Cortez was born in Manila, Philippines, and spent his early years in British Columbia, where he began his dance training at Vancouver's Pacific Ballet Theatre. He graduated with honors from Purchase College Conservatory of Dance in 1985, receiving the President's Award for Achievement. Soon after, he was invited to join Feld Ballets/NY. In 1987, he joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company, performing leading roles in such renowned Taylor repertory as Arden Court, Cloven Kingdom, and Company B through 1996. His own choreography is showcased in the Taylor company's Funny Papers. He also performed with Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project on their 1998 national tour. He has served on faculty at Purchase College Conservatory of Dance and at the Paul Taylor Dance Studios.
From 2002-2008 Cortez was Artistic Director of Cleveland's Verb Ballets bringing national attention to the regional troupe.
He currently lives in Manhattan an is a freelance teacher and choreographer.