February 8, 2021
Welcome to my podcast! Get to know me!
On her first episode, Sonia opens up about her struggles as an immigrant child moving to Canada at a young age but didn’t understand a word of English! She shares with us how she fell in love with Latin dance and how it changed her from a shy wall flower to a dance teacher that teaches and performs around the world! As a young woman, she struggled to claim her space in a very male dominated dance milieu. The odds were stacked against her…but she danced her way to success.
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From as early as i can remember, I’ve known that dance would be a major force in my life. It took the shy little girl I was and turned me into a bold, confident woman. I was born in London, England, but my earliest memories are all set in Montreal, Canada. When I was five years, my parents, Cypriot and frequent movers, settled in this city, where I discovered my passion for Latin dance —or did it find me? Montreal’s lively nightlife and vibrant dance community inspired me to follow my heart and make a career out of my passion, to make a reality out of my dreams. So I put myself on the stage and “choreographed my life”, accomplishing my wildest dreams by taking one step at the time, with spontaneity. And when I took that leap of faith, all the stars were aligned for my career to take off. It happened. My philosophy of life is largely inspired by dance. We all have a dream we yearn to achieve, and we need to choreograph our every move to make it happen. I was advised not to live the “artist life” for reasons still beyond my comprehension, but nothing else made sense to me. I saw the changes the rhythm brings about for me, for you, for anybody who takes a chance—and that’s what I wanted to devote my life to. Sonia lives in Montreal where she teaches and coaches.
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Sonia Kyriacou owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of the Choreograph Your Life podcasts, with all rights reserved, including right of publicity. WHAT’S OK: You are welcome to share an excerpt from the episode transcript (up to 500 words but not more) in media articles, in a non-commercial article or blog post, and/or on a personal social media account for non-commercial purposes, provided that you include proper attribution and link back to the podcast URL. For the sake of clarity, media outlets with advertising models are permitted to use excerpts from the transcript per the above. WHAT’S NOT OK: No one is authorized to copy any portion of the podcast content or use Sonia Kyriacou’s name, image or likeness for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books, book summaries or synopses, or on a commercial website or social media site (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that offers or promotes your or another’s products or services. For the sake of clarity, media outlets are permitted to use photos of Sonia Kyriacou from her Media Kit page. Episode Attribution Sonia Kyriacou. (Host). (2021, January 5). Welcome to my podcast! Get to know me! [Audio podcast episode]. In Choreograph Your Life with Sonia Kyriacou. Parcast. http://soniakyriacou.com/sonia-kyriacou-welcome-to-my-podcast/ TRANSCRIPT Voiceover 0:05 Welcome to the “choreograph your life” podcast where we dig deep into the journey of people’s pursuit of their passion for dance. Join us as our host and guests discuss their dance journeys, the business of dance obstacles they face, and even lessons learned along the way. Now, here’s your host, Sonia Kyriacou. Sonia Kyriacou 0:33 Hey, guys, this is Sonia Kyriacou. And I’d like to welcome you to my episode one of choreograph your life, How you all doing? I’m so excited that I’m finally starting this podcast, a little bit about me and my background and why I decided to start a podcast. So I was born in London, England, and my parents are from Cyprus. So I have a Greek Cypriot background, came to Canada at age four, and have stayed here in Montreal since then. I was alone. At the time, an only child, I then had my brother and sister Well, I didn’t have them, my parents had them. But we were growing up, you know, as an immigrant family in Canada. So moving forward, as I went through school and ended up in high school, I realized that I had a lot of trouble communicating. I was just so shy and so quiet and just never felt myself always felt kind of awkward, like you could forget I was in the room. That’s how quiet it was, until I discovered dancing. So how did that happen? I was watching these very famous world famous movies, one of them being Flashdance. The other Dirty Dancing, I fell in love with Patrick Swayze. I just thought, you know, to be a dancer is to be a God, I was just super impressed with the power with the influence with, you know, that emotion how a dancer transfers emotion to people in the room or on the screen. And this really touched me in a very deep part of my soul. I knew at that moment that I have to start dancing. And so I went back home, and I asked my dad, can you please please let me sign up for dance classes? His answer was a flat out No way. Not gonna happen. His excuse was, Oh, we don’t have the budget, dancing is not a good thing. You know, that’s for like, not good girls. Right? So coming from a traditional background, my parents didn’t really see dancing as something a good girl would do. So they totally rejected the idea. But I had my dreams and I was hanging on to them. And I said, You know what, I’m old enough and I make my own money. I’m going to dance. So time went on. At the age of 18, I decided to move out also very not traditional, not a good thing to do when you’re a Greek from a Greek Cypriot household. But I just felt I needed to spread my wings and become the person I wanted to be. So I just I left I got a couple of jobs. I was in school. And I was just making ends meet. But