performing arts

The Magical Doriana Sanchez

   Left:  Doriana and Cher    Right: Doriana on the film  Dirty Dancing                                                                                                                                                  

   Left:  Doriana and Cher    Right: Doriana on the film Dirty Dancing                                                                                                                                               

Doriana Sanchez is an Emmy and two-time American Choreography Award nominated Choreographer and Director, and a World Choreography Award recipient for Concert Choreography for the "Cher D2K" TourHer love of Dance and Movement has allowed her to create in all areas of stage and media, and her productions have been seen in nearly every large scale arena in the US and abroad.  Ryan Seacrest on E News! has called her “The Dancing Queen”, as Doriana is the force behind the high-energy disco routines on So You Think You Can Dance.

As a long time collaborator with Pop Icon Cher, Doriana has Created, Directed and Choreographed the superstars extravaganza performances, including the "Living Proof" and "Dressed To Kill" World Tours and "Cher at the Colosseum", the three year, 200-plus sold out performances run at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. I've had the privilege and honor to work with Doriana on Cher's Believe World Tour and have not only been inspired by her beautiful creations, but also by her magical spirit that infuses love, positivity and joy to the creative process.   

She has made dances for music legends including Shakira, Peter Gabriel and Jane’s Addiction, and is one of the principal dancers in the iconic film Dirty Dancing. Some of her TV credits include The Grammy Awards, The American Music Awards, Dancing With the Stars and The Voice. A true master in our dance community, Doriana brings passion and light to all she touches.  

So happy she agreed to my interview.  Enjoy!

TNH: What do you love about dance?

DS: I Love everything about dance:) It is the most alive you can feel, when you are dancing. It is your true essence and expression of spirit flowing through you, your highest and most pure self. I become happy thinking about it, watching it, and doing it :)

TNH: What first drew you to dance and then to choreography?

DS: I grew up in a dancing family. My Father was a ballroom dancer and OG mambo king:) He had an act with his sister, and they performed all over. So dance was something that was always present in and around our family. My Fathers motto was "Don't let the music go by and not dance to it."

I started very young in musical theatre, and serious training when I was 12. We are from a very small town, and so to see shows and concerts, we had to travel to the bigger cities. My parents were always super supportive, and took us to see Ballet, Jose Greco ( Flamenco), Ringling Brothers Circus, and Ice Capades. Those shows were mind expanding to us. Really bigger than life, so beautiful, and  to see all the beautiful artists, definitely imprinted me with a passion to want to do that... little did I know I would:)

I was around choreography when my Father would do his shows, but it was when I was in LA and working as a dancer, I knew choreography was a natural next step for me. I worked as an associate choreographer to Kenny Ortega for many years, and loved the process, so I started to create my own style, and how movement felt for me. From there it has evolved to Directing and Producing as well.

TNH: What is the biggest challenge you’ve confronted in life and what did it teach you about yourself?

DS: Ahhhh... life always brings you these amazing challenges for your growth, but I did have a very interesting one. 5 years ago , when we were doing Cher's show at Caesars Colosseum in Vegas, I fell on a set piece during the show. It was very weird since I am not someone who falls. I hurt my hip, and was having physical therapy and chiropractic treatments daily. It got so bad that I became paralyzed on my left side. I then had some major seizures. It was discovered that I had a massive brain tumor. I had 19 hours of surgery at UCLA, and many months of rehab.

What it taught me about myself is that I am a very strong person and I am surrounded by love. So many people did so much for me during that time, I am eternally grateful. I truly feel that my healing miracle happened because of my dance, and my desire to walk and dance again was so strong, and everyday I kept doing things to support my healing. Like 1 sided yoga, because I could only move one side. Dancers are very determined, and we understand what our bodies want to do, so even when I couldn't do it, I tried my best.

TNH: What qualities do you most admire in dancers?

DS: That they allow themselves to be free and fully feel and express themselves. They are so fun, and feel emotions so deeply. Many dancers are very disciplined in their art. I find that very admirable that they are always going to class to stay great, and become better all the time. I remember always going from one class to the next, because I wanted to soak up alI the movement I could, and learn as much as I could from all the great teachers at that time.

I love how they can express so many emotions and colors through their movement,  each one different, and perfectly beautiful.

TNH: There can be ups and downs and rejection in the entertainment business.  What tools have you developed to keep your confidence and belief in yourself?

DS: Yes our business can be very interesting:) It certainly can be the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, if you allow it to be. For me, I must keep very centered when working. I have my meditation and prayer practice that I do daily, sometimes many times a day if necessary. It keeps me centered and able to be calm in the swirl of things. I also know who I am, and my years in this business have shown me so many different things and so many different types of creation. I do feel it is most important to be respectful to everyone you work with, and that means every single person involved in the project you are working on. In the sometimes chaos of a situation, your energy is what you can carry into the room.

