The OU School of Dance has a new addition to its faculty — a former principal dancer, or star dancer — from a nationally renowned ballet school.
According to a July 10 press release, Karel Cruz was hired as a ballet instructor before the fall 2019 semester at OU about a year after his 2018 retirement from his career at Pacific Northwest Ballet, one of the top three ballet schools in the nation.
Cruz teaches seven different ballet classes on campus, including Intermediate Ballet Technique, Pas de Deux and Ballet Company Apprentice.
Cruz said he fell in love with ballet when he started dancing at 8 years old. Since then, he has danced leading roles in over 60 classical and contemporary works by choreographers such as George Balanchine, William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, Benjamin Millepied, Mark Morris, Justin Peck, Crystal Pite and many more, according to the release.
Cruz is from Holguin, Cuba, where he trained at Escuela Nacional de Arte. Following his training, he danced with Ballet Nacional de Cuba in 1996 for two years and later joined both Ballet Clásico de Cámara and Teatro Teresa Carreño in Venezuela, according to the release.
After coming to the U.S. in 2002, Cruz joined the Pacific Northwest Ballet, where he climbed up the ranks over the course of 17 years. His highest achievement in the company was being promoted to principal dancer, the highest rank for a dancer, from 2009 to 2018, according to the release.
“The reason I’m here is because of ballet in general,” Cruz said. “To be here for the students 100 percent, and to help them as much as I can for their futures and careers.”
Being an instructor at OU will allow him to share his devotion with other generations and witness students’ successes, he said.
“Right now what I enjoy about the students is actually their passion for the career,” Cruz said. “To walk into the studio, and to see that they really want to be here, and they really want to be successful in this career.”
Cruz said one of his main goals is to teach multiculturalism.
“I will try to focus on diversity,” Cruz said. “Diversity of artistry in general, behind ... the technique of ballet. Just to become a great artist.”
Michael Bearden, School of Dance director, said Cruz will be a valuable addition to the program.
"We are pleased to welcome Mr. Cruz to the OU School of Dance,” Bearden said. “His strong training background in Cuba and his experience as a principal dancer at (Pacific Northwest Ballet) will benefit our students on many levels."