You probably know Doriana Sanchez as the force behind the high-energy disco routines on “So You Think You Can Dance” and the creator, director and choreographer of Cher’s Living Proof tour. But those are only two entries on her impressive resumé. Sanchez began studying ballroom at age 3 with her father, Frank, a master ballroom teacher, and later trained in various styles with Pat Jackson in San Luis Obispo, CA. After performing in Las Vegas and in various movies (Dirty Dancing!), Sanchez began choreographing. She went on to make dances for music legends including Shakira, Peter Gabriel and Jane’s Addiction.
Sanchez had to undergo major brain surgery in 2011, but not even the removal of a large tumor could stop her from making a routine for the season finale of “SYTYCD.” Now recovered, Sanchez is choreographing worldwide. —Gretchen Schmid
Doriana as a young dancer
Dearest Doriana (young girl self),
As a third-generation dancer, you have lived, breathed and loved dance your entire life. I’m proud you’re working so hard in every class and every rehearsal.
In your small town, people don’t really “get” what dance is, but you have been blessed to be able to study with the amazing Pat Jackson, who is giving you brilliant training, and your father, who is teaching you everything about partnering and the art and discipline of dance.
To make sure you’re on the right path, here’s some advice: Don’t ever be afraid to try new things. Work hard, be on time, be professional, be humble. Respect your teachers, choreographers and directors—even when you’re frustrated. And be sure to take care of your body. Don’t party too much. Your health is more important.
Doriana in Dirty Dancing
As a Latina, it will sometimes be a struggle for you to get hired. You will have to work harder than everyone else to prove a point. You will dance on some of the world’s biggest—and smallest—stages. No matter what the job is, do your best. Don’t judge it, just do it.
My final pieces of advice? Have no regrets—and never give up! All of your experiences will help you grow as a person and an artist. When you’re older and have to endure 18 hours of microscopic brain surgery to remove a massive tumor, your discipline and commitment to movement will save your life. Two days after surgery, you will get up and do pliés in the hallway of the hospital.