Photography by Paula Kiley
[Image Description: Photo of Vanessa in black and white. She is gazing upward looking upon a white mesh fabric. She is wearing a black top, her hair is up in a bun and her makeup consists of a dark color and she has mascara on her eyes]
[Video Description: Background is of a moving abstract video. It has an ombre effect of black to a evergreen color. There are white dots that look like they are floating. ]
Vanessa Hernández Cruz (she, her, hers) is an emerging Chicana disabled dancer, choreographer, filmmaker, poet & activist. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She received her Associates Degree in Dance from Santa Monica College. She recently graduated from California State University Long Beach with her Bachelor of Arts in Dance Science.
Most recently her latest dance film DNA: Disability Not Ability was selected by IKOUII to be exhibited in their virtual art show "Without Labels" and won the Honorable Mention award. In 2020, her dance film “Nycto-Eternity” won The Dance Cinema Award from Frostbite International Film Festival and was recently screened for The Midnight Film Festival in New York. In 2018, She won first place in the Global Citizenship Research Symposium: Dance & Disability in Santa Monica College for her dance film “Grey City”. Vanessa’s choreographic work has received the award for Cultural Diplomacy for Innovation in Choreography from Ballet Beyond Borders in 2019.
Her dance training embodies Horton Technique, Ballet, and various dance forms. She has trained at Cal State Long Beach, Santa Monica College, and in dance intensives that includes: BODYTRAFFIC Dance Company, Gaga Home Lab, LINES Ballet workshop, and AXIS Dance Company: Choreography & performance module. She has had the opportunity to learn choreographic work from Marjani Fortè-Saunders, Barak Marshall staged by BODYTRAFFIC Dance Company, Reagan Li, Meri Bender, Mark Tomasic, Sri Susilowati, Laura Smyth, & Keali’i Ceballos.
Activism through the lens of Disability Justice, intersectionality, and community care is deeply rooted in her work. Through the university student-led organization, Affinity AIDE (Advocates for Inclusion and Dancer Equity), along with the other amazing student cohort, the following has been achieved in the Department of Dance at CSULB: a disability statement in the syllabi, an initiative to ensure all dance concerts are accessible, disability dance in their curriculum and more.
Her lifetime aspirations are to continue to perform, choreograph, create, and to continue to pave an easier path for future disabled artists through her activism.