Tammy Tsang 00:15
Okay, so Hi everyone. My name is Tammy. I’m the co-founder of AndHumanity, an inclusive Content Agency. My pronouns are she and her. And I’m very excited today to have Vanessa. Vanessa is a mentor, a CEO and mother who transforms lives through dance embodiment and creativity. Her company is called Luminesque Dance. Hi, Vanessa.
Vanessa Young 00:36
Hi, Tammy. Thanks for having me today.
Tammy Tsang 00:38
Thanks so much for taking the time. So today Vanessa and I will be talking about her journey in transitioning her company into an inclusive dance organization. So, before we begin, I’d like to first acknowledge we operate on the unceded territories of Coast Salish people including Squamish Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. Thank you so much for being here with me today. Let’s start off with learning a little bit more about yourself. How did you get into the inclusive space? And what does your company do?
Vanessa Young 01:11
That is great. Our company is a dance company. So we specialize in working with adults. And we originally only worked with what we titled females. And, and it’s a transformative dance space. So it’s a safe space for folks to come and express themselves learning dance and movement to feel that they get a safe space to explore as well. And then they also get to perform. And so it’s kind of an all around program. And yeah, it’s designed for all ages, all body types, all levels.
Tammy Tsang 01:45
Yeah, I’ve seen some of your events that you have on an annual basis. The big performances. Excited to go see one one day. Yeah,
Vanessa Young 01:54
When we can get back outside our houses.
Tammy Tsang 01:56
Yeah, exactly. We’re not stuck inside indoors. So can you tell me a little bit about how you got into the space in the first place? How you were brought into dance and, and then what prompted kind of the inclusivity part of it?
Vanessa Young 02:10
Yeah, so I originally Well, I guess for me, I originally started dancing a long time ago. And I’ve always loved working in transformation and really have seen so much benefit in people bringing dance into their lives, even at a late stage. And so about 10 years ago, I’d say I started exclusively working with adults, and particularly started to work in the space of women. And at the time too, it was a really beautiful time when, you know, women were finding their own their own expressions and their own voices. And it felt really empowering to be able to empower women particularly. And that served us for a really long time. It was wonderful, me and my previous business partner, really got you know, the community here in Vancouver specifically, and at the time, we were part of a franchise that was across Canada. And so once we started to really tap into the Vancouver community, we started to recognize some of the differences. And I think Vancouver was really one of the first cities to start acknowledging and discussing and really opening the conversation to diversity and inclusivity. And so we originally had always said that we were working with women. And then we kind of started to realize that there were actually so many beautiful folks coming into our program that identified differently. There were non binaries, there were femme presenting, and a lot of trans women as well. Some of them comfortable letting people know and some of them, you know, just blending in. And for a long time, it was never really a problem. Those people still felt welcome in our rooms and our teachers, you know, still still provided a great class. But eventually as those people started to become more part of our community and we started to open up and say, you know, we want to hear you, we want to hear what you what you need from us, we started to hear a lot of feedback about the fact that we were really women exclusive, that we didn’t provide an opportunity for all genders. And, and on top of that, just that we already had different identities in our classroom that weren’t really feeling able to be there and feel kind of, I guess, specific to the community. For example, when we first launched Luminesque, we had a slogan called ‘let’s glow girls!’. And so we had this beautiful merchandise that was printed that ‘glow girl’ and you know, lots of our community loved it. But we started to get a little bit of, you know, “I don’t really want to wear that because I don’t identify with that”. But I really want to promote the company. I want to be here like this is my community. And so we just got asked to really relook at the specific community that we were serving, and on our team as well like in our staff, we also had a couple of non-binary folks in our staff, we also have a couple men that teach for us as well. And so we were already kind of inclusive in the internal side. And we just weren’t really presenting it well enough to the external, that it was feeling welcome for people to come and try out our community if they weren’t just, you know, the woman looking to dance. And so that was kind of really the biggest starting point for us looking at inclusivity. And then also, my business partner left the company and I took over, and my particular personal values really started to grow. I mean, I was evolving as a person and understanding a little bit more about gender identity, and just accessibility as well. And so I just wanted to reinstate that as a value into our company. And so we decided to take the plunge and try to figure out a way in which we could create a safe space for everybody involved, but also to create a space as part of our progressive programs that still was particularly female oriented, and I say female, but it’s more like feminine energy, I would say. And that was a really tricky process to try and say, you know, we don’t want cisgendered straight men or in our classroom, we want to be really inclusive, you know. And so that was really the biggest struggle, but we kind of worked it out. And we figured out some of the languaging and really dove into educating ourselves to be able to provide a better space. And so now we’ve been operating since this past September. So coming up on what we have is a season so September to June is our season. So coming up finishing our first season as a as what I believe is a truly diverse and inclusive company, even though we always allowed that before. Now we externally present it and it’s it’s different.
