(SD) 1. Thanks so much for your time and it’s great to be with you! First things first, how have you been doing since your miraculous nineteen hour brain surgery that took place in late 2011?
Oh I’ve been really good Christian, thank you for asking. It’s been an amazing journey and I really consider it a miracle that I’m happy, whole and healed now.
(SD) 2. How did your close call with death reaffirm your appreciation for life and how has your outlook changed since fighting all odds?
I think that my outlook really hasn’t changed because I was always positive and I was always pretty much a happy person. But I think what it does is it makes me not want to waste a day and I’m much more attentive to really small things like lady bugs, leaves that blow in the wind and the way the ocean smells. You know my senses seem to be a little more heightened actually.
(SD) 3. Please explain the process of discovering healing through music and movement in further detail and how it brought you back to being fully functional.
Yes. The only thing that I wanted to do when I was paralyzed was to be able to walk, run and dance. I had affirmations all over my hotel room and all over my phone that said I am full, I am healed, I run, I walk, and I dance. I walk, I run, (laughs) I dance. I think looking at those things that was really what I wanted. Through the miracle I was able to get that; everything happens for a reason.
So I know that healing through music works because a long time ago back in the early nineties when AIDS was prevalent, I had a lot of friends that were dancers that had AIDS. The one thing that could make them feel better was when we were in rehearsal and when we were moving to music. I witnessed that then and I know because I was doing a lot of fund raising for AIDS benefits. So I witnessed that then and I thought well that’s amazing because music when it runs through your body and it allows you to move and dance; is a great, great gift.
So when this happened to me I and I was paralyzed the only thing I wanted to do besides walk was to be able to dance again. Through UCLA and Dr. Neil Martin my surgeon, my nineteen hour surgery and the fifty-two people in the operating room that helped me in that time, and all the people that were praying for me, I know I did have a miracle happen to me. The first thing I wanted to do was dance again, so when I was in the hallway two days after my surgery, I was able to walk down the hallway. The second thing I was able to do was I could do pliés again at physical therapy and they couldn’t believe how fast I progressed. I progressed because it’s what I desired and it’s what I wanted; I wanted it more than anything.
When I was in rehab; I was able to help patients because I understood how music can transcend whatever blockages that we have in our minds about things. When they asked me in therapy if I would teach a class, if I was well enough to teach a dance class and I said yes of course. They brought in people that had severe brain injuries and I was able to work with them. Through the music, they were doing things that the physical therapists had never seen them do that they were not able to do before.
(SD) 4. Looking back on everything that transpired before, during and after the incident… what can you recall from the spiritual encounter that you experienced?
When I got out of surgery and I was back in my room everything was very peaceful. I could see the spirit in everybody. I was kind of surrounded by a light pink ball of energy. I call it love. I call it God’s love and the Divine Spirit came through. When people would enter the room I could see their spirit, I could see who they were. I had no worries and I knew there was nothing to worry about, ever, ever. I was kind of told that, you know, through the spirit that we don’t need to worry ever, that we’re always supported.
(SD) 5. Tell me about the night that you received the “Courage Award” at the UCLA Visionary Ball and the special dance that you performed as a tribute to your doctors and their staff.
The greatest gift that I could give my Doctor, Dr. Neil Martin and the EMT’s that picked me up and rushed me to UCLA was to create a dance piece for them because that would be me giving back my most treasured thing which is dance and movement. The fact that I was able to do that again was very important for me. It was life affirming. I think its life affirming for people to see that three months prior to getting that award; I had been paralyzed and was having major seizures. To be able to turn around that fast and to be able to give the gift from my heart to my doctors, that was a blessing and an honor for me to be able to create that for them.
(SD) 6. Growing up, other than dance and music, what other activities were you passionate about?