nonetheless, I was, you know, independent I made. I made my own decisions. I chose my life. So I enrolled in a program called fashion merchandising and quickly discovered, it just wasn’t for me. I didn’t enjoy it. It was not. It was not resonating with me. So I started thinking, you know, what should I do? What, where should I go? And what’s my next step? I saw an ad in a newspaper. And this ad said, hiring dance teachers willing to train and of course, my eyes lit up. And I said, That’s it, give me the phone. I’m calling. So I did that. I went there. I got hired, I started working there. I was thrilled, thrilled, over the moon, happy with what I was doing, which was learning to dance, basically focused on Latin and ballroom, learning about the technique, the history of the dances, but most importantly, learning how to communicate with people. This was a huge, huge skill and a big, big, big, you know, roadblock for me because I was shy, and I just couldn’t even look people in the eyes. So becoming a dance teacher definitely changed me as a person, I became more confident. I mean, it took many, many years, but this is definitely what put me in that direction. So I worked there for a while and a couple years later, you know, things started getting tough, the the bills weren’t being paid, you know, like, the tough part at that moment was, you know, not enough money basically and I couldn’t pay my bills to live on my own to, to pay for my training and to just live so my parents You know, we’re putting pressure and they said, When are you going to get the real job, Sonia. Okay, you had your fun. Now it’s time to get serious. Of course, I despise hearing that. And I will definitely be doing an episode on this, this concept of stigma that you know, dance or art cannot be your real job, you know, then I basically tell people, I have an “unreal” job because that’s what I do. I went to work in an office, and I was miserable, I hated waking up, I hated going there. I just hated every minute of it. I was dying, a slow death. And I knew that I needed to get back to dancing. So I reached out to one of the people I knew from the dance studio that I used to dance with, and we had a really good connection. And I said, hey, let’s start a dance troupe. Why not? You know, let’s get back into dancing. And he said, let’s go. I love the idea. We started a dance team, we started practicing. We put out an ad for auditions for dancers, we got a group together, we started creating choreographies I was back in my zone, I was loving every minute of it. And, of course, my parents weren’t. But you know, at the time, I said, I don’t care. I’m going for it. This is my passion. This is what I want to pursue. So the person I was doing this with was, his name is Sam. And really good friend of mine, and just for fun, and he says, and here they are this Sonata dancers and I was like, oh, that just feels weird. It didn’t really work for me. We did the show where everything went well. But then after you know, we’re driving home and I said, Sam, I don’t know about that name. Do you think you can come up with something else? Because it wasn’t really grooving with me? And he said, Yeah, you know what, let me think about it. A couple of days go by comes to practice. He says, Okay, I’ve got something else. So what is it? He says San Tropez. And I said, Wow, I’m intrigued. It’s interesting. What does it mean? And he said, Sam, like San Juan, Santo Domingo, like basically South America. And Tropez referencing St. Tropez in France. The vibe, the culture of the Europeans that love to party and love music? And I said, Okay, he says, So Latin and Europe come together and you get San Tropez. I said, You know what, I like it, let’s go with it. Go to a show that weekend, get backstage, the emcee says And here they are. The San Tropez dancers. And I was like, Yes, I’m loving the way this sounds, I’m going for it. This is what I’m gonna do. We’re gonna keep this name. And hence the beginning of my dance company, San Tropez thanks to my friend Sam. Unfortunately, Sam has passed away. He had a terminal illness, and he’s gone, but I held the name in his memory. And I will truly always be grateful to him for what he has done for me and what he inspired me to do. And I continue to do today. So I love you, Sam, wherever you are. Moving forward to my the next stage of my of my life. Even though I was dancing, and I had now my own troupe and my own company, I was still shy. I was still insecure. I still felt like, I don’t know, am I cut out for this? I’m not Latin. I don’t speak Spanish. And here I am dancing, salsa, bachata, and all these Latin rhythms. And I don’t know, I just didn’t feel like I was in my place. I was I was just scared, I would say I think it was fear, you know, fearing, fearing judgment, fearing that I wasn’t good enough. So my struggle continues. I decided then that I would open a dance studio, I said, You know what, I’ve been spending so much money, renting studio space and practicing with my dancers. And it’s just getting out of hand. So let me just put this money towards the rent and open my own official studio, which I did. And I’m super grateful that I did I learned so much about business, and about overcoming obstacles, you know, as an entrepreneur, so I had to really like just find the way to make it happen. I didn’t have a budget. I didn’t have a loan. I didn’t have a sugar daddy, I didn’t have my parents for sure. And that they did not support me financially. So I just said, You know what, I’m going to move mountains. I’m going to make this happen. I sold my car. And with the money that I made from that I laid down a carpet in the studio, I put up, you know, some basic furniture, I got my phone line, and voila, I started to run a business. So that started going in the way I wanted it to go in the sense that I was you know, happy that I got there. But it was it was a