Island dance instructor challenges herself and her students
A 12-year-old Tatiana Verega competed as a professional ballroom dancer in Europe when her career trajectory changed course.
It was then that Verega watched the movie “You Got Served” for the first time and the breakdancing and hip-hop moves she saw riveted her, she said.
“I wanted to spin on my head,” the now 27-year-old Verega said.
She learned how to do that and would move to the United States to dance in hip-hop videos filmed in Los Angeles and to choreograph routines for other productions.
She now teaches and choreographs urban dance at DLS Dance Studio, 1710 23rd St., in Galveston. DLS stands for Dangerous Limits of Style, an homage to an earlier dance troupe she started.
Verega, who is the owner and artistic director of DLS, opened her studio in 2013 but moved the site from Broadway to 23rd Street in June. Now, she has more space with three practice rooms.
Elahe Tabibzadegan, 13, is one of her students.
“It’s like a family here,” Tabibzadegan said. “We’re all striving to do the same thing — to get good at dancing.”
Tabibzadegan swirls and snaps through an eight-count step that goes too fast for an inexperienced viewer to break it down.
“Each count has a movement,” Tabibzadegan said, slowing down her moves to eight distinct poses to demonstrate. She’s been a hip-hop dance student at DLS for a couple years after trying ballet classes at another studio, she said.
“You get to express yourself more here,” Tabibzadegan said. “You can’t show a stink face in ballet.”
Although Verega teaches hip-hop and coaches a competitive dance team that brings home trophies, she also offers ballet classes for young students in the afternoon and Zumba classes for middle-aged adults in the morning. She also teaches salsa dancing one evening a week for adults and, in private lessons, she teaches ballroom dancing, something she started learning at the age of 10.
Verega listens to Chris Brown and Missy Elliott at work as she updates paperwork before her students show up for afternoon lessons. Her taste in music is as wide-ranging as her dance moves.
“I listen to opera in the car,” she said.
Verega can’t slow down. She’s a former law student and a future book author. Besides running a business and training her dancers to perform for a camera in music videos, Verega travels to Los Angeles for work gigs. Her work contacts have traveled to Galveston to teach master classes, she said.
The heavy schedule still allows room for other time-consuming pursuits. Verega cooks homemade meals every night and is training to break a world record in planking, an isometric core strength exercise that involves maintaining a position similar to a push-up for the maximum possible time.
“Every day I have to do something that is a challenge,” she said.
At night, Verega also crochets. The stitches in the purses and bags she creates are tight and even, without gaps. The classic styles take the shape of expensive clutches. These are not awkward teenage attempts at a misshapened beach bag or a grandmother’s crooked baby blanket. These are precision pieces.
Verega began writing a motivational book to encourage her future readers to move on despite challenges, she said. When she was a girl, she was walking 2 miles home from a dance class in the approaching dark when dogs attacked her, she said. She fought them off, got up and went home. When she shares stories like that from her experience, it helps her students push through their own struggles, Verega said. She tries to instill in them they need to have goals, she said.
“You’ll never do it until you get up and do it,” she said.