By Ahmri Vandeborne
Meet Vanessa, Kween, and Michelle, the co-founders and owners of The Heels Academy, a local dance and training studio in Guelph Ontario founded in the Summer of 2019, and one of our GAC members! One of our amazing volunteers, Paige Bromby, sat down (from a distance) with The Heels Academy to talk about their business, advice for emerging entrepreneurs, and community living, as well as what it’s like to be a GAC member, culminating in a video you can watch online here.
Co-owners of The Heels Academy. From left to right: Vanessa, Michelle, Kween. Photo provided by The Heels Academy
These three local business owners, dancers and community-driven individuals, all are working together to create a unique environment and fill gaps within the dance industry. They knew there was demand for what they wanted to put out into the world, and they knew they had to go for it.
“It’s all about increasing confidence and having a good time with a community that supports you. It’s not necessarily about being the best dancer out there,” says Kween. The Heels Academy is an 18+ heels training and dance program that is a safe space for dancers of all shapes, colours, genders and walks of life to come together for one goal: Dance! They pride themselves on promoting individuality and being true to yourself, and they work hard to create an atmosphere that increases the confidence of anyone who walks through their doors. “It can be really hard to reach out to your community and draw that attention in, because we are fixing so many years of uncomfortability for people who don’t feel safe, and that goes not just for people of colour, but for people of different sizes, the LGBTQ2+ community. All these people for so long have been hidden away and scared to be who they were, and that still sits in Guelph. And I think, at the end of the day, you are enough. Period.”
The three talked about what it’s like to be an emerging business and provided advice for entrepreneurs, emerging artists, and anyone doing what they love. Michelle encourages entrepreneurs in saying, “As an emerging company, artist, committee, anything, I think you have to take the chance. Have the confidence to put yourself out there and know that in most cases, it’s not going to happen overnight” Kween adds, “Every version of you is beautiful, therefore you will be successful.”
Like many of the arts, dance was hit hard when the pandemic hit in March. As a performance-driven art practice; one in which dancers are often in close proximity with other dancers, their practices were very quickly shifted to look quite different. Throughout COVID, The Heels Academy has shown innovative ways of still offering services to their community while remaining safe, showing the true resilient nature of their organization.
Video still from The Heels Academy member spotlight video edited by Paige Bromby. Footage provided by The Heels Academy
When asked about Guelph Arts Council, Kween said “Guelph Arts Council has been so good at capturing different moments in spotlighting whether it’s Guelph Dance, or their opportunities for musicians and for visual artists, it’s just pretty incredible. Their newsletters, even just keeping everyone updated all the time; that doesn’t always happen in bigger communities.”
Become a member like The Heels Academy and gain first-hand insight on the ins and outs of the Guelph Arts community and what’s happening in your neighbourhood both virtually and in person! All memberships are free until December 31, 2020. Visit guelpharts.ca for more information.
Follow along with The Heels Academy on Instagram and Facebook @TheHeelsAcademy and visit their website www.theheelsacademy.com for more information and to learn about upcoming classes.