Disabled Chicana Dance Artist
Vanessa Hernández Cruz
(she, her, ella) is an interdependent Chicana Disabled dance artist, filmmaker, visual artist, poet & an Intersectional Disability Justice activist. She was born and raised in the unceded land of the Tongva & Kizh lands colonially known as Los Angeles, California. She received her Associates Degree in Dance from Santa Monica College. She holds her Bachelor of Arts in Dance Science from California State University Long Beach.
Over the past few years Vanessa’s work has been shown nationally & internationally. She had two exciting dance solos that premiered this past summer: “Metal, Plastic, Skin” debuting at The Odyssey Theatre’s Dance Festival and “Exhale Static, Inhale Fumes” with her debut at The REDCAT’s NOW Festival. In addition, slated for 2024 Vanessa along with Saira Barbaric & NEVE with the support of a grant from the Mellon Foundation, the three have cofounded Mouthwater Festival, a new Disabled arts festivals happening in Seattle.
Earlier this year she was commissioned by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) to create & perform a new work titled: “La Lucha Sigue/The Fight Continues” to celebrate & honor Corita Kent & Dolores Huerta. She recently was a guest speaker at Chapman University where Vanessa spoke about Disability dance & workshopped her contemporary ballet repertoire Nycto-Eternity. Vanessa was a guest artist-in-resident & collaborator for Bradford Chin’s dance MFA Thesis "The world was ending, so they danced, & they were free" at the University of California, Irvine.
In 2022, she premiered two solos: "Nycto-Eternity" & "Timeless Hourglass" at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles as a guest artist with the international dance company LuxBit Art Company based in Seoul, Korea. In the summer of 2022, she was commissioned through the DCA to produce the dance film Los Portales del Corazón for their ‘Dance in the Districts’ program. In 2022, she was selected into the first national cohort for LatinXtentions yearlong Dance Mentorship Program led by David Herrera. She was also selected into The Box LA x Pieter Parking Space Residency based in Los Angeles, CA where she produced her dance piece Exit?.
T Her dance training embodies Horton Technique, Ballet, and disability aesthetics. 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.
Vanessa has been implementing the Disability Justice framework (Sins Invalid) through her activism & dance work. She has done accessibility & Disability Justice consulting for HomeLA, Whistle While You Work Platform, Americans for the Arts & Mid Atlantic Arts, & other organizations. She is currently working with DANC (Dance Artists’ National Collective) as their Communications & Social Media Co-Coordinator. She also serves as a consultant in their BIPOC & Disabled Circle.
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 activists; the following has been achieved in the Department of Dance at CSULB: a Disability statement in all their syllabi, an initiative to ensure all dance concerts are accessible, including disability dance in their curriculum and more.
Vanessa’s lifetime aspirations are to perform, choreograph, & create dance films. Through her artistry & activism she will continue to help dismantle systemic oppressions in the dance field to help create an equitable path for future multi-marginalized disabled artists.