Week 8: Maria
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Not surprisingly, most Power Dancers will tell you that dancing has been in their blood for a long time. That’s not the case for RPD member Maria. While she loves to dance and is currently a dance instructor, Maria didn’t fully discover dance until college. It was another art form that led her to minoring in dance and theater at the University of Texas.
“I minored in dance and theater because I knew I loved performing,” says Maria. “Being an artist and being creative. I was involved in stage acting in both high school and college—theater is where I feel the heart of acting is done, and I enjoyed my time there.”
It was another sort of expression that Maria spent the majority of her time on in college. While she loved to perform, Maria also enjoyed writing, which led her to the communications field.
“Journalism and public relations appealed to the writer in me,” Maria said. “I actually spent a lot of time in the advertising/PR world when I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin—from when I lived in NYC for three years to when I moved back to Houston in 2001. For a while, I had one foot in the advertising world and one foot in the dance world.”
Ultimately, her more creative side took over, and that has led her to what she loves doing today.
“More recently, I’ve been involved with teaching Pilates and promotional modeling,” Maria said. “In 2003, I decided to have my own dance collective and taught dance/creative movement in the Houston community. That was really rewarding for me as I was able to collaborate with several of my friends in the dance community on different dance projects.”
As you can imagine with the recent Pilates craze, Maria has been busy, and she knows whom to thank for a recent upswing in an activity that has actually been around quite some time.
“I love Pilates and I enjoy sharing it with others as an instructor here in Houston,” Maria said. “Pilates seems to have recently made the celebrity workout lists, but Joseph Pilates introduced his movement system (also known as Contrology) way early in the 20th century. I think it’s been a modern hit with people because it boasts strength, stability and stretch without bulk. Granted, celebrities have helped to recently ‘trendify’ Pilates among the masses, but the truth is that dancers, athletes and other movers/performers have been doing Pilates for much longer.”
While Pilates didn’t lead her to RPD, her dance instruction did. Maria wanted to try out for RPD for the past few years, but this past season was the first time she thought she could devote enough time to the team.
“I became aware of RPD through my dance experience with an urban dance company in Houston,” Maria said. “Several of the dancers in that company performed with the Rockets or Comets. I personally wanted to try out as an RPD from 2001 to 2004, but the timing for me seemed to be out of sync with my life path. Sometimes the universe’s timing or God’s timing is the best because four years later, I tried out for RPD and I made it.”
One thing that every member of RPD enjoys doing is touching the community. Maria is no different. She especially enjoys working with children.
“One of my favorite dance projects (outside of RPD) was working for the Children’s Prison Arts Project, a nonprofit that focuses on sharing the performing and visual arts with youth in juvenile detention facilities,” Maria said. “That was an amazing opportunity to see the power of dance, theater and the fine arts impact a young person’s life.
“I see that same impact that RPD makes on young people’s lives whenever we go to appearances to benefit youth organizations or whenever I’m walking down the halls and I meet performance groups of children. We really do play a role in young people’s lives in Houston—everything from dance, to staying in school and believing in your dreams.”
Maria isn’t willing to say what tomorrow will bring, let alone next season, but she’s not ruling out returning in 2006-07 for a second season. If she does, it will probably be in large part due to the support she receives from her fellow Rockets Power Dancers.
“What has surprised me about being a part of this team is the support we have for each other,” Maria said. “I had never been involved in cheerleading, drill team or dance as a child, but being on this team brings out the best with what you have to offer as a dancer and as a person, so I feel valued along with my RPD sisters.”
And don’t think Maria doesn’t enjoy game days. She says there are few experiences in her life that compare to running out of the tunnel prior to the Rockets player introductions, though she almost likes the Toyota T-shirt toss as much.
“There’s a rush element in both for me,” Maria said. “When I’m back there and the lights are down and all you hear on the loudspeaker is ‘3, 2, 1…’ and we run out—my gosh, there is nothing in the world that I’ve experienced that compares to that, not even the best roller coaster ride. And then T-shirt toss is a fun rush. You’ve got the fans on their feet, screaming for a rolled-up Rockets shirt, and it’s just fun trying to throw far enough to them. During one of my earlier games this season, I remember Dikembe Mutombo asked me for a couple of shirts so he could help throw them, too. I thought that was pretty neat for one of my first-game experiences!”
Maria’s had many game experiences since then and will soon wrap up her rookie year. You can catch Maria and the rest of RPD at Rockets home games and at appearances throughout Houston.