Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Spotlight On...Fabian Sanchez

What started out as just a fun summer job has turned into a remarkable career for Fabian Sanchez.

It all started when Fred Astaire Area Developer Al King walked into a Ryan’s Steakhouse in Birmingham where Fabian was working.

“I’m with my wife and young children—however many years ago it was,” King fondly recalls, “While trying to keep my eye on my son, I ordered a diet coke. From behind the counter, this guy with a great voice says, while posing like a matador, ‘Here’s your diet coke, sir.’ I told him, ‘Kid, I’m going to change your life.’ Then he tells me his name is Fabian. What are the chances that a matador named Fabian would be working in a Ryan’s Steakhouse?”

Quickly warming to Fabian’s lively and dynamic personality, King asked him to apply to the Fred Astaire training program. Although Fabian had wanted to go to college with hopes of eventually turning pro in soccer, he agreed to work at Fred Astaire, thinking it would be a temporary job.

“Well, that summer turned into fifteen years,” Fabian laughs, “And I’m still here!”
The chance meeting at Ryan’s was the start of Fabian’s career. He is now the owner of the Birmingham studio along with his wife, Jacqueline. He is also a professional coach, choreographer, and National Dance Board member.

“I don’t know what I’d be doing if it weren’t for King,” Fabian explains, “I grew up in Colombia so, for me, King initiated the American dream.”

Fabian also credits Jacqueline for his success in owning a studio. “Everyone should marry a smart, beautiful woman like I did,” he says. “My wife keeps everything together. She is the backbone of the studio.”

Throughout the years, Fabian became a seasoned competitor, achieving such accomplishments as US Rising Star Champion, four time Fred Astaire National Champion, US Open American Rhythm Finalist, and 3rd in the World Mambo Championship.

Retiring from competitions to dedicate his time to his family and studio, Fabian made a remarkable comeback at last year’s USDSC where he reunited with his former dance partner, Christina Penatello, to win the US Mambo Championship. The odds were not in their favor since they hadn’t danced together for years, were slightly out of shape, didn’t have glamorous costumes, and had only rehearsed together for 5 hours. “We had nothing to lose!” Almost skipping out on the dance floor in their excitement to be dancing together again, Fabian and Christina swept the competition away!

“That competition brought back such great memories! The music playing was music I’ve heard all my life. My wife, my son, and my parents were there. All my friends were watching. It was the most magical moment of my career.”

Fabian values the family atmosphere of the Fred Astaire organization. “I’ve met a lot of friends in my region as well as the Ft. Walton studio. They’ve all been a wonderful support to me. I like knowing that if I have a problem, I can pick up the phone and people are willing to help me.”
His main loves besides dancing are singing and soccer. He periodically sings at parties and at last year’s Dancing With Desire benefit in Florida, Fabian closed the show with a lovely rendition of “Cali Pachanguero.”

Even though he gave it up for dancing, soccer is still his “religion.” Fabian was the first from Alabama to make it to the US National Pool. And his athletic training has been useful in his dancing. “In the beginning,” Fabian says, “I wasn’t the most artistic dancer but I danced hard with all my heart. Soccer gave me that competitive spirit of never giving up and giving 150% of myself always.”

Everything Fabian does, he does with passion and enthusiasm! “I am very proud of Fabian, the dancer and the man he has become,” Al King says, “Just goes to show ya...there are stars all over just waiting to shine.”

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