Once in a long while, the Dance Spirit team meets a dancer who seems to have had it together since birth. When we first noticed Jasmine Cruz, nearly a decade ago, she was a tiny dynamo with dazzling ballet facility and striking self-possession. Over the years, we've watched her grow into a versatile, thoughtful artist, building on and deepening those innate gifts. From the beginning, she seemed destined for stardom; now, thanks to her countless hours of hard work—and your thousands upon thousands of votes!—she's a Dance Spirit cover star.
We're thrilled to celebrate Jasmine as our 2020 Cover Model Search winner. Just before she began her freshman year at the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, Jasmine caught us up on how she danced through a summer in quarantine—and her goals, dance-related and otherwise, for the future.
What have you been up to since we last spoke?<p>Well, I graduated high school, so that was exciting! I also officially committed to USC. Earlier in the year, I got an offer from Ballet San Antonio, and I was really leaning towards taking it. But in quarantine, I had a lot of time to think, and I realized that I wasn't quite ready for company life. USC has an amazing program, and I won't be confined to a single pathway there. I want to pick up a minor in kinesiology, maybe psychology—having those options really started to excite me. And we don't know when we'll be able to get back into theaters and put on shows, so college felt like a better place for me right now.</p>
Officially a high school graduate! (Courtesy Jasmine Cruz)
How did you keep up your technique in quarantine?<p>I took daily online classes to stay in shape, and was able to dive into the virtual convention world as a New York City Dance Alliance Outstanding Dancer. I rearranged my house so many times trying to find dance space! For a little bit my studio was in the backyard, on the deck, and then I starting cracking the deck boards with my pointe shoes and all the jumping. Later in the summer, my dad built me a studio in my garage with a DIY sprung floor and some marley. But my garage is actually slightly raked, so I was dancing on a raked stage—sideways! </p><p><span></span>It wasn't all bad, though. I do think quarantine taught me how to grow within myself, and not have to rely on exterior motivation. In the studio, you're so inspired by others, and I didn't realize how much of a push that was for me.</p>
Jasmine training at home (courtesy Jasmine Cruz)
During the voting period, you had huge support from all over the world. What was that like?<p>It was really sweet and heartwarming—a chance to reconnect with a lot of people. I had especially incredible support from the Philippines, which is something I'm so proud of. My family is from there—my mom and dad grew up there, and I've gone back multiple times to do galas and festivals—but sometimes I feel detached from that part of myself, because I grew up in America. This felt like a chance to represent the Filipino community. To see them support me so openly, and to serve as an inspiration to them, was amazing.</p>
Jasmine celebrating her USC acceptance (courtesy Jasmine Cruz)
What are your goals for the coming year?<p>I want to diversify myself as a dancer. A lot of people know me as "Jasmine the ballet person"—at convention, it's always like, "What variation are you doing this weekend?" <em>[She laughs.] </em>But at Kaufman, I'm excited to take repertory classes from amazing choreographers and learn different styles. I'm also excited to grow academically. I always thought that dance would be my career forever, but the pandemic made me realize I needed to grow beyond my identity as a dancer, and find other things I'm passionate about. </p>
What's your advice for Cover Model Search hopefuls?<p>Don't be afraid to submit a video. It can feel intimidating—I grew up seeing all these people that I admired do it, and I remember thinking "I don't know..." But just go for it! You never know what might happen. And if you do become a finalist, take in every moment, all the love that comes your way. Because it's nothing but love.</p>
Photo by Rachel Neville
We all know the feeling: You wake up the day after class or rehearsal just to find that you literally. cannot. move. To answer all your burning (pun intended!) questions about the way-too-relatable topic of soreness, Dance Spirit enlisted the experts: board-certified sports medicine specialist Dr. Selina Shah, and Michelle Rodriguez, MPT and physical therapist to Broadway shows like Carousel and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
