Director of Ballet Carrie Cheng Dances Through Life


Mrs. Cheng spends most of her day in the ballet studio.

Gigi Schueneman, Reporter

Two pliés, one grande plié. Three tendus en croix. Repeat on relevé. Développé à la seconde. Reverse. 

If you have ever taken a ballet class with FWCD’s Director of Ballet, Carrie Cheng, you have doubtlessly heard all of these terms. 

Cheng grew up in Jacksonville, FL, and began her ballet career at Jacksonville Ballet Theater, the same studio as her mother. 

“My mom did ballet, and when I was little I saw pictures of her dancing, and I wanted to do that too,” Cheng said.

She began taking classes from the first teacher that was recommended to her, and she immediately fell in love.

“[My teacher] was a professional prima ballerina, but you would never really know that by her manner,” Cheng said. “She was never harsh or mean, she just loved ballet, and she was so joyful. I think that kept me going. That showed me that this was something I really enjoyed and wanted to do.” 

Cheng danced throughout her time at the University of Utah, and eventually, she got her first professional job at Eugene Ballet in Oregon. She then studied at the Ballet Theater of Boston. Here, she met her husband Li-Chou Cheng, another current teacher at the FWCD Ballet Conservatory, and they got engaged. Soon after, Mr. Cheng got a job offer from the ballet program at Texas Christian University, and they moved to Fort Worth. In Texas, she danced with the Ballet Conservatory for 14 years. 

Cheng happily continued her professional career, but as an additional source of income, she began teaching. She has now been teaching 35 years, 20 of which have been full-time at FWCD and four of which have been part-time.

“I think I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. I can remember when I was young, I loved teaching and helping my stuffed animals,” Cheng said. “I think that even if I wasn’t teaching ballet, I would still like to be a teacher, maybe an English teacher or something like that.” 

Cheng said that her favorite part of class is either turning across the floor or grande allegro (big jumps). She accredits this interest to her love of movement. 

“[My other favorite part of class is] getting to see how the students feel when I’ve given them a correction or an idea to think about when they’re doing a step, and then it works. I really like to see the excitement on the students’ faces that they did it,” Cheng said.

She teaches her students in the after-school program from kindergarten through 12th grade, so she enjoys getting to see their growth from when they first start dancing to their graduation. 

“Ballet has always been something that I loved, but for a few years it has been something that I have been scared to get back into. Mrs. Cheng definitely made it easier for me to find my love for ballet again,” Maya Marques 26’ said.

Cheng’s two sons learned ballet when they were younger, but they eventually lost interest. However, they are both still involved in the arts, music especially, and Cheng said that both sons bring their girlfriends and wives to ballet performances when they have the opportunity. Aside from ballet, Cheng enjoys gardening and working outside, and playing with her three dogs. She and her husband also love to travel. 

Mrs. Cheng strikes a pose in a photoshoot for Don Quixote.

“[If I could say one thing to my students, it would be to] enjoy the process, and try not to be too serious. Just be in the moment. A lot of my students think that they have to be perfect, and they try to achieve what they think of as their ‘ideal perfect’, but no one is perfect,” Cheng said. “I want everyone to feel loved and appreciated, and just to go out there and do their best.”

Cheng’s love and appreciation for the art of ballet, for her students is apparent when you take her class or have a conversation. This appreciation, along with her guidance and instruction, keeps students coming to ballet classes, as an option of sport during the day, and as an extracurricular activity.

So next time you see Mrs. Cheng during a passing period or lunch, (not during a class, of course) make sure to smile or say “hi.” Just follow the sound of Tchaikovsky and you may find yourself with a new mentor.