Teacher Profile: Irenerose Castillo


DanceWest director IreneRose Castillo

When people think of what makes West High special, many will think of our award-winning fine arts programs, like DanceWest, which is home to a diverse array of talented, hard-working and passionate students and staff. 

At the heart of the program is the director, Irenerose Castillo. Castillo has been West Anchorage High School’s Dance instructor since the fall of 2017 and currently teaches the introductory, intermediate, contemporary, and production classes. Before she became the instructor for DanceWest, she assisted Lori Bradford, who taught the program for 27 years, in 2016. 

She began to dance as soon as she could stand, Castillo says. Her earliest memories were of her father playing MTV music videos on the television and mimicking the moves of Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson. This would inspire her to dance for fun and with her friends. She would later begin her training in East High School’s Dance Contempo course and take a dance minor in college. After college, she says more doors opened for a dance career. Besides DanceWest, Castillo works for Momentum Dance Collective as a director, choreographer, and performer.

When Castillo isn’t dancing, she is a mother to her two sons, Jedi and JZ, and partner to her fiance, Karissa. She also loves to snowboard and recounts carving, cruising, jumping, and going down hills. “It feels like surfing … but I imagine myself surfing along the snow,” she says. Furthermore, Castillo loves seeing live music and eating out in town, naming Panang Curry and Fettuccine Shrimp as favorite dishes.

Castillo says she didn’t expect to be a dance instructor, since as a kid she wanted to be a famous singer and dancer, naming Mariah Carey and Britney Spears as inspirations, and later Christina Aguilera. 

“My favorite style is like a fusion,” she goes on to describe the groove and essence of hip hop and the expressive flow of modern and contemporary dance. “My body naturally wants to move that way, incorporating my favorite styles,” Castillo adds.

DanceWest students pose in the dance room in April.

For her inspiration, she says, “I’m always inspired by the idea of love and support” and includes the opposite, like grief, struggle, and heartbreak. Whatever form of love and support that may look like, she adds, the support she receives and can give to others inspires her art, and makes her appreciate those who love and support her more.

Sophia Martin-Hollar, a senior at West who takes the afternoon dance classes, says, “She constantly inspires me to push through hard times and to do what I love, … she also wears the most brilliant smile on her face every single day, and is just an overall uplifting and inspiring human.”  

Amelia Rodriguez-Henriquez, a senior in 6th hour, says, “Irene has inspired me by being a strong individual that has always given us a voice and advocates for keeping a united and healthy community, within DanceWest.” 

“Irene has made DanceWest what it is, by always keeping it a safe and welcoming environment for everyone, no matter what skill level, race, upbringing, etc.”

During this year’s Sadie Hawkins Pep Assembly, DanceWest revived their performance “Golden Hour” from their last show, “Muse”. “It felt magical and it felt, like, I was just so proud, like a proud mom,”  Castillo said. 

For the future of DanceWest Castillo hopes for the program to continue and for it to remain a platform for students to express their art. She hopes to participate in competitions, conventions, and go on tour with her students.

Thinking of the future, Castillo says she wants to stay with DanceWest and continue her ventures into renovating the space.