Sam Sodano’s 75th Birthday Bash!

Sam’s 75th, Photo by Alex Havasi

When an iconic figure in ballroom/dancesport history has a 75th birthday, it is a big thing!  We are talking about the legendary Sam Sodano.  No one person has contributed so much to “ballroom dance,” so to speak, than Mr. Sam Sodano.  A dancer himself, he was an extraordinary one at that and won many awards in his lifetime to prove it.  In his career, this “people” person, has been a teacher, mentor, dance advocate and is well known for being the most foremost Pro/AM dance organizer of the Ohio Star Ball on the competition scene.  Ohio Star Ball is the largest and most prestigious competition in the United States and the Fordney Foundation is proud to be part of this spectacular event every year.  Through our association with Sam Sodano, the Fordney Foundation is able to provide more means for our dancers to partake in competitions, win prizes and participate in scholarship events.

I would like to share with you now, the extraordinary event that was Sam’s birthday party, as

Marilyn Fordney, Alex Havasi at Sam’s 75th

told by Marilyn Fordney.  Both Mrs. Fordney and her husband, Alex Havasi were invited guests.  You will see, by these super photos, all taken by Alex Havasi, our resident photographer, how incredible and special, this birthday celebration really was!

My husband, Alex Havasi and myself, were invited to Sam Sodano’s 75th birthday celebration which took place on Saturday, April 21, 2018. When the invitation arrived, I opened the envelope and as I lifted the card front, I heard the sound of a cruise ship as it was departing the dock. The party took place in New York harbor aboard a yacht that accommodated over 250 guests.

Many attendees were individuals involved with ballroom dance, such as judges, dance competition organizers, professional dancers, sponsors of dance competitions, workers at dance competitive events, and so on. Some of Sam’s relatives were also there, to help him celebrate. As each person was checked off the guest list, he or she was given a bag with a nice surprise gift that would be later unveiled during the celebration.

There were three levels to the yacht we were on. The middle level is where everyone assembled to enjoy cocktails and hors-d’oeuvres. The dinner was held in the lower level. The decorations were outstanding and done in black, white, and gold colors. A menu was at each place setting so that one could choose entre and dessert in addition to the salad.

The Jersey Boys, Photo by Alex Havasi

After the meal, the Jersey Boys entertained dressed in red suits and of course, everyone loved their music and songs. Pretty soon many got up to dance to their awesome music and the songs, we knew so well. The boat was indeed rocking. In fact, I got a chance to do a birthday dance with Sam!

A beautiful cake was presented to Sam and we all sang the “Happy Birthday” song with loud cheers and clapping. The surprise gift was unwrapped that each guest was

Marilyn Fordney, Sam Sodano, Photo by Alex Havasi

given as a memento. It was a 323-page book authored by Sharon Savoy entitled Sam Sodano–PassionateJourney. It is the life story of Sam Sodano complete with photographs and comments from those interviewed for the book. A lot of the credit for getting this book published goes to Sam’s partner, Bill Sparks, who wrote the Foreword to the book. A paragraph from the Foreword reads: “Sam Sodano has shaped DanceSport in America, first by his dancing, then by his extensive competitive events which continue to expand each decade, and thirdly by his continuing quest to invent, reinvent and create new opportunities for dance competitors–from amateurs to pros, and from kids to seniors.”

The tour of the New York harbor ended at the Statue of Liberty all lit up–a sight to behold. The New York skyline on this clear night appeared like jewels and crystals.

NY Skyline, Photo by Alex Havasi

Looks like the bash of the season, that was surely not to be missed (if you were an invited guest)!  Thank you Marilyn Fordney for sharing this fun and detailed experience with us.  We’d also like to mention Sam Sodano’s new book again, Sam Sodano–PassionateJourney, in case some of our readers would like to pick up a copy.  It will be a great one to read and to own, that is for sure!

Statue of Liberty, Photo by Alex Havasi

Thought Of The Week:

“The only time you should look back is to see how far you have come.”  –  Kevin Hart



Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website