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Stepping forward on Equity in the Arts

Social impact is at the core of who we are, not only what we do. We work with businesses and organization to design and help them implement charitable giving and citizenship programs. Our design process and coaching support centers equity, inclusion and belonging and our clients make an enormously brilliant impact in their part of the world.

Our own citizenship program, ILLUME, provides pro-bono support to emerging philanthropies across the country. In 2021, we enjoyed the opportunity to work with Waterloo Dance in Austin, Texas and their Artistic Director, Morgan Teel. Enjoy this condensed interview from our Zoom sit down with Morgan, who reflects on how Illume sparked Dance Waterloo’s work on equity, inclusion, and diversity.

“Something I’ve carried after completing the work with VEGA Partners is realizing that the work not affected Dance Waterloo, but also my daily life. It has really affected me as a person, and I think that will inherently impact Dance Waterloo forever. My outlook, my awareness, my daily actions, my movements have all changed.” Morgan Teel

Dance Waterloo’s Origins 

Dance Waterloo started in 2015 to bring more awareness to dance in public spaces. I wasn’t seeing a lot of that type of work happening back then. I wanted to take dance outside of the studio and the proscenium and put it where people already are. There are beautiful green spaces in downtown Austin that are perfect for dance.

The idea was people might pass by and see a performance or a class and stick around for a little bit to watch or decide to participate. It seemed like a great way to engage the community on many levels. Whether you see dance for five minutes or 60 minutes, dance is important. It has unique value.

It’s interesting, we joked at the beginning of the pandemic that Dance Waterloo was built for this because all our programming was in public spaces and could easily be socially distanced. All joking aside, we knew we wanted to be safe, so we pulled back from producing work outdoors in 2020. We realized that a virtual space is also a public space, and so we were able to brilliantly increase virtual public engagement with our community while holding on to our mission.

Our annual event, Words with Waterloo, had to be re-imagined for the virtual world, but we actually had more ticket sales for the online event than we ever had for the in-person event. I think it’s wonderful that our audiences can still be very engaged with dance online, and we plan to continue to hold classes, performances, and events online moving forward.

DANCING for GRASSROOTS 

During a year of rest and recovery without live performances, we launched an online event series, Low Impact for High Impact, a monthly dance workshop that delivers 100% of proceeds to LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and disability-focused organizations. The organizations that we partner with are not the big names in the community – they’re more grassroots. Supporting the mighty work that they’re doing in partnership is a great way to create impact. The equity, inclusion, and diversity coaching I received was hands down the most beneficial thing I could have done this year.  “Something I’ve carried after completing the work with VEGA Partners is realizing that the work not only affected Dance Waterloo, but also my daily life. It has really affected me as a person, and I think that will inherently impact Dance Waterloo forever. My outlook, my awareness, my daily actions, my movements have all changed.”

What’s next for Dance Waterloo? 

Expanding! After a year of rest and recovery, we will be hiring more artists, more teaching artists, and more company dancers. We will also welcome some new members to our Board of Directors, which is an exciting place to be in. We’re ready to make changes and create new ways to impact the community because of these new voices, perspectives, and visions.

Learn more about Dance Waterloo: dancewaterloo.org

Photo: Dance Waterloo

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