Tammy Tsang 06:57
Well, that’s definitely a beautiful transition, and I’m really excited to hear more, because I’ve heard quite a bit about it. And it’s such an amazing story. I know that you talked to me a little bit about how you invited a you invested quite a bit of time and money into that process in that transition to do it right, to do it properly. Did you find any benefit to that transition? Did you find any financial benefit to that? Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Vanessa Young 07:24
Absolutely. Yeah. So I would love to first of all give a huge shout out to the Boys Club Fitness. The voice of fitness is a company that is building awareness for fitness spaces on how to be inclusive fitness spaces. In our particular industry. In both fitness and particularly in entertainment. There is a lot of sexism, there’s a lot of, you know, not enough opportunity for everybody and there’s a lot of mis education in Fitness Trainers around the bodies and the bodies that we’re dealing with. And now that we’ve entered this era, really understanding and promoting boundaries, it’s important that, you know, if you’re going to be a fitness teacher, and you’re going to say I respond and respect to your boundaries to really understand that those boundaries are different for everybody else. And so that was where we first started is we, I took my team to one of their workshops or seminars that they did one night, and three of my office members are with me and believe it was about three hours. And afterwards, we couldn’t stop talking about it for hours. Like we’d all didn’t get home till about midnight, because we just were so blown away by all the things we had never really thought about. And we weren’t doing anything wrong. And that’s where I think a lot of the inclusivity stuff gets a bit funny is people think, well, I’m not doing anything wrong, why do I have to change what I’m doing? And I really do believe we weren’t doing anything wrong. But we also weren’t quite doing it right. And I think in the way that we were doing things, we were still promoting separation and division, and on top of that, we weren’t kind of being respectful to the people that were already choosing to show up in our space. And I think that happens a lot. For example, you know, right away in a fitness class, if you have a man and a woman in front of you, and you’re going to hand them weights, you’re more likely to hand the bigger weight to the man and the smaller weight to the woman. And right there, it’s just, it’s just a social conditioning, we just assume that smaller body means that they can’t do that. And again, we’re repeating that pattern and entering that into both that woman and man’s brain that, you know, that is how things are. And so when we really started to dive into that, and look at that, I just became a totally different teacher because I do also still teach dance. And that was really where it started as I wanted to make sure that my teachers got the education that they needed as well to really take a step back and reevaluate what they were offering. Part of our company has always been around creating a course journey. So people who are part of our progressive they’re not just coming in for one dance class and leaving, you know, we do have dropping classes, but we also really make sure that we’re holding intentional space and that we have an intentional outcome. And that outcome is really to feel fully respected, accepted, to feel supported to feel seen and witness to be part of a kind community. And so, yeah, we just right away started diving into what were the practices that we could implement. And I can’t tell you how amazing it was to have those thoughts validated by my staff after they took this training. So we ended up bringing Boys Club into do a private training with our company and we actually got all of our staff members every single person assistant, dance teacher, office staff into the room, which is quite a feat. We’re we’re a team of about 30. And yeah, and everybody had such phenomenal things to say and so much discussion and so much awareness. And it wasn’t just about, you know, the female dynamic that we had originally stepped forward with. But it was about you know how to treat certain things, how to understand cultures, how to do land acknowledgments and why they’re important. It came down to things like what kind of music are you playing in your in your dance class? And does it come from a different culture? You know, are we teaching dancehall? or using dancehall music? And or, you know, Are we understanding where the languaging is coming from? Also, just the fact that most of my teachers had spent so much of their time teaching primarily women, there was a lot of language where we’d be saying, “Let’s go ladies!”, “let’s get a girl’s” you know, things like that, and, and right down to the smallest detail, you know, a trans woman may feel comfortable coming into the room, but she may not be comfortable, you know, with that language and because then it reaffirms that there’s something different about her. And so, it was just little things like that learning that those could be triggers for women in our community was a big thing. Like I don’t want those people to be triggered when they’re trying to be in a space that is about supporting them, you know. So that was where we really started and there was a lot of work around that, that we did internally. And we kind of did it at the same time that we launched a new external rebrand a