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
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