Texas Top 50 Women To Watch: Vanessa Bessler of Dance Center of San Antonio and the Children’s Ballet of San Antonio

At the Dance Center of San Antonio, Vanessa Bessler’s primary mission is to train children for extraordinary lives. As Founder and Artistic Director of both the Dance Center of San Antonio and the Children’s Ballet of San Antonio, her studio does just that. Teaching her students about the importance of hard work to achieve any goal, Bessler allows her dancers the opportunity to discover the joy of the arts, to develop confidence and self-esteem, and to find passion and leadership skills within the discipline of dance. With numerous resources and unparalleled performance opportunities, Bessler’s dedication has developed Dance Center of San Antonio into the most recognized ballet school in South Central Texas in 2018. She shares on her background in ballet, on the many accolades her students have received, and her formative years spent with ballet legend Dame Margot Fonteyn.

On her ballet background:

I was only eighteen years old when I started dancing in a professional company. I started my teaching career then too. At 21, I was promoted to Principal Dancer in the National Ballet of Panama. As a dancer and throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to train with Ballet Masters such as Belinda Writes, Anjelko Jureska, Marek Cholewa, Wasil Tupin, Hector Zaraspe, John Magnus, and many more international greats.

I made it my priority to train as a teacher and earn certifications from some of the best ballet schools in the world, including the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in their Teacher Certification Program, the Ballet Heritage Summer Academy (which is taught by acclaimed Vaganova Academy faculty), the Royal Academy of Dance Teacher’s Certificate Program, La Scala Academy Teacher’s Program in Milan, Italy and the Cecchetti Teacher Certification.

On what makes DCSA different:

The Dance Center of San Antonio (DCSA) has developed diverse programs that fit the needs of a wide variety of dancers at several levels of commitment. Dancers are encouraged to tailor a program to fit their particular goals and interests, whether they are intense or recreational.

DCSA offers a very structured Pre-professional program based on the Russian Vaganova training method, in which dancers progress through increasing levels of skill development, artistry and technique.

We have worked hard to develop a robust faculty, with several instructors added this year, to support the varying levels of ability, age groups and interests. DCSA has developed some incredible young dancers, who are now aspiring professionals and are elevating San Antonio to international levels in the ballet world.

On DCSA’s impact:

I am most proud of the incredible dedication and passion we have inspired in our dancers and the unwavering support their parents give to our programs.

Among our students, we have the only dancer in San Antonio invited to participate in IBC (International Ballet Competition) Jackson Mississippi in 2018, a competition that is widely considered to be the Olympics of ballet, as it only occurs once every 4 years. We also have the only dancer from San Antonio to have progressed to the final round of the Youth America Grand Prix, an international ballet competition with finals held at Lincoln Center in New York. We have the first and only San Antonio dancer to be awarded the Youth Grand Prix award at a YAPG regional.

In fact, ten dancers from the Dance Center of San Antonio were awarded “Top 12” or higher at YAGP, which is the benchmark competition of the industry, making DCSA the most recognized ballet school in South Central Texas in 2018.

I have been honored with the outstanding teacher award at YAGP regionals for the past three years, and Dance Center of San Antonio is the first and only school in San Antonio recognized as Outstanding School at YAGP regionals.

In 2018, Dance Center of San Antonio dancers received 23 scholarship offers for Summer Intensives, short-term and year-long programs to the following schools: Ballet Heritage, Ballet West, Bolshoi Academy SI, Cary Conservatory, Colorado Ballet, Harid Conservatory, Houston Ballet, International Ballet Academy, NC School of the Arts, Next Generation, Orlando Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Washington Ballet School.

Pre-professional students from the Dance Center of San Antonio have been accepted to the most prestigious professional programs in the country!

All of these awards and accolades are simply an indication that we are working towards big things at DCSA, and we are passionate about teaching our students life lessons and values through a formal educational atmosphere, that they can carry into their lives outside of dance.

On her personal female hero:

I have great admiration for Dame Margot Fonteyn. She was an inspiration for me as a child, and she had the greatest impact on my decision to pursue ballet as a career. She relocated to my home town in Panama after an illustrious career with the Royal Ballet. She was instrumental in the development of my ballet school, and brought so many great teachers, which allowed me to have incredible, world-class training. I had the opportunity to see Dame Fonteyn in person when I was very young, as she visited our classes. Her legacy stays with me and inspires so much of what I have done with my performance and teaching careers to date.

 

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Edited from an interview by Eleanora Morrison.