I do really want to say this to the young dancers coming up.... When choreographers are looking to cast a certain type, and you aren't it, and you are the best person in the room on that day, and you really deserve to get that job, and you totally kicked ass, and you get cut... Don't take it personally... Please...  Because sometimes Choreographers and Directors minds can be changed, so be the one to change their minds. Be your best every audition you go to, and keep going, because eventually you will get seen and hired... and  you never know what other project they have coming up, or can recommend you for. 

TNH: What do you look for when casting dancers?

DS: I love looking at a room full of excited dancers. It makes me so happy! What I do first is a room scan, I look for energy that pops out. You can kind of tell who has the sparkly energy. Who connects with me, those who smile and look me in the eyes. Those are the people I am going to resonate with first. I want to look for people that will fit in and help create a wonderful team. Dance ability is important, but it is almost more important to be a great person:)

TNH: What advice would you give a young performer with big dreams?

DS: If you have big dreams, create them for yourself, go for it. Do what it is you want to create. If you want to be an amazing dancer on TV and tours, find out who is doing those shows, take classes with them if they teach. Learn new styles of dance. For me being a next level dancer is important, learn aerial work, learn how to tumble, keep adding new skills. It makes you very valuable to have those skill sets.

Most important of all, is be yourself. Be who YOU are and don't try to compare or compete with anyone else. You are very important and special, and who you are now, and who you will be in your future life is so incredible! Be Kind, Be Respectful, Be Grateful that this is the job and career that you have chosen to do, because it is a blessing to be able to move freely in your body.

TNH: Who/what have been the biggest creative influences in your life?

DS: I do have a few that I super love:) Cirque du Soleil I have seen since they first started, always brilliant. The Masters: Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, to see the work now is incredible. Watch West Side Story to see the perfect masterpiece of dance on film. Oprah, Cher, because girl power and reinvention rules:) Tony Duquette and Antonio Gaudi visionary artists and creative genius.

TNH: Thank you, my beautiful friend, for your sparkly heart and soul, and for sharing your gifts. I love you. xo

DS: I love you too!!

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Interview with Tara

Last year I was interviewed by an amazing non-profit group called Mental Fitness, Inc.  Their mission is to build mental fitness in all youth.  Their blog site, The Real Deal, shares empowering content authored by professionals from the arts, wellness, nutrition, yoga and psychology, with the aim to help today's youth on body image, healthy coping, nutrition and self-esteem.

I didn't know that this interview would eventually stir a deeper calling in me to share my stories and some of the tools that have helped me find balance, self-acceptance and greater joy along my performing arts path as a dancer and choreographer.  This particular interview inspired me to start my blog.  

I have copied the full interview here for you to read and I want to thank Robyn Hussa for all the amazing work she does and for asking for my thoughts. 

xo Tara

INTERVIEW:

RH: Please tell us about yourself and what you do?

TNH: I am a dancer/choreographer.  I started dancing at age 9 at a local studio in Orlando, Florida.  I walked in the door, hearing and feeling the vibration of music and seeing bodies in motion and I never walked out.  I trained under an AMAZING woman named Cathy Gillaspie, who guided me, mentored me and inspired me.  I went on to a full dance scholarship at Loyola Marymount Manhattan College in NYC and eventually moved to Los Angeles to fulfill my dream to work as a dancer and choreographer in film, television, commercials and stage.  I’ve had an extraordinary career working alongside the most inspired artists including Daniel Day Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks, Penelope Cruz, Catherine Zeta Jones and Madonna among others.

RH: Can you tell us a bit about any upcoming shows that you are working on?

TNH: I choreographed a series of commercials for Faith Hill earlier this year and have an Al Pacino film called Danny Collins that will be released in 2015, that I choreographed.  He was lovely to work with and I had a ball!  I’m also really enjoying choreographing for a new show called Trophy Wife with Malin Akerman and Marcia Gay Harden that begins airing this September on ABC.  It’s a very funny show that I am proud to be a part of.  I’ve also been dancing, completing work on The Neighbors, Grey’s Anatomy and a really cool commercial for Samsung on The Voice.

RH: Do you find the pressures of being performer / artist significant with regard to feeling the need to have a “perfect” body?  If so, how do you navigate through that terrain?  How do you “not” judge yourself when others (critics, audience members, producers, etc.) “judge” you based on outward measures?

TNH: Well, I have chosen a career where image and body is at the forefront.  I wish that we could all just dance, act, sing and express ourselves artfully without the scrutiny of how we look, but unfortunately it is the whole package that we are auditioning for and selling, ultimately. Being at the top of my game means that I am well trained and bring my talent to the room, but it also means that I am able to help facilitate the vision of the director, writers, ad agencies, etc.  When I walk into an audition room, it’s not about me anymore, which I know sounds counter-intuitive.