When I was growing up it was always dance and music because my father was a ballroom dancer. My family comes from dance; my dad was a great artist. So we were always surrounded by it. I grew up in the country so I used to love to ride horses. We could ride fifteen miles without hitting a fence. So that was amazing. I love being with animals and I love being with kids and running around and just enjoying life. We grew up on a central coast so we were close to the ocean, so I could go to the ocean and have fun at the beach. So we were very blessed the way we grew up.
(SD) 7. How did the opportunity to star in the original version of Dirty Dancing present itself and what are your thoughts on Kenny Ortega’s quote about being called the “muse” of the film?
Well I auditioned for the movie. I had worked with Kenny on some videos and then he called us in but there was no guarantee that we would get the film. So when I got it, it was such a really great thing. We didn’t know that it was gonna be such a hit and such a legendary film, a legendary dance movie. Kenny has been very kind to call me the muse of the film and I just think that that’s such a great honor, so much fun and such a part of my life. I am very grateful for him to have allowed me to be in that film.
(SD) 8. Do you consider that movie role to be your very first break into show business?
I think that that movie definitely was one of my entry points. I had been doing shows and a lot of dance work before that in movies and different things but that particular film because it was so iconic that it definitely opened doors.
(SD) 9. Speaking of dancing, what do you find most rewarding about being able to have a significant role on the hit show, “So You Think You Can Dance” for the past 10 seasons?!?
I love being on “So You Think You Can Dance.” It’s amazing the talent, the hard work and the love of dance that is in that program. The producers love dance so much. Nigel comes from dance. All of them come from dance so it’s really a labor of love and the kids are amazing. They’re unbelievable athletes and artists. So it’s a blessing to be on that show. I look forward to it every year. I am looking forward to season eleven!
(SD) 10. What do you feel is the most valuable lesson you’ve shared with the dancers and in return, what have they taught you?
What they teach me is that they still have the excitement and ultimate love for dance. I think what I teach them is that they can get through it no matter how hard it is they can get through it. You know nothing is insurmountable. You either go through it or you go around it, but we can get through anything in life and that is something that I strive to teach those kids. They can do it!
There are certain dancers that have left wonderful impressions and certain dancers that I continue to work with that I’m very good friends with. Jaymz is one of our dancers on
Enjoy Part II of our interview with Doriana Sanchez below (This interview took place in June 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the first leg of Cher's 'Dressed To Kill' tour):
(SD) 11. Where did you find the inspiration and motivation to create various international circus productions such as the China Galaxy Stars Circus?
In Chime-long Park, they called me to come and create there in China and I had never been to China so I did it on a break from the Cher tour. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. To work with people in an international circus of a hundred and fifty people, we had five translators to do all the different languages that were being spoken. It’s so much fun just to create. Creation, you know there’s no limit to creation. So that’s how I like to think.
(SD) 12. You’re currently writing a book about your life and journey on the road. How’s the creative process coming along thus far?
So far I’m writing a book about healing, and I’m writing a book about miracles. I know many, many people that miracles have happened to and they’re dancers. So that’s what I want to focus the book on. I get to write it while I’m on the road which is good because it’s nice being out here and fun. This book will be a little while in writing because I’m still living it. So it will take a little bit of time to write it but I’m not in a hurry. I use the opportunity of being on the road to work on it, which is great.
(SD) 13. How and when did you first meet Cher and what series of events led to your working together?
I first met Cher, she had seen me in the movie Dirty Dancing, and she wanted dance lessons from me. So Kenny Ortega said go over to her house and give her dance lessons. That was in 1986. So I went over there and I gave her dance lessons and we had the best time ever and that’s how we became friends. Over the years I started out as an assistant choreographer and then I became the choreographer, then I became the director. That’s how it all started in her house in Benedict Canyon at a dance lesson. (Laughs)
(SD) 14. Having been with Cher for almost 30 years, what do you treasure most about your relationship; both professionally and personally?