bit and then the rebrand we took away all of our merchandise that says glow girl, like we didn’t, you know, throw it on, burn it to the ground. Because again, there is a place for, you know, female identifying dancers that want that, but we started to adjust our languaging. So we changed our group, our students kind of slang term from being called glow girls to being called glow getters, and things like that. So we started to right away, tell our community that as of now, we are a company that allows women non binary femme and trans identities into the world. In our program in our drop ins, we actually allow all gender identities. And yeah, and so that was like a big deal. It seems like such a small change, but it was actually a really big change. And the response was a little bit mixed. You know, some people were still in our community, we’re still very much, you know, women identifying as women wanting a safe space because especially with what we do, you know, we do work in sensuality and sexuality as well and dance. And so there’s a lot of trauma that comes up. And so to be in a safe space where you feel, you know, you’re you can walk in knowing that somebody isn’t gonna walk in and trigger you. But that being said, it was important that we made it aware to our community that when they walked in, they may have a trans woman or a non binary folk in in the classroom with them, and they needed to understand that we were creating an importantly safe space for them to and so yeah, and so it’s been really interesting, because actually, since that transition, first of all, our community was just so responsive. I actually found out that we’ve been we’ve been pretty big for a while, but this year, we had almost 400 women taking our program. And I say, women with an X, you know, and all genders taking our drop ins. But in those 400 people, we actually found out that there were probably another 50 or so dancers that have been with my program, and I’ve known personally for multiple years that did not feel comfortable letting me know that they don’t identify as a woman. And so whether it was you know, they’re very femme presenting, they’re in a, you know, a straight looking relationship. And they identify as non binary was really interesting, because they kind of said, finally, I feel I feel good here. And so, yeah, so right away, the first thing that we saw in terms of financial gain, and just an upswing in the company, was our retention went up massively, to the point where I think our numbers like went From about 44% to 82%, in one term switchover so or sorry, two terms, which over so that’s six, six months, in six months, we gain 40% of retention, and then a program that’s 400 people, you know, gaining 82% of your retention is incredible because it takes a lot of work away from what you have to do to get everybody started again in the next term. And so, yeah, so that was a huge financial gain. Also, just in terms of marketing, being able to properly promote what it is that we do with the right language allowed us to put our ads up in different awareness categories, we became more known in diverse communities. And we started getting involved one thing that my staff really pushed and actually a particular staff member really pushed this was the idea that if we’re going to say all these things, we need to give back to these communities as well because it’s important to support them as a community, not just them in our community. And so we also started doing scholarships and workshop weeks where we would donate all of our funds to a particular a particular charity organization. So we’ve worked with Qmmunity for the LGBTQ+, and then also an indigenous women’s charity as well, because we felt that the indigenous women were not being seen in our, in our community. And, and so, yeah, we just wanted to be able to give back some opportunities to those minorities. And by doing that, it really gave us kind of an introduction into those communities where now you know, from the first term when we were providing an indigenous scholarship, we only got about three or four applicants to the next door, we got almost 15 to 20. And so yeah, it’s just like a really nice opportunity to really show yourself to those communities and say, I respect that you already are in your own community. But I want you to know that there’s a doorway here for you. Yeah, so that was it was it’s been pretty much all up from there. I mean, yeah, there’s been a couple of tough things and and ups and downs. But at the end of the day, I feel proud of the company, my company members, my staff members feel really proud to work there. And my teachers who have been teaching for, you know, 20 years, feel like they actually are learning something new, you know, they’re, they’re actually evolving themselves as teachers and as human beings, to, to be aware and to be supportive, especially in the entertainment industry, where there is so many different gender identities, and yet we’re in this space where, you know, auditions and things, you know, it’s very specific, I want a five foot eight white woman, you know, and, and they’re allowed to ask for that because it’s entertainment and maybe there’s something specific they’re trying to show but at the end of the day, having the people on our team that have been in that arts industry, For a long time feel really seen and witnessed and heard and provided for made just a massive difference. I think the overall company morale has been really wonderful this year.
