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" Tour. Her 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!!