I treasure most about my relationship with Cher is that there’s a sisterhood there, there’s an understanding, there’s unconditional love between us and that’s what I really treasure. I treasure that I can create her dreams hopefully and manifest them so that she gets the stage show that she wants and that she gets to shine in her element. I love that I get to make all the beautiful things that go around her. When we create her shows I tell all the crew members she is the jewel in the crown. So we create the crown and she’s the jewel in the crown. It is really what I do treasure is the unconditional love and sisterhood that we have.
(SD) 15. What has it been like to be a part of and work on Cher's many extravagant shows (Farewell Tour, Las Vegas, etc) from a creative and artistic standpoint?
From a creative and artistic standpoint it’s been some of the hardest work but also the best work because it’s challenging but its fun and it’s magnificent. When you love what you do, which I do and we’re blessed to be able to present it to all of her fans, that’s the true culmination of what we really love to do, both of us. The shows are for the fans and so we just hope everyone enjoys them as much as we enjoy making them for them.
(SD) 16. Do you often find yourself respectfully sharing creative differences with Cher and how do you approach that, or do you both share similar interests and ideas when it comes to staging, lighting, dancing, production etc?
We pretty much have an idea of what we want but during the process things do change because they have to. You’ll find that when you’re making a show this large, certain things do work better than others. We have a nice way of communicating with each other and she expresses that she wants to change things then we change them, obviously for her to feel comfortable in her show.
(SD) 17. You’re currently out on the road with the “Dressed to Kill” tour and serve as the creator, director and choreographer. How was the concept for this tour created?
How we create the concept of the tour is we start with a set list. We always start with a set list. Once we have the set list then we attach different images to it like we all will say, “wouldn’t this be cool, or wouldn’t this be fun, or imagine this.” We play the “imagine if” game. That’s kind of how it starts manifesting. Each theme and each song she wants it to be completely different and look completely different. That’s why she likes to do so many costume changes. We have a lot of set pieces in this show that are beautiful. It’s like what would we like to see and what would make the fans happy? It always comes back to what do we think would make the fans happy.
(SD) 18. What are you most proud of about the show and what do you feel needs further work or tweaking?
I’m most proud of Cher that she’s out here doing this. I’m most proud of the dancers, band and the crew that get this gigantic show up and moving every day. Creatively I’m most proud of troji the Trojan horse because he’s the most beautiful thing we’ve ever created. He’s fantastic, I really love him a lot! Hopefully we’re done with the tweaking and adjustments because the show is fantastic and it’s really, really fun. It gives the fans everything they would want to see and more from her entire career. So hopefully we’ll settle in and just enjoy the rest of the ride pretty soon. I hope everyone will come along for the journey! (Laughs)
(SD) 19. What is an average day like in the life of Doriana Sanchez out on the road from the moment you wake up until you lay your head down at night?!?
The moment I wake up, I give thanks, meditate and pray. You got to see what the average day is like; we get up, we get here, and we get going. I’m going to every office seeing, there’s always something going on. Today we had a rehearsal and we’ll be changing some of the choreography in the next couple days. I’ve got some new video stuff coming in the next couple of days. Every day it’s something, it’s a problem or somebody has something going on because this is a huge camp of people so there is always something to attend to.
(SD) 20. What do you want to achieve next and what advice would you like to share with those reading this interview?
After the tour I hope to have my book finished. I hope to be doing more gigantic shows and creations all over the world.
I would love to work with troubled kids and people that need healing. I would love to go back into the healing world of dance, movement, and healing music because that makes a lot of sense for me, especially after my operation. I understand how extremely difficult it is for patients with brain injuries. I would like to be able to help them. I would like to be of service.
I would like to share with your readers that they can do anything that they would have wanted to accomplish in life if they open their hearts and minds to it. If they think in a positive way and never give up hope no matter what the situation is or what it appears to be, never give up hope.
(Follow up, June 18, 2014) Just today, I received an amazing phone call from a friend who has been paralyzed in a wheel chair for the past year. Today, he was able to regain the use of his arm and leg and walk again.
In closing, my favorite quote to say is, “Stand in Faith, Walk in Gratitude.”