Photo by Rachel Neville

Jasmine Cruz is Your 2020 Cover Model Search Winner!

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?

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.

Officially a high school graduate! (Courtesy Jasmine Cruz)

How did you keep up your technique in quarantine?

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!

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.

Jasmine training at home (courtesy Jasmine Cruz)

During the voting period, you had huge support from all over the world. What was that like?

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.

Jasmine celebrating her USC acceptance (courtesy Jasmine Cruz)

What are your goals for the coming year?

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?" [She laughs.] 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.

What's your advice for Cover Model Search hopefuls?

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.

Photo by Rachel Neville

Dear readers,

This experience as a Dance Spirit Cover Model Search finalist has been nothing but amazing! Thank you all so much. I want to give a huge thank-you to the Dance Spirit staff for being so kind and caring to me and my fellow finalists. Even though this year's trip couldn't happen, the contest was still so special—it's truly been a dream. I appreciate everyone who voted, commented, shared, and posted during the voting period. I want to give a huge shout-out to my dance studio, Westlake School for the Performing Arts, and my mentors, Ms. Irene, Ms. Tina, and Ms. Malu. I have nothing but love for you all! I also want to thank organizations near and far—including Youth America Grand Prix, California Dance Classics, Pinoy Ballet, Só Bailarinos, and New York City Dance Alliance—for being so supportive. Lastly, the biggest thank-you goes to my family and friends for all their love and efforts to vote and share. This has been a heart-warming experience that I'll never forget!



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