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Meet Bernadette Torres of Happy Hour Pilates and Wellness in Chula Vista

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bernadette Torres.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Bernadette. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was born and raised in San Diego to a CPA and Engineer who created a Ballerina. From a young age, I knew what I wanted to be and what my next goal was. At the age of three, I told my mother I wanted to be a ballerina. She was stunned as she didn’t even know I knew what a ballerina was. Nevertheless, my mom enrolled me in my first ballet class, some years later, at a Parks and Recreation center. However, that experience was very short lived as my desire to become a ballerina was intensifying. My parents then decided to enroll me in a couple well known studios in the San Diego area from age 8-17.

My childhood was filled with countless hours of dance, and that was just how I liked it. There wasn’t much time outside of regular school and dance to hang out with friends, however, I was very driven and hungry to achieve my goal of becoming a Principal Ballerina. There is often talk of sacrifices in endeavors such as mine, however, I never saw ballet as a sacrifice because ballet was what I dreamed of and all I wanted to do. I was taught to work hard, be patient, and have hope.

I was happy to see my hard work starting to pay off when I was accepted to attend several world-renowned ballet summer intensives at Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), American Ballet Theatre- New York (ABT), Houston Ballet, and Hubbard Street Dance. I received a scholarship to Houston Ballet for their year-round school program and a trainee position with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. In addition, under the mentorship and coaching of Ahita Ardelan (of the Les Ballet de Monte Carlo and Paris Opera Ballet), I competed at the Youth America Grand Prix Finals in New York, as well as, the World Ballet Competition Finals in Orlando, Florida.

Once I turned 17, I was hit with a decision to make. Do I remain in a ballet school or do I accept a company contract? At this age, most kids are trying to figure out what college to attend. While I did attend online courses at Southwestern College (SWC), it took me longer to complete my AA in Accounting with Honors from SWC, and it wasn’t until later that I finally earned my Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration-Management from San Diego State University. While it’s not as common for professional dancers to go to college, I knew that I not only wanted to be a professional dancer, but also an entrepreneur.

I signed my first contract at the age 17 and quickly rose through the ranks to Principal with the California Ballet by the age of 22. I was able to perform some of the roles I had always dreamed of such as, Kitri in Don Quixote; Gamzatti in La Bayadere; Lucy In Dracula; Sugarplum, Snow Queen, Dewdrop, and Arabian in The Nutcracker; Waltz Soloist in Les Sylphides; Grand Pas Classique; Odette, Odile, Pas de Trois, Big Swan in Swan Lake; Raymonda in Raymonda; Fairy Godmother in Cinderella; Sleeping Beauty and Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty; Medora, Gulnare, and Odalisque in Le Corsaire; Esmeralda in Esmeralda; Paquita in Paquita; Concerto Barocco, Serenade, and several other original classical, modern, and contemporary works.

I was a dancer, dance captain, and assistant choreographer with the San Diego Opera, working with the company for over 10 years. I have choreographed several original works for various dance companies, schools, and competitions, and I have been a guest judge in Italy and the USA. As a guest dancer, I had the opportunity to perform and build friendships with many fellow Principal dancers from around the world including Maia Makhateli, Artur Shesterikov, Yolanda Correa Frias, Yoel Carreno, Gennadi Saveliev, Cory Stearns, Adeline Pastor, and Alen Bottaini, among several others. I performed in several international galas within the United States and Europe, receiving the “Riconoscimento al Talento” and the “Riconoscimento alla Carriera” awards in Italy. Being a guest dancer is really a fun, tiring, yet incredibly exciting experience that teaches you a lot.

As a professional dancer, I was constantly seeking ways of being better than I was the previous season. This is when I was fully introduced to Pilates as a form of cross training. I have a hyper-mobile body which is both a blessing and a pain as I really have to work on strengthening rather than stretching. I decided to train at my friend’s studio, and it was there that I really started my journey as a Pilates practitioner, enthusiast, and instructor.

In Spring of 2014, I decided to earn my Pilates Certification from BASI (Body Arts and Science International) Pilates, completing the Comprehensive Teacher Training Course under BASI founder, Rael Isacowitz. Rael and Sheri Long, my BASI Mentor, inspired me and continue to inspire me to this day in so many ways. They gave me the gift of Pilates, and I will forever be grateful to them.

I often say, “To be a great teacher, you must continue to be a great student”. Only through failure and growth, can we achieve greatness. I am proud to say that my expertise includes not only 20+ years of Ballet training and instruction, combined, but also expertise in Pilates for the Overweight Client, Pilates for the Rehabilitating Client, Pilates for the Mature Client, Pilates for Scoliosis, Pilates for Kids, Pilates for Men, The F2 System, and the APPI (Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute) Mat Course, a rehabilitation Pilates based program. I am active in not only the Ballet but also the Pilates community having attended several conferences, workshops, and events, such as, BASI LFTL 2019 and the PMA Conference 2019. In addition, this year, I was asked to join the BASI Systems team as an Affiliate and Consultant. I strive for continuous improvement and fresh innovative ideas by furthering my education annually in both Ballet and Pilates. Furthermore, I hold a certification in Pilates for Pregnancy and Beyond, Pilates for Injuries and Pathologies, Progressing Ballet Technique, the Royal Ballet School Teacher Training- Continuing Education Webinars, and Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/ AED from the American Red Cross, and I am currently a NASM-CPT candidate, and completing my Pilates Masters.