tough start guys. It wasn’t like tons of students were breaking down the doors to come in and you know, buy dance classes like I had to build it up from the ground up one day at a time, one phone call at a time. One student at a time. I was frequenting a club named salsa tech. And it was it is still a Latin club in Montreal. been around for 30 years, it’s a staple in the Latin dance world, for North America really, truly. And I was going there quite a bit every weekend and I got to know the owner. And he says to me one day, you know what, Sonia, you’re fine. You’re upbeat. You love dance. Why don’t you run my dance competitions? I said, What? No, I can’t do that. I don’t know how to do that. Like, that’s crazy. He said, Give it a try. Why not? Is it okay? And he’s gonna pay me for it. I’m like, Sure. So I come back on Friday, the following week. And as I’m all set to do this competition, and I’m going around, you know, kind of mingling with the dancers, and I get on the microphone, and I said, Hey, Allah, you know, barely speaking Spanish. And I presented the competition, I asked people to come up and compete because they could win a bottle of champagne. And nobody, and I mean, nobody stood up. It was crickets. It was probably the worst moment of my life where I just turned red, and I wanted to hide. It was horrible. I stayed up there for a couple of minutes, I kind of got almost to the begging part where I’m like, please, anybody, you know, like, let’s do this. It’s fun. It just wasn’t working. They just looked at me, like, Who’s this white girl? She doesn’t even speak Spanish. What’s she doing there? You know, so I got off the microphone, I ran to the bag. I was bawling my eyes out. I was dying. I was like, I can’t do this. You know, what am I thinking? So I said to the owner, you know what? I’m so sorry, let you down. I can’t do this. I just don’t have what it takes. And he looked at me and he said, You know what, Sonia, you can do this, I believe in you. I want you to try again tomorrow. And I just couldn’t believe that this man was trusting me and having, you know, this faith that I can do something that I didn’t even have an ounce of belief that I could accomplish. So I’m forever grateful for that moment, because it really did change me. And you know, of course, day after day, you know, during the competition, week, after week, I got easier. People started getting more familiar with me, my Spanish improved, and of course, help that I was dancing with everyone. And yes, eventually, the competitions were rolling. And that Shane champagne, you know, was was flowing. I made a little rhyme there for you guys. So after this episode, after, you know, getting comfortable in the club and the club, in the competitions and running my studio, I started to, you know, get a little more, let’s say, well known, you know, I started to attract more students to the studio and the timing couldn’t have been better, because at that point in time, there was this explosion of Jennifer Lopez. You know, everybody started flipping out over her her, her Latin album, and they were like, Oh, my God, I want to do this, I want to sell I want to move my hips like Jennifer Lopez. And then Ricky Martin with his Viva loca. So this kind of all came together and worked in my favor, because then the phone just would not stop ringing. At this point in time, we had moved to a different location, it was more central. And we just, we were rocking, like, I’m not sure what the exact count is. And I’m not telling you this number to impress you, but rather to show you that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. We’ve taught over 20,000 students in the downtown area of Montreal, how to dance, salsa, bachata, and more. And so, you know, Dreams do come to you, you just have to put your, your, your, your faith in yourself and follow your passion and just do what you need to do get up and show up, right. So as time went on, I started to, you know, bring my dancers on tour, we started to I create, I started creating a lot of choreographies, I started to make choreographies for my students for my dance team for myself and my partner, I just got into a real groove of creating. And what I realized is even though the music was different, and the intention was different, and of course, each creation was original, there was a system, there was a process, there was something that was very repetitive. And what I started to realize is that, you know, making a choreography is very much like designing your life creating your life. choreographing your life. So this is where the inspiration came from for this podcast, is to share my experiences as an entrepreneur, as a dancer, as a woman and and explain and just kind of share the moments and all the lessons learned. Along the way as time went on. I tackled even bigger projects such as the Montreal’s has a convention, which is a festival that is attracting over 5000 people every year. We’ve done 15 years now. And as well a very huge project that requires a lot of coordination and planning and execution and adapting your plan, right? Because you got to have your plan A, B, C, D, etc. Because it just never meets, you know, your plan never means reality and you you have to expect that. So becoming adaptable and learning how to roll with the punches is also a very important skill to develop. So here I am today, you know, 27 years into my dance studio 15 years into the festival. I am living my my life, my dream life, my life of my passion. I choreograph my life and I want to share these wonderful stories with you. Follow me Follow me on my journey as I continue to do so and I hope to inspire you to do the same as I interview my friends and colleagues in the same field. You know, I look forward to sharing many special moments with you. So thank you so much for listening today. And follow my podcast choreograph your life. See you on episode two.