Katy Barrow, Founder of SOSA Dance Ltd and SOSA & Starlets Community Interest Company, shares her Personal Blog

‘Being completely honest with you… there are times that I’ve been completely terrified, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Rest assured, fear is OK. Because it just means that you REALLY CARE!’

Katy is a highly qualified and accomplished professional dancer, choreographer and fitness presenter, with a career spanning 28 years.  She has danced since the age of six years old – ‘It’s all I know, my life-long passion, and the one thing that’s always made me feel so happy, despite any stress or worries I may have had in my life’.   Katy’s love and passion for dance knows no bounds – her dream is to inspire people all over the world, regardless of age or level of ability, to experience the positive physical, mental and social wellbeing benefits that dance brings, which are truly life-changing for many people.

Katy created SOSA Dance Ltd in 2012 and has since trained over 650 dance/fitness instructors in 16 countries worldwide to deliver her programmes.  SOSA offers a unique, innovative and sustainable approach, incorporating authentic movements from 37 international dance styles, with an iconic soundtrack of music spanning the past century.  Katy established SOSA & Starlets Community Interest Company during the COVID pandemic, and was awarded funding from Sport England’s ‘Tackling Inequalities Fund’.  Supported by EMD UK, Katy led a nationwide project in target LSEG areas, providing inclusive, accessible and affordable dance activities for older adults, those with long-term health conditions and disabilities.   You can get a flavour of her classes here

This led to the development and trial of Simply SOSA ‘Falls Prevention’ strength and balance programme, with additional considerations for GP Health Referral patients.

Developing Accessible and Inclusive Instructor Training Courses

Katy has since received a substantial amount of funding from the National Lottery Good Causes Community Fund, and local councils nationwide, to continue her projects nationwide.  She tells us

“Adapting my instructor training courses to be fully inclusive for disabled instructors, took me completely out of my comfort zone.  I have a lot of knowledge, but I do not have a personal ‘lived’ experience of any long-term health conditions. I just knew in my heart, that I was so incredibly passionate and determined to make SOSA accessible for everyone.

‘I am so proud to be working alongside EmployAbility/Aspire, providing fully accessible and inclusive training courses to encourage and support more fitness instructors with disabilities to gain a professional qualification and build a life-long career within the fitness industry. I am delighted that our Seated SOSA training course was chosen to contribute to the ‘EmployAbility Training Provider Guide’, as a case study example for others.’

I’ve learnt so much along my journey,  purely because I’ve never assumed anything, and I’ve been totally open to learning and adapting every step of the way.

Training and Empowering the Instructors

I have been SO inspired by the level of professionalism and passion of the disabled instructors I have trained. Every single person I’ve had the pleasure of training with a health condition or disability, know THEIR OWN ability and limits, and fully understand the struggles to be active and the everyday challenges they face.  I have found every one of them to be really motivated to help others, and I’ve helped to empower them to be in that position.  Two prime examples –

Oni Bhattacharya, is a wheelchair user who now works for YMCA and teaches Seated SOSA classes in older adult care facilities. He is the highlight of the residents’ week, they love it so much that they get a young vibrant man visit them to deliver some really fun activity!

Another of our instructors, Paul Fosu, has Essential Tremor and walks with a frame. He is from Nigerian descent, and having recently immigrated to the UK, was struggling to find his path. He now delivers Seated SOSA as part of a GP referral service in East London, as part of a charity funding initiative ‘Together Better’. He is a central part of his local community providing opportunities for older, vulnerable and disabled people to exercise and socialise.”

Top tips for setting up inclusive training programmes

Katy’s advice for others considering following in her footsteps  is to listen and observe intently, open your heart, and never be afraid to embrace inclusivity – it will empower YOU, and everyone around you!

We’re delighted that Katy’s top tips have worked so wonderfully well for her – ‘What I’ve achieved with SOSA, Seated SOSA, and now Simply SOSA, over the past 10 years has been way above and beyond even my wildest dreams.’

Meet Katy at Elevate

Visitors to Elevate at London’s Excel on 15 June will be able to see Katy, along with Hilary Farmiloe from Aspire, Colin Huffen from CIMSPA, Lee Welch from Beyond Limits Health and Fitness and Ian Ling from Everyone Active, as they discuss Disability and Workforce as part of the Thought Leaders Conference.

Follow the links for more information

Our free Safeguarding resource contains some key information for group exercise instructors, including those delivering classes to participants with long-term health conditions, impairments or illnesses – https://emduk.org/free-safeguarding-resource/

You can visit the SOSA Instructor Training website for more info at https://sosafitness.co.uk/be-an-instructor/

You can also check out the SOSA & Starlets Community Interest Company website at https://sosafitness.co.uk/sosa-starlets-community-interest-company

Please don’t hesitate to contact Katy personally if you would like to discuss further at katy@sosadance.co.uk.