Tuesday February 20, 2007 3:18 PM

Inside the Dancers Studio

Rockets Power Dancer Vanessa visits with Rockets.com

Name: Vanessa
Age: 25
Hometown: Pharr, Tex.
Occupation: Dance instructor
Alma Mater: PSJA High School, University of Texas-Pan American
Degree: Bachelor of Dance
Seasons as RPD: Second

Rockets.com: Why did you want to become a Rockets Power Dancer?
Vanessa: I have been dancing most my life and I always dreamed of dancing on a professional dance team.

Rockets.com: Are you a big basketball fan?
Vanessa: I love watching sports. I just can't play them. I have become an even bigger fan since I started dancing for the Rockets. But I have to say basketball is my second favorite sport behind football.

Rockets.com: What has been your favorite moment, so far, as a Rockets Power Dancer?
Vanessa: There have been millions of great memories formed with the Power Dancers, but I do have two that top the charts.
The first is last year's NBA All-Star weekend. We were a part of all the events, from the Jam sessions to games and we got to be a part of the halftime show that included John Legend and Carrie Underwood. Never in my life have I been surrounded by so many celebrities at once, much less performing for them. The other favorite moment with RPD would be the military tour to Europe we took at the beginning of this season. We had the opportunity to visit and entertain our troops overseas in Bosnia, Kosovo and England. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip that I will never forget. We toured of military bases, got up close to weaponry, put on camouflage makeup and saw helicopters and Blackhawk copters up close. Aside from touring London and spending my birthday in Vienna, the most unexpected surprise was seeing my cousin Pete in Kosovo. He had previously served with the Marines and was overseas with the Army as a Lieutenant and Battle Captain. Much to his surprise, he saw his baby cousin on stage with the Rockets Power Dancers!

Rockets.com: What was your experience like in the photo shoot for the RPD calendar?
Vanessa: The photo shoot was a lot of fun this year! We were all a little worried and self- conscious when we heard it was a bikini calendar, but the staff did a great job of making us comfortable. They found suits that complimented us, found good locations, and helped us deal with the weather since the shoot was in December. The calendar was our chance to show our fans a little more of our personality. I think it was a huge success and we were all happy with our pictures.

Rockets.com: Have you had any embarrassing moments as an RPD?
Vanessa: Yes, of course. We have them all the time, but we are trained to cover them up. Last season, I accidentally hit an announcer with a T-Shirt during a T-Shirt toss.

: What has been your favorite dance routine through the first two months of the season?
Vanessa: My favorite dance routine, hands down, would have to be "Proud Mary." It is such a high-energy song and we get to change into our fringe top and character shoes. With our hair flying everywhere, it is a lot of fun.

Rockets.com: Why haven't you been dunking with the dunking dancers this season?
Vanessa: I just want to say that I have a lot of respect for our dunking dancers. We started dunking last year and my favorite was dunking and hanging on the rim. Unfortunately, I got injured after a bad run where I came crashing down on the trampoline. I was happy it wasn't during a game, but not happy about having to receive stitches for the first time. And for the record, I just want to say I am very proud for all the power dancers because every single one of us have been brave enough to try it, even if we don't do it on the court!

: Besides being a RPD, what do you do for a living?
Vanessa: Right now, I am working at a dance store. I also teach a salsa class downtown. I am hoping to use my certified degree to start teaching by the next school year.

Rockets.com: Do you ever get recognized in public as an RPD?
Vanessa: I have been recognized in public, sometimes it's very random and unexpected, but it feels nice to know that our Rockets fans remember us and we are a part of that game experience. I love it when it's little girls because I can see myself in their shoes a few years back.

Rockets.com: What do you do in your free time, if you have any?
Vanessa: If I have a lot of free time, I take advantage and drive down to the valley (South Texas) to spend time with my family. But that doesn't happen often with our busy schedule. I enjoy watching movies or working out with my boyfriend and friends. We have actually started taking part in marathons around the Houston area, the latest have been UNCF, Jingle Bell Run, Houston Press Smart Financial 5k and, of course, the Rockets Run. Coming up, I'll be in the Conoco Phillips 10k and maybe a few half-marathons or triathlons. I will definitely be in the Houston half-marathon next year.

Rockets.com: Do you have a favorite activity?
Vanessa: Other than dancing, I enjoy jogging, watching movies and going to church. Anything that's spiritually fulfilling, keeps me moving, active, healthy, inspired, motivated and happy.

Rockets.com: What is your favorite sports team?

Rockets.com: What is the greatest movie ever?
Vanessa: I couldn't pick just one! But there are a few that I watch over and over again: Over the Hedge, Mean Girls, Miss Congeniality, Fools Rush In, Along Came Polly, The Illusionist, Nemo, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, The Notebook, Dirty Dancing and Grease. I'm still forgetting a million others.

Rockets.com: How about the best restaurant?
Vanessa: I love food and my favorite restaurants depend on what food I'm eating. But my list would include IHOP, TGI Friday's, Jason's Deli, Bennigan's and P.F. Changs.

Rockets.com: If you could have dinner with anyone on the planet, who would it be and why?
Vanessa: I really am not a fanatic and I think celebrities are regular people who make a lot of money. If I could have dinner with anyone on the planet, it would be with my family, friends and the people I love and admire.

Rockets.com: Where do you want to travel and why?
Vanessa: I would love to go to Hawaii, New York, the Bahamas, the Holy Land, China, Paris, and Spain. I've been lucky enough to travel in Mexico, but I've only been to Louisiana and Florida so there are still a lot of places I would love to see. Some just to experience their beauty, some for their history and others for their dance and art.

Rockets.com: What do you expect to be doing 10 years from now?
Vanessa: I can see myself being very happy. I want to be healthy, married, starting a family, successful, dancing and teaching dance.