Disabled dancer develops passion in dance

By Billy Galvez

In the fourth grade, Vanessa Cruz started developing a passion for dancing.

Her parents wouldn’t support her because they thought she would get injured. From sixth to eighth grade she began practicing at home. “I would practice for hours in front of the mirror in my room, and I would imagine myself on the stage,” Cruz said.

Vanessa has had obstacles since birth, but she was determined not to let anything get in her way. She was born with physical disability that fixates the joints in a contracted position called Arthrogryposis. She said that was the reason why she enrolled in the Casino Salsa class at East Los Angeles College.

When she was in ninth grade, she stepped into her first dance class. She said that is the most memorable moment of her life. That same year, she auditioned for her school’s winter dance program and made it in with a solo act.

Cruz said that the performance was special to her because she put so much effort and emotion into her dancing that she made some of the audience cry. She has been dancing for seven years now; four of them in high school. While in high school she was part of a team called University Dance Company. She did many solo acts, as well as choreography for the team.

After high school, she enrolled in Los Angeles Trade Technical College and formed a hip-hop and Latin dance group, TNT Dance Team, she is the co-captain and choreographer.

Growing up in West Los Angeles Cruz, now 20-years-old, had many difficulties adapting to certain moves that her dance classes required. This was due to a handicap she was born with. This made things challenging at times, but her passion for dancing was so big that not even that would get in her way.

When she first started dancing, she was able to do half a turn; three years later she was able to do a full 360-degree turn. Floor work was also tough for her, but she was able to master it in two years. Her passion for dancing and her ability to learn things quickly helped her learn these moves.

As much as she loves and enjoys dancing, Cruz does not see it as a future job. It is a permanent hobby. It’s because of this that she plans on double majoring in chemistry and dance. She wants to become a surgeon as well as a choreographer.

“Most of my dances have a message for the audience. This is why I put so much emotion into them,” Cruz said.

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