It’s not unusual to see parents patiently sitting and watching as children perform a dance routine they have created.
But when Carrie-Anne Sait’s parents saw what she could do, they realised it was something special.
It wasn’t long before they enrolled her at dance school at just seven. Now, 22 years later, Carrie-Anne, pictured, owns one of the most successful dance academies in Hampshire, South Zone Dance Academy.
She says: ‘I was three when I started learning ballet, tap and modern. I started competing just six months after I started at Stepz Dance Studio in Cosham when I was seven, and I used to compete in disco up until I was 16.
‘Luckily for my mum it has gone quite well because she used to spend a fortune on my outfits for the shows and performances.’
After leaving Purbrook Park School, she started teaching dance at just 16 and became the founding examiner in streetdance for the National Association of Teachers for Dancing.
She adds: ‘I was 15 when I left school and I took my teaching exam straight away.
‘I used to say at school I was going to be a dance teacher and I saw one of my teachers once and they said ‘‘you actually did what you said you going to’’. Most people don’t.
‘I was just 21 when I opened South Zone. I was teaching freestyle at disco schools, and Latin ballroom.’
During this time, while Carrie-Anne was considering branching out with her own dance academy, she worked in an office, and began training to become a solicitor.
Carrie-Anne, who lives in Cosham, says: ‘It was like an office job and I used to go straight from work into another class. I used to teach out of work hours but then gradually I started building up workshops in schools so I cut down my hours.
‘I always taught for everyone else, but I wanted to teach for me. I know I was only 21 and started my own company, but it’s nice to be able to get up in the morning and do something I love.’
Eight years on and South Zone Dance Academy is one of the most recognised dance schools in the county, with numerous classes for all ages, and two professional dance squads, Synergy and Cohesion.
Some of Carrie-Anne’s dancers have qualified for the IDO (International Dance Organisation) European Championships, to be held in Denmark this weekend.
She has also organised events across Portsmouth, including a fashion show at the Guildhall on behalf of Portsmouth City Council earlier this month. South Zone also performed at Gunwharf Quays as part of the recent Extreme festival.
She explains: ‘I organised the whole fashion show. The council organised it for two years and I organised the dancing, but this year they asked me to do the whole event. They said it was better than last year but we had more going on rather than just fashion. We managed to get Shirin, the singer, to perform and we had a lot of dancers.’
Carrie-Anne works for Streetdance International running the qualifying heat which takes place in April for the English Championships, and her academy has gone on to run hip hop, street dance, Latin ballroom and disco classes.
Carrie leads a hectic life. She has a three-year-old son, Dylan, and is a foster parent to 16-year-old dancer Tiffany Fitzjohn,
She says: ‘Tiffany was one of my dancers and I knew the family. She’s always come back and forth to dance and when she asked me to have her over a year ago it was brilliant. She won Highbury College Student of the Year, I’m really proud of her.’
She adds: ‘I do get to see my son, but I’m working a lot so he goes to my mum and dad’s, who are brilliant. When it’s my own classes, he will come to those and he dances by himself.’
The academy dances mainly at the Waterlooville Community Centre, with classes also held at the Charles Dickens Centre in Portsmouth and The Victory School Of Dance in Portchester.
After all the school workshops, the dance classes, the performances and qualifying for European Championships, Carrie doesn’t understand how she manages to fit it all in.
She says: ‘All the time I have parents say ‘‘I don’t know how you do it all.’’
‘I’m just used to it and I love it. I sometimes think about if the school finishes, but something always comes up. It’s going well at the moment.
‘I am always at one class or another, and my main squads are doing very well.’
Although predominately aimed at teenagers and young adults, South Zone classes cater for all ages. Carrie explains: ‘I start from three years old and I teach adults at the academy as well. I love it all, and include ballroom and Latin. I have extra teachers who help with that. Hopefully it will just get bigger and better, and I will keep doing what I have always been doing – dancing.’