Has it been a smooth road?
No. I doubt anyone has a smooth road in life. I have experienced many challenges as a child, teen, and adult. However, for the sake of this interview, I will stick to those challenges related to my career. Since the age six I have experienced verbal, emotional, and mental bullying from classmates, teachers, parents, and colleagues. I was a good student, always respectful, quite, and hard working. Yet, early on, I knew that I had to go through these hard times to achieve my dream. My first encounter with bullying was at age six when a classmate came up to me and said she was having a birthday party and I wasn’t invited because she didn’t like me. Well, that crushed six year old me because I was a new student and didn’t understand what I did to make her dislike me so much and so quickly.

From there it only got worse. As a child, I had parents corner me, yelling at me in the dressing rooms, hid my costumes during Nutcracker quick changes, and go into my dance bag and cut up my clothes. My peers would talk behind my back and spread rumors and scribble nasty words and images on pictures of me. As a teen, I had teachers yell at me, embarrassing me, in front of my peers and other adults for reasons I couldn’t understand. I was not allowed to show emotions, whether sad or tired or in pain. One teacher, in fact, told me when I was having tremendous pain in my feet, “So what? What do you want me to do about it? Keep going”, while blood visibly was seeping through my pointe shoes. I spent my teen years worrying constantly about pleasing my teachers and hoping they would be in a good mood that day. As an adult, I had a colleague tell me, “It’s so hard to hate you”. In addition, I had various other colleagues spread rumors, and even go to directors to try and get them upset with me or take roles away from me because they wanted my role.

Looking back, I sincerely wonder how I made it through at times. Besides having an incredibly supportive family through it all, Ballet was my outlet. Ballet was where I could get rid of the pain and express it in the studio or on stage through the various roles I portrayed. I even recall crying onstage one performance because of how deeply I got into my character. Ballet was my escape.

While there are numerous other accounts that are not mentioned above, I am proud of how strong I have been along with many others out there in my career who have experience the same if not worse. I believe that out of every negative there is a positive. For me all of this only made me more resilient and focused on my dancing. Today, it is my goal to be the person I needed when I was a student, for my students and clients of both ballet and Pilates.

We’d love to hear more about Happy Hour Pilates and Wellness.
Happy Hour Pilates and Wellness (HHPW) is a home studio known for providing the highest caliber Pilates instruction through the use of the BASI Pilates Method. We focus on each clients well-being, proper technique, and individual growth. HHPW is a comfortable, supportive, and welcoming studio open to people of all ages and abilities. We believe that Pilates is for everyone and anyone!

Due to my expertise and certifications, I am able to work with dancers, athletes, those with scoliosis, kids, pregnant and post pregnant ladies, those who are elderly, and the those who are injured or have had surgeries, to name a few. I have spent my whole life in the physical fitness world, both as an athlete and instructor. At HHPW, our focus is on the body in front of us. It is our goal to make sure you walk out of the studio feeling better than when you walked in, and to have that feeling not just for the day but for the rest of your life. In fact, I am working with a new client right now. This client, in her late twenties, has had chronic hip pain for years. After 8 sessions she starting smiling. She told me, “I was able to go up and down the stairs without pain.” We have been working for two months now and she tells me each session how she cannot believe what this work has done for her. This is why I teach Pilates and this is what I’m most proud of with HHPW. To see the smile and witness the changes my clients feel is the best feeling. The joy I feel when I see the material sink in for clients is unparalleled. You really have to try Pilates to understand it, and once you do you will wonder why you didn’t start sooner.

Additionally, I recently started a Ballet Program, in Eastlake, Chula Vista, with my husband, Carlo Di Dio, in August. As former Principal ballet dancers, it is our goal to shape and mentor the next generation of aspiring professional ballet dancers. Are focus is on quality physical training, in addition to focusing on each student’s mental and emotional health. Students should be strong not only in body but in mind, learning how to be autonomous. Check out our new program via our Instagram and Facebook pages! @brntorres @carlo_di_dio.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Absolutely! San Diego has a great market for Pilates and fitness in general. I think San Diegans care a great deal about their health and wellness. We live in one of the most beautiful cities in the country, with access to the beach, mountains, valleys, and deserts for plenty of activity all year long. People are constantly looking for ways to have an edge up on what-ever their hobby may be. Pilates can definitely do that for them.

San Diego is a great city for entrepreneurs. Sure some industries may be a little more saturated than others, however, that only gives you an opportunity to become more innovative and perhaps even better. I think San Diego and its people embrace small businesses. This is just one of the things that makes our city so diverse and beautiful.

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