Born in Berwyn and raised in neighboring Cicero, IL; Esteban first started performing on stage at age 5. They were raised watching football and playing baseball, for they had 4 brothers and a very proud, athletic and macho Puerto Rican father. It was very difficult, because they were the only girlie boi they had over known. Treated like a boy by most, and all lil Estie ever wanted to do was dance, dance.
Dancing would happen at big family gatherings; salsa, merengue and steppin. But ballet was a non starter. They performed in high school plays & musicals at Morton East and West. Esteban joined the Ballet Folklorico ensemble and learned the traditional dances of Mexico all throughout high school. Later, at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign they studied and performed the Puerto Rican folkloric dances; Bomba and Plena as well as many other cultural dances from all of Latino America.
When they turned 17, Esteban started studying modern and ballet at what was then called Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theater and continues today as Deeply Rooted Productions. The first non-Chicago resident to be awarded a full scholarship, Esteban advanced quickly and within 6 months was dancing professionally in the second company. They continued their studies in dance at Barat Conservatory in Lake Forest, studying under the great Eileen Cropley (long-time company member and muse/partner of Paul Taylor). This is how Esteban is considered a "3rd generation Graham dancer". Accepting a full scholarship to dance at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Esteban's dance education expanded into the world of Cunningham and Limon and other great post-modernists. In the summers they would train with Russian and Ukranian masters of the Vagonova technique at the Salt Creek Ballet.
In 2001, Cruz joined the Corps de Ballet of the Cincinnati Ballet. They returned to Chicago shortly after the summer season and began freelancing as a dancer. In addition to guest starring with every small ballet company in the suburbs, Esteban joined the contemporary company of Hedwig Dances (Chicago Cultural Center) for a year. Shortly after, they joined RTG Dance (with Rachel Thorne Germond) and remained with the company for seven years. Delving deep into the Klein-Mahler technique (Barbara Mahler and Susan Klein), Esteban began to mine an aesthetic that spanned from strict Russian ballet to Neoclassical concert dance to a much more explorative post-modernism and queer performance art. With RTG, Esteban performed as Marilyn Monroe more times than any other role in their entire life (the Virgin Mary, a close runner up). It also introduced them to boilesque, queer and lesbian art and was the earliest inspiration for the ESTEBUNNY (pictured in background). During their entire high school, college and professional career as a dancer-Esteban never stopped acting.
In 2003, when Esteban was called in for Stephen Adly Guirgis's Our Lady of 121st Street at Steppenwolf Theater-it marked the beginning of a big shift in their career; where dance and theater traded spaces and Guirgis's work was something that they would spend the next phase of their career pursuing.
Some favorite Guirgis roles include Cousin Julio in Motherfucker with the Hat as well as Angel Cruz in Jesus Hopped the A Train. Esteban made their Off-Broadway debut, originating the role of Venus Ramirez in Stephen's world premiere of Halfway Bitches Go Straight To Heaven at The Atlantic Theater, a co-production with LAB and directed by LAB's Artistic Director John Ortiz.
In 2018, Esteban was awarded the prestigious Theatre Communications Group's Fox Actor Fellowship. This annual prize is awarded to an actor with exceptional merit and helps nurture their pursuit as an artist and advance their careers. Through the Fellowship, Esteban traveled to Puerto Rico in 2018 and volunteered for 3 months in Yabucoa and Humacao, building roofs after Hurricane Maria. They also conducted interviews of their family in Chicago, Texas, New York, Mexico and Puerto Rico-chronicling the Mexi-Rican diaspora. This pilgrimage was also documented in journals, video interviews and will be used later for a solo piece about the history of Chicanos and Puerto Ricans in the U.S., what contributions they have made, why they matter and how they are beautiful, entitled: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria: The History of the U.S. Through The Eyes of a Cross-Eyed, Queer Mexi-Rican. The show will be produced at16th Street Theater-where they are an Artist In Residence, as well as Associate Artist. 16th Street is Esteban's Fox Fellow host theater and one of their artistic homes. In LA, Esteban is an emeritus company member with Sacred Fools Theatre and in NY part of the extended family of the LAB.
Esteban believes that if your actions are rooted in love, you can do no harm.