Photo by Rachel Neville, courtesy Jasmine Cruz

2020 Cover Model Search Finalist Jasmine Cruz

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What's the dance equivalent of perfect pitch? Whatever it is, Jasmine Cruz has it. The 18-year-old is immediately attuned to the nuances of any piece of choreography, whether it's a harmonious classical variation or a strikingly discordant contemporary solo. And since Jasmine is blessed with gorgeous facility, she's a virtuoso in command of an extraordinary instrument.

Jasmine honed her dance "ear" at Westlake School for the Performing Arts in Daly City, CA. As a teeny kid, she followed her older sister into classes. "My teachers say that I used to roll up in my stroller and say, 'I want to do a solo!' " she remembers. She continues to train at Westlake today, under the guidance of mentor Irene Liu.

Though she initially studied ballet, tap, and jazz, Jasmine fell hardest for ballet, entering Westlake's pre-professional ballet program at age 9. From the beginning, she competed regularly, and the pressure and thrill of the competition stage helped her figure out who she was as an artist. "Competitions became a huge part of my life," she says. "They got me out of the mirror, and taught me how to speak to an audience and harness my adrenaline." The accolades piled up quickly: Not only has Jasmine been named National Mini, Teen, and Junior Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance, but she's also earned high-level awards at Youth America Grand Prix, World Ballet Competition, and ADC|IBC.

Photo by Rachel Neville, courtesy Jasmine

It's a brilliant resumé, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Jasmine has struggled with injuries, including a spiral fracture in her tibia that required months of recovery. "As a dancer, you always want to push yourself, but it was challenging for me to find a balance, to push without going past the point of exhaustion," she says. "I've had to learn to be smarter about taking care of myself."

She's also had people discourage her from pursuing ballet professionally. "I'm 5 feet tall and very muscular—not your typical 'ideal' ballet body, and some have said that classical ballet is out of my reach," she says. But Jasmine isn't deterred. (In fact, she already received an offer from Ballet San Antonio.) "I have a lot to give, and these days, there are many companies more accepting of different body types," she says. "Misty Copeland, the first brown ballerina that I saw, is also very petite, and I've always thought that if she can do it, I can do it. I'm of Filipino heritage, and I hope to bring awareness to that, too. I want to help diversify the dance community."

This fall, Jasmine will enroll at the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, where she'll add yet more tones to her dance voice. Her ultimate goal? To join a classical troupe that will appreciate her uniqueness. "My dream company is English National Ballet, because I feel like there's no prototype there, no specific look you need to have," she says. "It's really just, 'Can you dance? Are you an artist?' " She can, and she is.

"What makes Jasmine special is her versatility as a technician, and her fearlessness. She has a combination of charisma and power that draws you in. Her strength allows her to be truly free onstage." —Irene Liu, faculty member at Westlake School for the Performing Arts

Photo by Rachel Neville, courtesy Jasmine

Fast Facts

Birthday: January 31, 2002

Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Favorite dancer of all time: "Maria Kochetkova was a big inspiration growing up. Alina Cojocaru, too—I used to glue myself to the TV, watching the video of her as Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. And Misty Copeland, of course."

Favorite food: "I love noodles. All kinds."

Weirdest thing in her dance bag: "I have a lot of 'foot paws,' these bright yellow half-circles with straps, that stretch out the back of your leg. They look like torture devices."

Dance crush: "That changes depending on the video I'm watching, or the Instagram post."

Her dancing in three emojis:

Best advice she's ever received: " 'Dance with no regrets.' It's a cliché, but it's true, and it's become my motto. My solo last year was even set to 'Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.' "

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