Heidi Cruz-Austin

Assistant Professor, Dance
Theatre & Dance
Baker Center for the Arts



M.F.A., dance, The University of the Arts

Teaching Interests

I’m forever grateful for my career as a ballet dancer and use my unique experiences as a constant source of self-awareness and humility. These opportunities have profoundly shaped my outlook and as a result, my approach to teaching is anchored by two main focus areas: the environment of the class and my presentation of ballet. I arrived at my teaching perspective through the reflection of my 35-year involvement in ballet as a student, professional dancer, company director, and instructor.

When a student walks into my class they can expect to be seen. My success in teaching a class is greatly enhanced when I can create an environment of trust. My spirit of service and understanding connects me to everyone in the room. Good communication allows me an opportunity to hold attention with the understanding that growth happens where attention meets effort. Preferring the identity of a mentor to a teacher, I practice guiding students to make more of their own choices and allow them room to make mistakes and learn from them.


Research, Scholarship or Creative/Artistic Interests

Ballet is a beautiful art form steeped in many traditions and aesthetics that for many have been accompanied by barriers and obstacles. There is a challenging obstruction present in the indoctrinated ideologies of ballet schools, instructors, and companies. Through my research, ideas have evolved of softening the curve of ballet instruction in order to facilitate an easier acclimation process. I am researching ways ballet can offer practitioners a foundation built on strength and solid principles absent of the elitist restrictions. Can ballet serve a broader purpose?

In my choreographic process, I employ various exploration and extraction methods including improvisation models, creative writing and rhythmic mapping of music compositions. As an Afro-Dominican woman, my culture and upbringing inform my perspective. My classical ballet foundation provides a comfortable frame to stand on and pull away from. By honoring honesty and humanity in my art-making I hope to inspire courage, integrity and self-awareness in my collaborators and audiences.

Another area of my research is identifying emerging neoteric (new) black feminine archetypes. I am interested in studying the multitude of ways these archetypes are being ushered into the world and how the counterpoise of an empowered black female is taking root.


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