New Woodlawn Lake dance studio, community center set to open

SAN ANTONIO – It’s said if Berta Almaguer were still here, the San Antonio dance instructor and cultural icon would be pleased with the new $6.6 million dance studio and community center about to re-open at Woodlawn Lake that is named after her.

A ribbon cutting and open house at 138 S. Josephine Tobin are set to begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

Mona Lisa Montgomery, a former cultural programs manager for SA Parks & Recreation, said, “Berta would just be very humble and say, ‘Thank you very much for allowing me to do this work, and thank you for continuing to share it for the kids.’”

Almaguer began what is now the oldest-running municipal dance program in the country 88 years ago.

Montgomery, a dancer herself, said after she retired, she made it her personal mission to honor Berta Almaguer and her legacy.

She said many in the community were upset over the demolition of the city-owned dance studio because they feared the beloved historic landmark would be lost and were unsure what would replace it.

The city said the original studio, which was built in the 1950s and had been a fishing club, developed serious foundation issues.

Yet in approving the demolition in 2019, the Historic Design and Review Commission specified ways to help preserve its past, including not changing its name.

Now doubled in size to 9,900 square feet, the cost of the facility was covered by $5 million from the 2017 bond and a $1.6 million Texas Parks and Wildlife grant, as well as other funds.

Sara Sharp, parks and recreation manager, said she’s seen people with tears in their eyes after visiting the facility.

“They couldn’t believe just how beautiful it was,” Sharp said. “The colors, the space, the spots for the students, the changing rooms, the updated technology.”

As a community center, Sharp said, it will be a gathering place for everyone from seniors to toddlers and families.

“It’s like the crown jewel now of this neighborhood,” Sharp said.

Montgomery said, “It’s much more than I ever envisioned.”

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