Danitra was born in Chicago, Illinois. She was a highly regarded stage actress who occasionally ventured into films and television. Vance debuted on stage in the early '80s and subsequently worked closely with New York Shakespeare Festival producer George C. Wolfe.
She was best known as a New York stage actress and tart-tongued comedian. Her stage work won her some prestigious awards, including two Dramalogues, an NAACP Image Award, and a 1990 Obie Award for her performance in the off-Broadway play Spunk.
Danitra was the first African-American woman to be a cast regular on the TV show Saturday Night Live. She so frustrated with being typecast as maids and hookers that she quit SNL after only one season (1985-86). Danitra sang a sad, yet touching song in the 1985-86 Saturday Night Live season finale entitled, I Played The Maid, which was a twist on Barry Manilow's "I Write The Songs". The song was her farewell to SNL fans, and also showed her frustration for being typecast.
She played supporting roles in a handful of feature films, including Little Man Tate (1991) and Sticky Fingers (1988). She played a lead in her final film, Jumpin' at the Boneyard (1992).
Danitra was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990 and incorporated the experience into a solo skit The Radical Girl's Guide to Radical Mastectomy. Despite her efforts to fight the disease, Vance lost her battle, and passed away just four years later, in Markham, Illinois.