Starting to choreograph and being on the other side of the audition table has helped me with this immensely!!!  Mostly it’s just NOT a personal thing.  Sometimes casting just needs one blonde, one brunette and a redhead or they are looking for someone with a specific quality or essence that gels well with an actor.  This revelation was HUGE for me.  I’ve learned, all I can do as a performer is my best, including dancing with everything I’ve got, having my head shots up to date, wearing the appropriate clothes, being in tune with what hair and make-up works best for me and most importantly, being authentically me in the room.  After that, it is out of my hands.

There will be feedback and messages along the way that will inform me and if I’m smart I will make adjustments but thankfully I’ve come to this . . . who I am at my core, my value, my worth, my beauty, my true SELF is separate and independent of the needs of a project and those who are hiring me and critiquing me.

I can’t say it’s always easy for me but being gentle and kind with myself is helpful when disappointments and feelings of rejection come up, when you want something so badly and it doesn’t work out.  Letting the sad, angry, jealous, disappointing emotions out is the first way for me to move through it.  Then I can look at the bigger picture and trust that I am ok and supported and loved.  And then sometimes I just have to put on the music, and dance . . .

RH: Who were the role models in your life?

TNH: Primarily my dance teacher Cathy who I mentioned earlier.  She was an extraordinary woman who was in touch with her own inner beauty and light.  Herpositive leadership came in the form of inspirational talks, informing us aboutfeeding our bodies with healthy foods, dancing from our heart and soul, sharing our gifts with others and those in need and a real essence of love.

She was inspired and she knew how to inspire the goodness and the altruistic qualities in me and I believe in my dance friends.  Never did she focus on weight or body image.  It was only about the love of dance, working hard and the camaraderie of our company of dancers.  I am forever thankful for her and know, without a doubt,  she helped shape who I am in a large and positive way during that oh so influential and vulnerable time in my life; she helped me focus my mind on my inner experience and so whatever outer work happened, it was an extension of the love and passion for my craft.

I know this is a gift because I’ve seen other studios, other shows, other experiences and it is not that.

RH:  What do you define as beautiful?

TNH: What is authentically true.  When I see and experience others share their authentic selves, I see that as beautiful and I feel most beautiful when I am in a place of acceptance and love.

RH: How do you define inner beauty?

TNH: The inner world is such a private and beautiful oasis.  What a gift to have the convening of self, that place that is so expansive where anything is possible.  Inner beauty is that gentleness with oneself.  That place deep inside where you become the comfort, where you have the chance to align to your higher purpose.

RH: What is happiness?

TNH: Happiness is what you choose it to be.  Is the glass half full or is it half empty?  Is this an opportunity or are you victim to your circumstances?  Do you have the courage to step fully into yourself?

RH: How do you manage your stress levels in daily life?  Do you use music / art / dance, etc. as a coping tool?  Are there other things that you do to live mindfully?

TNH: Things that bring me the most peace are being in nature, meditating and surrounding myself with beautiful things like paintings, music and art.  I love color, design and composition.  I think it’s important for each of us to find what speaks to our soul and go to that for comfort and inspiration.

Music is an incredible vehicle for me for feeling inspired and getting me in touch with my emotional life.  I also have this thing that I’ve been doing for a long time and it ALWAYS frees me, ALWAYS takes me to a place of self empowerment.  If I feel nervous or stressed about an audition, work scenario or any life situation, I set a very clear intention about how I’d like to experience myself within that particular situation.  

I don’t worry about the steps to get there, I only focus on the intention and I let the Universe take care of the rest.  It’s kind of like that Albert Einstein quote, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.  I have to trust in the larger picture and my larger self, the part of me that is completely open, fluid, receptive, wise, expansive and all knowing.  I know this probably sounds so new age and lofty, but there is real power there; I experience it daily!

RH: How do you find a work-life balance — as a woman, a mom, a professional — what are keys to balance?

TNH: To be honest, it is a challenge for me.  I want to be a present, available, loving mommy, an amazing partner, a successful career woman, and a whole, happy individual.  Each of those spokes of my life takes patience, love, clarity of direction, time and commitment.  Luckily I have an amazing man in my life.  He is a beautiful artist and supports my work completely and understands the limitations of balancing it all.  It is a lot of work and we are still learning.  What has helped is asking for help and choosing to be present with whatever task is at hand.  Putting the work away when we’re with the kids.

Finding time to dive fully into the work when it is time.  Sometimes our house is complete chaos and other times it is just magical with Rob at the piano, dancing happening and a lot of laughter.  I’m still learning to relax and find the play and joy, even in the midst of the juggling circus act.  The one thing I do know is the importance of “me” time and “us” time. I think those are great lessons to teach our daughters.

RH: Other thoughts / reflections?

TNH:  I reflect often on how blessed I feel for the group of amazing, inspiring friends around me.  I call them my “tribe” and they have become my family.  I feel lifted, supported, seen and understood by them.  I am constantly inspired and moved by their courage and faith and artistry.  If one can surround themselves with those that bring light and positivity, thinking outside the box in an empowering way, it is a gift.  That support system makes life a little sweeter . . . and certainly more fun!  

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