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Teaching for Fun and Empowerment

Teaching for Fun and Empowerment

Local Performer Gives Back


Joy CoyUnicorns, teaching, glitter and women’s empowerment.

This isn’t a random list, but a description of the core elements of local dancer-turned-teacher-turned-creative-feminist-force-of-nature Joy Coy.

The classically trained ballet dancer and thespian has been teaching classes since she was 14, and has involved herself in all manner of performance art for even longer – but it wasn’t until after she graduated from UNM that she combined those loves with her strident beliefs in women’s equality.

It was January, 2015. Coy had graduated only a month earlier when she suddenly lost her full-time job. In need of a way to pay her bills, and unwilling to sit through interview after interview, Coy instead turned to a side project she had been working on: A character that could help kids find their own strengths.

“Princess Unicorn is an original character I developed to empower young people – specifically, young girls,” she said. “She had all the femininity of a princess with all the strength and confidence of a super hero.”

Princess Unicorn was designed to empower young people to find their dreams

Princess Unicorn was designed to empower young people to find their dreams

As Princess Unicorn, Coy earned money by performing at children’s birthday parties and at literacy outreach events through the Albuquerque Public Library system.

“I encouraged young girls to read, to dance, to write – to express themselves creatively and learn to identify their dreams,” she said. “It could be short-term stuff like ‘I want to get a pet’ or ‘I want to join a sports team,’ or really long-term stuff like ‘I want to be a veterinarian,’ and then help them identify solid paths to achieve that.”

Throughout this period, Coy was also actively involved in Albuquerque’s burgeoning burlesque scene, as a member of the highly-lauded Burque Noir troupe.

When Burque Noir disbanded later that year, the city saw an explosion of neo-burlesque troupes, most founded or co-founded by former members of Albuquerque’s most well-known group. However, this led to a shared obstacle: The troupes were often composed of performers new to the art of strip-tease – people who were full of creativity and raw talent, but who had no training and no place in the state to get it.

Joy Coy's first graduating Class of Tease group

Joy Coy’s first graduating Class of Tease group

This inspired Coy to create Albuquerque’s only workshop program to help aspiring and current performers of all stripes learn the basics. Coy opened her own production company called Unicorn Productions and put out a call for students. The class was full within days.

“The first one was six weeks – very intense, very short-term,” she said. “It covered a lot of burlesque herstory, costuming, ethics. We talk about show business, a lot on choreography. And at the end of it, they graduated by performing at my production.”

While Coy still works a day job, she said her art has become self-sustaining, which has always been her goal.

“It is very, very difficult to make a living as a performer,” she said. “I did Princess Unicorn full time, and that took a little bit of the joy out of it because I was so dependent on it for a stream of income, but the purpose of it has nothing to do with income.”

Coy’s workshop now runs nine weeks, with the next one beginning in December.

To learn more about Coy, visit facebook.com/ohjoycoy


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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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