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.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.