Heather Castillo is performer, dance-maker, scholar, educator, mom and an associate professor of Performing Arts, Dance Studies where she recently launched the new Dance Studies Degree.

Heather’s career as a commercial dancer spans working with pop-stars ranging from Andy Williams to  Selena Gomez. She has experience in corporate entertainment work with companies such as Disney, Saban, Universal, and American Express  and in television specials, industrials, and theme parks. She continues to be active in the industry as both performer and choreographer. She has won Broadway World’s Los Angeles award for Best Choreography of an Equity Musical for her work on Suessical at Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities. Her choreography on Loving Repeating helped the musical earn an LA Critics pick and Drama Desk Nomination. And finally, her work on the Sound of Music at Cabrillo Music Theatre contributed to the production’s nomination for an Ovation award. 

She graduated from UC Irvine with the goal of broadening jazz dance practices and research within Higher Education. Her original research focused on establishing labor practices for ensemble dancers during the “golden age of movie musicals” 1943-1965. Her current research focuses on excavating and identifying the roots of commercial lyrical jazz and its alignment with the AIDS crisis. Her experiences as a commercial dancer along with her interest in labor practices, economics, social movements, and technology as they relate to the development and preconceived values of dance, dance education, and dance studies within the United States and global community continue to inform her art making and research. 

At CSU Channel Islands Professor Castillo produces Arts Under The Stars, a campus-wide multimedia extravaganza modeled after her experiences doing awards shows and industrials. In 2018 she won  CSUCI’s President’s award for Teaching and Learning Innovation for producing the event and her efforts to decolonize the online Dance History course. She and MiRi Park have been honored with the Schlundt Lecture in dance from UC Riverside and Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award from the CSU Chancellor’s Office for providing guidance and leadership in the field of dance as it transitioned to online delivery in March 2020. They also produced with BAEZONE the Readin Series, an online reading marathon of 34 Black actors from across stage and screen featuring W.E.B. DuBois’s Black Reconstruction in America. 

She has also been awarded several national titles as performer, choreographer, and coach within the dance team circuit and has often served as a judge and was on the board to the California Dance and Drill Team Association. She was on the board of the California Dance Education Association and was actively involved in California acquiring the Dance Credential that is currently coming online in the state. She currently serves as the chair of the Dance History Teachers working group for the Dance Studies Association.