Teachers' Tools: Up Close With Tessandra Chavez

Teachers share the philosophies and materials that make them successful in their careers and classes.

You wouldn’t think it from looking at her resumé, but “So You Think You Can Dance” choreographer Tessandra Chavez struggled for her success. When a teacher warned her she would never be “built for ballet,” she stayed focused on her goals. “I knew as a child that choreography was what made me feel whole,” says the popular PULSE on Tour faculty member, whose work has been featured on “America’s Got Talent,” “The X Factor” and “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition.” “I wanted to be great at dance, so that when I choreographed, I would be knowledgeable about what I was having my dancers do.” She went on to attend a performing arts high school and founded her company, Unity Dance Ensemble, at 15. By 18, she was selling out theaters in Southern California, drawing a following to her hip-hop meets contemporary style.

In her advanced PULSE classes, Chavez thrives on pushing aspiring professionals to the next level. Using “eyes like a hawk” to scrutinize and perfect technique, she is clear nonetheless that it takes more than flawless feet to make a dancer. “Technique is about the safety and the line, but it’s not everything,” she says. “Straighten your leg, point your toe, get your shoulders down. OK, that’s not good enough. I need you to perform.” Dancers have to have thick skins—Chavez doesn’t mind telling students it’s nearly impossible to succeed in the industry. “I don’t want to scare them; I want to inspire them, and I can only do that if I share my story and expose my flaws. Being vulnerable is the strongest thing you can be,” she says. “Admitting you’re not perfect.” DT

Likes to teach in: fashionable and functional dance apparel from her own clothing line, TC (Timeless Creations) by Tessandra Chavez. “I enjoy looking glamorous while I’m teaching.”

For a pick-me-up: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

For a treat: Coke Zero

Never teaches without: Milani Lip Flash in Hot Flash red, Maybelline Pure Stay powder foundation, L’Oreal Telescopic Mascara in Carbon Black. “I am a girly girl! I love to feel pretty and wear makeup.”

On her days off: “I love to hike. Being in nature calms my soul and brings me clarity. It reminds me that life is truly simple.”

Photos from top: courtesy of The PULSE; courtesy of manufacturers

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