by KELLEY GUSICH | photos by Lauren Nygard Photography

Ballroom Benefits

Carlsbad’s Own Steccaglia/Dexter Family Dances at Home and Abroad

Dance v. 1. To move rhythmically to music 2. Move in a quick and lively way


Giacomo Steccaglia and Melissa Dexter first sashayed into one another’s lives in Bournemouth, England. They were competing in the United Kingdom Ballroom Championships, and a world champion dance coach envisioned them dancing well together. The rest, as they say, is history. They are now United States and Italian Latin American Ballroom Dance Champions, and World Latin American Showcase Champions. They’ve both been dancing since they were children (Melissa was trained in classical ballet), and as adults they are paying it forward. The couple owns Dancessence Studios in Carlsbad, and are devoted to showing people of all ages the benefits of ballroom dancing.


Melissa and Giacomo travel the world as dancers, coaching other professionals, judging world class competitions, and lecturing.



Melissa and Giacomo travel the world as dancers, coaching other professionals, judging world class competitions, and lecturing. Their 9-year-old son, Hayden, had his own adventures on a trip to Japan. “Because of his long blonde hair and blue eyes, people liked to touch his hair and take pictures wherever we went,” Melissa laughed. “It was like traveling with a rock star.” When at home, they’ve volunteered at several schools in Carlsbad and Vista, in senior centers, after school programs and the Boys & Girls Club. Every year during National Ballroom Dance Week, they open up their school to the public for people to learn the art free of charge.


Born and raised in Arcola, Italy, Giacomo now takes Hayden back to Italy every year to spend time with his grandparents. Melissa was born in Berkeley and raised in Sonoma, but she spent ten years in Rome where Hayden was born. They’ve been in Carlsbad for six years now. “We love the open space,” Melissa shared. Hayden will be in 4th grade next year at the Kelly School, and besides being a blue belt in karate, he takes guitar. Will he follow in his parents’ footsteps? He’s also taking dance lessons!


The Stecagglia/Dexter family travels the world to share the art of the ballroom dance, so it might surprise people to know that home is their favorite place to be. They love ‘jammy day’, where everyone stays home all day and does nothing but play games. “That saying from The Wizard of Oz says it best,” Melissa confided, “there is no place like home, especially here in Carlsbad.”

Parents: Giacomo Steccaglia and Melissa Dexter
Child: Hayden Steccaglia (9, 4th grade at the Kelly School)
Community: Telescope Point since 2008
Parents’ Hometowns: Giacomo – Arcola, Italy; Melissa – Sonoma, California
Parents’ Occupations: Giacomo – Coach and judge in Competitive Ballroom Dancing, Melissa – Owner of Dancessense Studios in Carlsbad
Pet: Lenny the cat
Favorite Places to Visit in Carlsbad: Legoland, The Village, Dancessense Studios