2019 marks my 23rd year dancing West Coast Swing. This dance was never something I planned to fall in love with nor pursue, like my mother, Kelly Buckwalter Casanova however I am so thankful I did. I have seen so many amazing places and formed amazing friendships due to this “hobby” of mine and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am so thrilled to be continuing this journey with Matt as he is not just one of my favorite dancers, but also one of my favorite humans 🙂
Music and dancing have surrounded Samantha her entire life. Being the daughter of Kelly (Buckwalter) Casanova, meant that every week she was tagging along to dances and workshops, doing her homework and playing her gameboy, while her mother worked to support the both of them. Halls, studios, and conventions became her playgrounds. It wasn’t until she was 10 years old and attended her mother’s convention, Swingbreak, that she actually wanted to learn what her mother did. It was at this event that she saw Jordan Frisbee and Jessica Cox perform a Junior routine and from that point on she wanted to be a dancer.
Samantha began competing in 2001 and traveling to more events out of state with her mother. She danced her first Juniors routine at the US Open with Ben Morris in 2002 and the following year with Rickey Andrade in 2003. At the time dancing was still a hobby as her passion was focused on martial arts. She was the youngest in her dojo to receive 1st dan (Black belt level) at 16. Her teaching career began at her dojo as she taught classes there to children and adults of all ages for 6 years.
Samantha had no intention of teaching or pursuing West Coast Swing as a career until 2006 at Capital Swing. It was there that she saw Kyle Redd and Sarah Van Drake perform their “How long can a fool go wrong” routine and truly fell in love with the dance. From that point on she began mentoring under her mother, assisting her classes and shadowing her as a judge to learn everything and anything she could about the dance. Samantha worked diligently to earn her points in every division up from the Junior, Novice, Intermediate, Advanced and AllStar divisions to her current position competing with the top Champion dancers around the world.
Starting in 2007, Samantha was fortunate to study under Mario Robau Jr. She assisted him in workshops and intensives both in the US and abroad which she credits to her confident teaching foundation. During 2009-2010 Samantha was presented a once in a life time opportunity by her dear friend, Mike Rosa, to re-locate to London. It was there that she taught weekly classes, workshops, and events all over the UK and Europe in an effort to help the Swing community grow. After her adventures in Europe, Samantha was convinced by her brand new friend at the time, Malia San Nicoles, to move to Southern California, which is where she now calls home. Samantha was inducted into the California Swing Dance Hall of Fame in 2012 and continues to travel all over the world competing, coaching, and teaching with her partner Matt Richey.
One of Samantha’s proudest moments was becoming the first woman to final in a Champion’s division as a Leader, thanks to the help of Jennifer Deluca. From her very first dance lesson, Samantha’s mother taught her to lead and follow at the same time. This skill not only benefited Samantha’s teaching ability but also allowed her to be a role model to so many dancers wishing to learn the opposite role. Samantha and her mother are proud to support the movement in the West Coast Swing community to allow anyone to learn and compete in any role they so chose.