Island University Student Goes Pro with Houston Rockets Clutch City Dancers

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Lissa Beth ’23 is following her dreams of dancing in the big leagues after earning a spot on the NBA Houston Rockets Clutch City Dancers. Islander by day and Rocket by night, Beth has transitioned from a traditional student to a fully online student at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Science in University Studies with a focus in biology.

Beth began her studies at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in spring 2020 after first attending Central Methodist University in Missouri. Beth, a Texas native, said attending the Island University was a choice that not only brought her closer to her dreams, but also to her family.

“The pandemic brought a lot of uncertainty and I wanted to be closer to my loved ones,” Beth said. “The Island University immediately caught my attention — from the beautiful campus, wide variety of course offerings, right down to the Corpus Christi community — it instantly felt like home.”

Upon enrollment, Beth wasted no time and auditioned to join the Islander Dance Team. After making the team, she performed regularly at university events like Islander Lights and volleyball and basketball games. Beth then earned the role of team captain during the 2021-2022 season and was also a founding member of the TAMU-CC Dance Company.

“Dancing with the team was an experience unlike anything else. It was alongside my fellow Islander dancers that I began to feel like the court was my home,” Beth said. “Performing at the American Bank Center was a thrill and the large stadium excited me. I was so happy to not only perform for the crowd but to interact with the community during each appearance and event.”

Beth started dancing when she was just three years old. As a child, she said she spent hours training after school and attended dance clinics at the Joffrey Texas Ballet School, the University of North Carolina School of Performing Arts, and Sam Houston State University. She said those endless training hours taught her time management, a skill she uses to stay on track with her dance and school obligations.

“My days are pretty nonstop right now,” Beth said. “In the moments that I’m not taking online classes or studying, I am training to be the athlete that I want to be.”

Beth said it was the Islanders Men’s Basketball historic appearance in the 2022 NCAA March Madness Tournament that inspired her to take her talents to the next level.

“At the time of March Madness, I had just heard about an opening on the Clutch City Dance Team, but I was still unsure of my next move,” Beth said. “Performing at the NCAA Tournament was the turning point that finalized my decision. It was my first experience performing in front of thousands of basketball fans in Ohio. The energy I felt in that arena was electric.”

Following the NCAA Tournament, Beth was invited to attend a summer training camp alongside a cohort of former Rocket’s dancers. There, she said, she built the courage to attend try-outs. 

“To be completely honest, I was in shock the second I found out I made the team,” Beth said. “I could not believe that my lifelong dream of being an NBA dancer for my home state came true. I get to work with the best dance coaches in the NBA who have given me so much perspective. My teammates inspire me and it’s a true sisterhood. I am still so overwhelmingly grateful for every second I get to spend on that court.”

Beth said she credits her success to her support team including her parents and her dance professors at the Island University. 

“All of my dance professors have had such a profound impact on my life,” Beth said. “I call my them my powerhouse trio ­— Kathleen Burrill, Jilissa Cotten, and Sarah Gonzalez. They have inspired me to work harder and dance bigger, their support has been incredible.”

Sarah Gonzalez, TAMU-CC Assistance Professor of Dance, said Beth is a strong example of Islander success.

“Lissa is a force, both in the classroom as a student, and as a professional performer,” Gonzalez said. “As one of the founding members of the TAMU-CC Dance Company, she helped establish a standard for future TAMU-CC dancers who also wish to pursue a career as a performer. Even while serving in her new role with the Clutch City Dancers, she has continued to be a wonderful presence in the Islander community and in the dance program here at TAMU-CC.”

Beth said her early career success has motivated her to inspire others to hone their confidence, dream big, and take a chance.

“My Islander Impact is inspiring others to do what they love and to not settle on what is only expected. The opportunity to be a Clutch City Dancer is so rare and has shaped me to adopt the mentality that the world is full of infinite opportunities,” Beth said. “Most of the time, I find that people subconsciously limit themselves. My advice — just go for it, block out the self-doubt or any external noise and get to work.”

Beth, who is excited to walk the stage and receive her diploma this spring, said she hopes to utilize her experience to share her passion for dance with others through teaching.

“My motivation to keep dancing and teach others is fueled by one thing — love,” Beth said. “Love intensifies the great moments in our lives and picks us up when we need it most. I have a pure love for dance, and I hope to continue dancing professionally while utilizing my degree to find career opportunities that are purposeful and fulfilling.”