Tammy Tsang 18:13
That’s fantastic. It sounds like a huge transition, even though it was It was kind of like slight change. There was obviously training and everything like that. But the the impact, the positive impact you had was was massive. And you touched a little bit on a few of those things. Were there other things you noticed in your communications that you found really was beneficial as well, you mentioned before, around reaching out to different groups, as well as your testimonials. Can you touch a little bit on those?
Vanessa Young 18:47
Yeah, so again, coming in with retention. It’s like our community finally felt the space became authentic. Because for years, you know, we’ve been a transformative space and like we change lives. Whoo rah, rah, you know, and not that not that we didn’t, and we didn’t have those stories. But now the people in our community really feel that no matter how they identify, no matter what needs, they have, they’re being met, they’re being taken seriously, the communication is open, we’re giving them a chance to communicate with their teachers about what it is that they need, whether it’s pronouns, or, you know, for somebody transitioning or somebody in a trans identity may have something like a chest binder, and actually feeling that a teacher knows how to operate, you know, your warm up and your fitness goals around something like that is just so fantastic. And so we also had a huge influx of Google reviews and yeah, just people really the testimonials coming out saying, you know, I finally have this beautiful place that’s all about body positivity. Oh, and that’s another thing you know, I’m talking a lot about gender, but we also got rid of all diet culture, in our In our company so we actually don’t really talk about bodies at all anymore in in any term you know, body positivity, there’s there’s no positivity because there’s no negativity, you know, all bodies are beautiful. And so we’ve really adjusted things like our costume boards, having more representation show up on our on costumes and being more mindful of different alternates for and modifications for certain people. And yeah, just things like that. And so yeah, the the communication side just opened, really, and we got to know a lot about our community in the last year that we, we kind of didn’t know we didn’t realize there was so much going on under the surface until we opened up the conversation. And it also has made it more fun like in our shows, when we finally get all 400 people in one room. It’s pretty amazing to see all of these people feel represented and feel that they’re comfortable in this space. And so yeah, it’s it’s made a huge change to in our testimonials and our awareness showing up at Taboo this year, we do the Taboo Sex Show every year. And this year, we really took a stand. And we created this very specific show called Nasty Womenx with an x. And it was all about the idea of, you know, gender identification and sexism and really deleting that deleting any positivity and negativity around bodies. And it was just so nice to be able to converse and in a new way with
Tammy Tsang 21:26
That’s amazing. It sounds like such a magical space in some ways, you know, is is very exciting. I think there needs to be more of that and you see some kind of even underwear brands moving into that space a little bit, but to have kind of dance company move into that space is very exciting. Um, and you mentioned a little bit about growth in that space as well in the six month period and don’t have to share numbers or anything. Did you see any percentage growth in your revenue. Did you see any impact in that space?
Vanessa Young 22:04
Yep. And and I will attribute it to also we have a great staff right now, like our office team is working hard. But this year alone, we’ve actually seen almost a 30% increase in revenue from last year. And so, yeah, I mean, obviously, there’s many factors, but the fact that we’ve committed so full heartedly to being diverse and inclusive and representing that, well, yeah, our retention has gone up, it’s allowed us to know because we have such good retention that we could expand, and then being able to expand like feeling that space of comfort and calmness, you know, not worrying if you know, you’re gonna sell. And yeah, being able to take bigger risks as a company, just because of that financial game has been really wonderful.
Tammy Tsang 22:50
Completely, I think, especially as a local company who’s branched off to do their own thing. It’s really important to have the community support and if clearly, you clearly do So that’s, that’s amazing. So during this journey, you talked a little bit about the ups and downs. And you hinted at some of the the down parts. Can you tell me about any lessons learned during that process that you would like to share with any other organizations going through a similar transition?
