kid, but when I got up on stage and everybody was looking, I was just captured," she said. "Everyone thought I would be terrified up there, but I loved the stage. I felt fearless. I started singing in church choir, and in high school glee club."

She described wide-ranging musical influences. "The music was so catchy in the '70s. We listened to these women with strong voices, everyone from Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor to Karen Carpenter and Motown influences like Diana Ross. A lot of synth sounds we think of as '80s music were already being tapped into in the '70s. Earth, Wind and Fire was making amazing music. There was rock coming in like Kiss, then rock people like Blondie starting to move into hip-hop. The blending of music at that time was just so awesome. Then the '80s came in with a lot more glamor, and a lot of love songs. We did dance numbers from the 'Solid Gold' music TV show in our basement. And the fashions were so much fun: Elton John with those giant eyeglasses, Madonna's amazing outfits."

Her academic achievements continued alongside her musical interests. "My dad worked three jobs to get us out into a nice neighborhood in Queens. I finished high school at 16 with extra credit and was able to go to college."

Kitty left New York and spent some years studying in Puerto Rico, then traveled the world. She found herself living in Colorado but spending more and more time visiting Taos.

"I was coming down here so often to listen to music," she said. "I realized I needed to just go ahead and move here. The versatility of music and musicians here in Taos -- there is so much talent, and not just in one genre. The musicians I was meeting in Taos were so amazing, people like Ryan Beckwith, Norm Cutliff, Vanilla Pop and Jimmy Stadler, incredible singers like Katy Palmier and Audra Rodgers. Not only that, there are so many great talents that I was in awe just listening to them, but it's the way the musicians and artists here are with each other, not cut-throat competitive, but encouraging and kind. People help each other get a show together, help out with gear, come to each other's shows and support each other."

She told us that Saturday's show is a celebration of her getting her voice back after some medical issues that affected her breathing and speech.

"Singing was a healing force for me through that time," she said. "I'm hoping this show is the first of many. The great thing with this music we're doing Saturday is that we're getting excitement about the show not only from the baby boomers who went to those discos and lived it, but from Gen X and millennials who want to celebrate that era, the artists, the wonderful art of this music. These songs bring a flood of memories for so many people. We want everyone to dress up, come out and have a great time."

Admission is $10, age 21 and older with valid ID. For more information, call (575) 758-3756.

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