Salsa a taste of home for Burnaby dancer
But whenever he laces up his shiny black leather dancing shoes and fires up the salsa music, he's transported to his grandmother's home in Colombia, the smell of tamales wafting from the kitchen, the salpicon flowing freely.
"Salsa dancing was my original connection to know where I was from," says Sanchez, who's been dancing competitively and teaching salsa to others for 16 years at World Dance Co., the Burnaby studio he operates with his sister Erika.
This weekend he'll be celebrating salsa with thousands of other dancers and enthusiasts at the fourth annual Vancouver International Salsafestival which runs March 7-10 at the Westin Bayshore and other downtown locations.
Sanchez was only three or four years old when he first started dancing the salsa. His sister needed a partner; he was available and keen.
Unlike other dance disciplines such as ballroom and waltz with regimented steps and patterns , salsa is creatively free and expressive, says Sanchez. From their roots in Colombia, Cuba, Los Angeles and New York, the moves evolve, intersect and head off in new directions.
"Almost no one dances alike. You can mix and match styles and create your own."
At the studio Sanchez teaches students from many cultures, each bringing their own unique touch and flavour. That mosaic makes the Lower Mainland special in the salsa community and helped spur his studio's 12-dancer Grupo America team to a championship in Cuban salsa at the World Latin Dance Cup 2012 in Miami.
"You don't have to be Hispanic to do it," says Erika. "Dancing is very universal. It's a reflection of our community."
At this weekend's Salsafestival, Sanchez will be able to dance with and learn from salsa lovers from around the world including Eddie Torres, the grandfather of New York style salsa.
"It's pretty inspirational," says Sanchez. "It really energizes me as a teacher and a choreographer."