Katy Harris (nee Barrow) A.IDTA
Principal, Founder & CEO of SOSA Dance Ltd (SOSA Dance Fitness, Seated SOSA Dance Fitness and Simply SOSA Dance Fitness)
Co-Founder/Director of SOSA & Starlets Community Interest Company
‘A highly accomplished professional dancer, choreographer and dance teacher, Katy has a life-long passion for dance, that just like her incredible energy, knows no bounds! Her dream is to inspire people all over the world, regardless of their age or level of ability, to experience the pure joy and happiness that dance brings’
I had no idea where to start writing a bio about my own life. It made me think long and hard about the true underlying reasons that led me to this place in my life, and subsequently, my chosen career path, as Founder of SOSA Dance Ltd, and more recently, Co-Founder of SOSA & Starlets Community Interest Company.
“I’ve loved dance with a passion from a very young age, and I feel so lucky and blessed that I get to wake up every morning, and do what I love the most”
Yes, I’ve worked hard to achieve all the accolades, awards and qualifications I’ve gained along the way, but it is so much more appropriate, and meaningful, for me to dedicate this page to sharing some truly personal experiences from my life with you all, in honour of the INCREDIBLE PEOPLE who have been responsible for teaching and inspiring me along the way.
Without the influence of these very special individuals, I would not have learnt the inner strength, creativity, passion, inspiration, determination and self-belief, to follow my dreams.
For many years, alongside teaching dance part-time in the evenings, I worked in high-pressured, high-powered roles in the City of London, at the London Stock Exchange, and front-office trading floors at various International Investments banks. Looking back, I have no idea how I sat still at a desk for that long! But it did teach me all the professional skills I needed to run a successful business and communicate effectively on every level.
I was made redundant from RBS in 2012, so I decided to use my redundancy money to open my own dance school. I started off teaching line dancing classes, private lessons and wedding dance packages. Then, I had a great idea to open a class at my local village hall to teach people Salsa and Latin dance steps, without the need for a partner.
I never envisaging in my wildest dreams, that 10 years down the line, that idea would have grown to be a GLOBAL dance brand, making dance truly inclusive and accessible for ALL!
Sue Wilson (Founder of Starlets, Co-Founder/Director of SOSA & Starlets Community Interest Company, SOSA & Seated SOSA Regional Pro Trainer for Essex & Greater London)
I was just 6 years old when my Mum enrolled me into my first Ballroom & Latin dance school. I have a vivid memory of looking up at Sue, who was training to be a dance teacher at the time. I was far too small to dance in Ballroom/Latin close hold with her, so we just held hands, or elbows, as she taught me the Cha-Cha-Cha.
My Mum said I used to come home from class and dance around the house, singing “2, 3, Cha-Cha-Cha!”
Sue taught me the basic underlying technique of every Ballroom, Latin and Disco dance step I know today.
After 10 years, and countless trophies, awards and medals for amateur IDTA dance exams and competitions in Ballroom, Latin and Disco Dancing, I left the dance school, age 16, when teenage life and GCSE exams took over. Unfortunately, Sue and I lost touch after that.
Sue inspired me to fall in love with dance… and realise from a very young age, that dance was my DESTINY.
Fast-forward to 26 years later, after moving back to my home town in Essex in 2018, I went along for a social night at my local Salsa club. As I sat at the side-lines putting on my dance shoes, I couldn’t take my eyes off this woman on the dancefloor… she was SO FABULOUS, I found myself transfixed, in total awe of her. I knew that I recognised her face, but I had no recollection where from.
She walked over to me ten minutes later, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Is your name Katy?”
I looked into her eyes, and in that moment, I knew immediately that it was HER!! I threw my arms around her, I was SO EXCITED. I didn’t sleep a wink that night!
I absolutely believe that fate bought Sue and I together again, for a very important and special reason.
We are now best friends, and business partners. The company that Sue founded over 20 years ago, Starlets, is just a baby/toddler version of SOSA, with exactly the same ethos, fun and vision, of inclusive dance for all abilities.
It was ALWAYS MEANT TO BE that SOSA & Starlets would align!!
We recently Co-Founded SOSA & Starlets Community Interest Company in June 2020, and Sue is now ‘Regional SOSA and Seated SOSA Pro Trainer for Essex and Greater London.’
