Interview with Sam Sodano – November 2015
Sam Sodano and Marilyn Fordney – Ohio Star Ball ’15Coming right off the Ohio Star Ball Championships for 2015, Fordney Foundation was fortunate to be able to catch up with and present to you, an interview with this iconic ballroom dance advocate and organizer, the one and only Sam Sodano. In case you may not know, the Ohio Star Ball is the largest and certainly one of the most prestigious competitions in the United States. I hope you will enjoy learning about “Mr. Ohio Star Ball” himself, as much as we did. Freddie Brock: Where are you from? Sam Sodano: I was born in Cliffside Park, New Jersey on April 16, 1943. I moved to Columbus Ohio in 1971 and have made my home there ever since. FB: What sparked your interest in dance? SS: My favorite television show as an 8 year-old boy was the Arthur Murray Dance Party, starring Arthur and Kathryn Murray. My family owned a small black and white television set. There were 4 channels at the time. Every Sunday night I was glued to the set, watching the dancing. FB: How old were you when you took your first dance steps? In high school, I realized I was a natural dancer and teamed up with my first partner, Gail Weiss. We practiced in Gail’s parents’ basement, copying what we saw on television and coming up with our own moves. My father got us tickets to enter the dance competition on the Clay Cole show. The show was similar to American Bandstand and filmed before a live audience. It was my first competition and we won!
FB: Tell us about your career in dance? I was briefly a student at Arthur Murray’s before being hired as a teacher. I danced with many pro-ams and became top teacher. As a professional competitor, my highest achievements were with my partner Pat Hogan. We placed second at the 1971 inaugural United States Ballroom Championships and were the first Americans in the history of the Blackpool Championships to make the Rising Star final, 1972. We placed fourth at Blackpool and won the cha cha, my favorite dance still to this day. FB: How did you go from dancing to becoming the foremost organizer of the biggest Pro/Am dance competition in the world? SS: I feel the Pro/Am contingent is the backbone of the ballroom dance industry in America. As Ohio Star Ball grew, I wanted to provide increasing incentives and new opportunities for the Pro/Am dancers. From the Best of the Best to the World Pro/Am, I believe it’s important for people to have new challenges and goals. FB: Tell us why this year at the Ohio Star Ball will be different from all the rest? Did you add any new categories this year? SS: We are celebrating the 15th year anniversary of the World Pro/Am Dancesport Series with over 90 participating events and 2000 teachers currently active in the circuit. It is one of, if not, the most prestigious dance series, to date. SS: And Dance Network is making their debut at the Ohio Star Ball, filming every aspect of this year’s competition for the general public and viewers of Dance Network. FB: What don’t people know about Sam Sodano? SS: I’m a people person and enjoy connecting with people from beginners to top professionals when I’m on the road. But I’m also a homebody. I enjoy eating out, going to see the latest movies, and love old reruns of Perry Mason.
FB: Can you give some inspiring information to the young beginner dancers coming up in the world? SS: You’ve got to dance because you love it and are passionate about it. Not everyone wins first place or becomes a champion but that doesn’t mean dance isn’t a fulfilling hobby or career. FB: What is the one element a professional dancer must have? SS: Nothing takes the place of passion and dedication. Going the extra mile, training longer, smarter and harder does pay off. There are no short cuts to success. FB: Is there anything you would like to do in the dance world that you haven’t done yet? SS: Retire!!!! I’m joking. I will always be involved in the ballroom dance industry – it’s in my blood. I have had a wonderful life because of my profession, and I count myself lucky to have done it all. We want to thank the very busy Sam Sodano for sharing some of his pearls of (dance) wisdom with us. If you want to find out more about the man of ballroom dance and his many fascinating stories, be on the lookout for Sam’s new biography which should be out sometime in 2016. Also, we want to thank Marilyn Fordney, our founder, for her personal touch in making this interview happen and Bill Sparks, Sam Sodano’s partner for over 27 years, who is also Awards Coordinator and a Judge. Thank you Bill for taking time out of your busy schedules to make some time for the Fordney Foundation, I know our readers will appreciate it!
Thought Of The Week: If you have a chance to choose between being kind and being right, choose being kind and you will always be right