What even is soreness?<p>If you're working extra hard—taking more classes than usual, or dancing a super-"puffy" piece—your body's normal aerobic metabolism (how it uses oxygen to produce energy) can get overwhelmed. That's when anaerobic metabolism kicks in—producing lactic acid and metabolic toxins. "This buildup of lactic acid and other toxins isn't harmful or abnormal," says Rodriguez. "But once it reaches a certain level, you'll experience soreness."</p>
How can you prevent it?<p><span style="background-color: initial;">Because it's chemical buildup in your muscles that makes you feel sore, the key to minimizing the ouch is to flush these chemicals out sooner rather than later. "For some dancers, getting on a stationary bike for five minutes with no resistance can make a difference," says Rodriguez. You might also try self-massage, icing, or </span><span style="background-color: initial;">baths (see sidebar). Otherwise, Shah says to make sure you're taking time to warm up properly: "Doing a little bit of light cardio</span> <span style="background-color: initial;">and literally warming up the muscle should </span><span style="background-color: initial;">ease your discomfort."</span></p><p>If you've ever been so sore that you couldn't walk on the second or third day of a summer intensive, you've experienced firsthand the importance of what dance-medicine professionals call "ramping up." While taking breaks should be part of any year-round training regimen, you don't want to go straight from not dancing at all to dancing eight hours a day. "Soreness occurs when muscles have gotten weaker and aren't used to working that hard that fast," says Shah. A week or two before your intensive, start to gradually increase the amount of physical activity you're getting each day.</p>
What if it's not just soreness?<p>Don't freak out, but it's important to keep in mind that some overuse injuries can feel like soreness that just doesn't. go. away. Pay attention to how long you've been feeling sore, says Rodriguez: "Delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, can happen within six to eight hours, and last for 48 to 72 hours. After that, if you're still pretty sore, you should get seen by a medical professional."</p><p>Also pay attention to where you're feeling sore. "Usually it's muscles that make you feel sore, but tendons also can," says Shah. Ligaments and bones can't get sore—so if you feel like that's where the pain is coming from, get it checked out.</p>
Is soreness inevitable?<p>In short, yes. "Soreness isn't necessarily a sign that something's wrong," says Rodriguez. Nor is it a badge of honor: "Soreness is just a marker of how strong or fit that particular muscle is in that particular dancer at that particular moment in time," says Shah. "You may get sore in some areas where your friends don't, and vice versa." If you take good care of your body, though, you'll be able to minimize the pain enough to dance full-out—even on the sore days.</p>
The Dancer's Soreness Toolkit<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzMDUxNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Njg2MDUxNn0.rChDAejOPUap8xuS1xcVcCG8IONj4YPbcxzLJAEoxTQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="9b0d2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3dd563f5e167df9f9ede1d2d4ec7b0f9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Getty Images<p><strong></strong><strong>Massage!</strong> Foam rolling can feel a <span style="background-color: initial;">little too intense to muscles that are already sore, says Dr. Selina Shah, so don't roll out until a day or two after you first feel sore. Michelle Rodriguez, MPT, recommends gently kneading your own muscle tissue after a soreness-inducing day.</span></p><p><strong>Stretching!</strong> Stretching is most beneficial at the end of class or rehearsal, when muscles are warm, says Shah.</p><p><strong>Strategic breaktime!</strong> "If you don't need to run to the bathroom during your five-minute break, lie on the floor with your butt up against the wall, and put your legs straight up on the wall," suggests Rodriguez. "You can then do little ankle pumps to flush out your legs."</p><p><strong>#Bathleisure!</strong> "Try alternating between hot baths and ice baths," suggests Shah. The circulation boost caused by the change in temperature will help ease soreness.</p><p><strong>Hydration! Sleep! Electrolytes!</strong> Enough said.</p>
Niana Guerrero is only 14, but she already boasts 12.6 million TikTok followers—the kind of internet fanbase most people twice her age can only dream of. Of course, keeping up with her millions (and millions, and millions) of fans isn't easy. We spent a day with Niana to see what it really takes to be a TikTok star. —As told to Cadence Neenan