Dennis Drew (Famous professional Ballroom & Latin competition dancer, Former President of International Dance Teachers Association)
Shortly after my GCSE exams, my parents and I moved home to a new area, and I found my new local Ballroom & Latin school immediately. I’d not danced for 12-months by this point and I had missed it so much…
This is when I met Dennis Drew, who is simply a LEGEND.
My memory of him the first time I danced with him, will remain with me forever. He danced with such ease, he literally glided over the dancefloor!! I’d never seen or experienced anything like it.
Dancing in closed Ballroom/Latin hold with this incredible man, who had so much strength, energy, power and control in his lead…combined with natural effortlessness, care, and elegance in every step…was mind-blowing!
I had so much respect and admiration for him.
Dennis pushed and encouraged me to become a dance teacher as soon as I turned age 18, so I began training for my IDTA Ballroom/Latin Teaching Associate qualifications . He would work me to the limits every lesson, learning the technique of every dance step to the finest detail, making me repeat it 100 times, over and over again…until I could dance it with my eyes closed, and repeat the technique word for word.
Sometimes, I would sit down for a few minutes rest, especially when learning the fast Quickstep and Jive technique. He’d just look at me, laugh, and say “there’s no time to rest Katy, come on get up!”
I was 18 years old at the time, and he was in his mid-60’s. His energy levels were off the scale, I literally couldn’t keep up with him…
I know he would be so proud of SOSA if he were here today, because he had such a special gift to make everyone smile and feel instantly relaxed and welcome in his company the moment they walked onto his dancefloor. I would sit at the side-lines and watch his every move, studying and analysing his teaching techniques.
Dennis made me realise that DANCE IS FOR EVERYONE. People just need to be given the opportunity, encouragement… and most importantly, a happy, welcoming and non-judgemental environment in which to learn.
His passion for dance was so infectious, and INSPIRATIONAL beyond words.
R.I.P Dennis Drew.
Lynda King (IDTA Dance Teacher/Founder since 1964, Former President of International Dance Teachers Association)
Ten years after qualifying as a Ballroom and Latin teacher, I had secured a great career, working full time in the city of London as a PA at an international investment bank. But also, four nights a week, I would get home from work, quickly get changed and then teach private dance lessons and group dance classes in the evenings, at various dance schools in the Essex and Greater London area.
In the meantime, I had discovered a huge personal passion for Salsa, Bachata & Kizomba, so I really wanted to gain further dance teaching qualifications in Salsa and Freestyle.
Lynda was a close friend and associate of Dennis Drew, so I knew immediately that she was the one to teach and inspire me.
I was 30 years old, and with over 10 years of teaching experience under my belt by this point, I thought I was an expert!
Until I met Lynda, I had always been told what to teach by the owner of the dance school I was working at, according to the grade I was teaching, and in line with the ‘set’ dance steps and routines dictated in the IDTA syllabus.
Lynda’s teaching style was so unique, she taught me to analyse and question every element of every step and styling movement.
She would set me ‘homework’ every week, to study the IDTA manual… so I’d spend hours picking it apart, then I’d turn up to each lesson with twenty questions in my mind.
But she never answered one of my questions. Instead, she would throw them back at me, and put me on the spot.
Her reply was always, “You tell me why the body moves in that way?” or “Why do you think the foot is placed in that direction?”
I realised very quickly, that the reason she was refusing to answer me, is because she knew full well that I already had all the answers, I was just doubting my own knowledge. The only thing I lacked…. was confidence and self-belief to think ‘outside the box.’
She made me really analyse how every step could be adapted, and how important it was to pay attention to the choice of words/language I used to explain and break-down steps to participants, to establish effective communication and build instant rapport, connection and trust, with a huge variety of different age groups and levels of abilities.
I went from just being able to teach people how to dance steps from a book…
To really EMPOWERING people to embrace the journey of dance.
It elevated my skillset from just being a dance teacher… to being an intuitive choreographer.
She made me realise that I could achieve anything…
IF I BELIEVED IN MYSELF!
LYNDA KING… I take my hat off to you. Without a doubt, the most inspirational, creative and talented dancer and mentor I’ve ever had.
18 months later, in November 2012…. SOSA was born, and the company ethos was set in stone.
SOSA is all about opportunity, equality and self-belief.
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS.
Sharing the love, freedom, joy and positivity that dance brings, empowering people to change their lives forever.
Whether you’re Fred Astaire or Fred Flintstone, makes no odds.