Vanessa Young 23:17
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, the ups and downs have been mostly ups, you know, I will say, but downs in terms of the fact is that like, definitely some people that have been part of our company for a long time, they don’t like change. And so having a change, like this makes them uncomfortable. At the end of the day, there are still a lot of people that are ignorant, and you know, and have different values. There’s nothing wrong with them, but they have different values. And so when you really state your values clearly, yes, the the downside is that some people that don’t align with those values are maybe going to drop off but at the end of the day, you know, it leaves room for people that are more aligned with what you’re doing to come in. And that’s really what happened. In the last year, and that’s really why I believe that the retention rate is so high is because we’ve made it so clear what you’re going to get out of working with us, and made it so clear that we’re not just all talk, we actually are educated and we’re open to discussion, you know, we’re doing our best not, because that expectation expectation is so clear, people are coming in, and they’re having a happier experience. And I think that’s just one thing in general, I mean, in marketing, and also just in running a company, you really want your consumer to know what they’re going to get. And then to be, you know, over exceeded, like, just to be so happy with that experience, and to never feel like, Oh, that’s not what I thought I signed up for. And so yeah, to be able to make our marketing more clear and more concise, using better language, it just allowed for that expectation to flow. And then, you know, I think some of the difficulties are well, I mean, one thing is that there’s some difficult conversations because once you For example, out after my 30 staff went through that training, we decided and it’s funny because actually, they decided together as a group, which was so lovely, that they’re going to put together something called a kind call out. And so what that is, is that if somebody was using a language that, you know, wasn’t inclusive, or was, you know, when I was doing something that particularly could make someone in the space uncomfortable that another staff member at anytime had permission and was encouraged to actually say, you know, hey, Vanessa, you just wanted to say, I’m going to give you a kind of call out on that, I would appreciate if use this word or, I mean, to give you a call out on that, and just, you know, remind you that we do have, you know, different genders in this classroom and maybe find a better way to state that. And so it was really interesting because there are so many times when you need to bite your tongue because you’re adjusting your language and it’s hard. You know, when you’ve been conditioned for 30 years to use certain words and then all of a sudden you’re trying to delete those words from your vocabulary. or replace them, you can find yourself, you know, really having to catch yourself and call yourself out. And it’s definitely there are some times when there are some difficult conversations. So for example, even just around culture, so in a recent show rehearsal, I was talking about some some culture around the 1950s, which is obviously a very different time than what we’re doing right now. And I accidentally used some languaging that alluded to a discussion that just made someone in the room feel uncomfortable. Now, there were 100 people in front of me, I was, you know, in the middle of my directing, and I didn’t mean to offend anyone by any means. And I don’t think I really offended many people, but that particular person heard it and thought of it in a different way. And so, after the rehearsal, she wrote me an email saying, you know, it’s like, I really didn’t like that conversation. And this is why and this is what it made me think, and I’m not sure that that’s what your intention was, but I’d really like to bring it forward to you. And so getting called out sucks, you know, I mean, there’s just no way around it, it kind of sucks. But that’s how you learn. And it gave me the opportunity to turn around and I emailed all hundred of those people, because even if, you know, 99 of them didn’t feel that way at the end of the day, what if 30 of them did? And those 30 are now questioning your, your, you know, your ability as a facilitator. And so yeah, I immediately dealt with it, directed it, apologized, owned it and re explained my intention and then moved on. And that’s like a really big part is that you’re going to be wrong sometimes. And you just have to kind of deal with it and move on. And it shows leadership, you know, it shows that you are truly committed to being an inclusive space and to bettering yourself as both a leader and a person. Yeah, and then the I would say like the other big example of a tough spot has been exploitation. You know, because right away, we started to think about how do we represent this? How do we take photos and make sure that you know, these people feel represented but also we’re not like, “Hey, you beautiful black girl in our community, can you come to a photo shoot?” “And hey, you, you know, lovely little Asian, can you come?” And oh, there’s a trans woman over there and a non binary who looks kind of different. Yeah, let’s bring some gender fluidity. Right away, there’s this feeling of like, you’re just exploiting these people, and you don’t want to approach them and make them feel in any way like that. That being said, you know, there’s exploitation and then there’s representation and there is a way to find the people that you’re connecting with and say, I want to represent you. I want to make sure that you’re seen in this community so that others can be seen and felt. Welcome to and so we really, oh man, the office debate on that one was really difficult, like how do we invite certain people you know, to be part of this but not be so specific. And yeah, and in the end, we ended up just opening it to all volunteers. We asked, you know, who would be interested in doing this photo shoot with us. And then we just grouped them into different categories. And we shot everybody. And we were able to get the diversity that we needed, without making anyone feel uncomfortable and feeling very proud of the fact that look how many people want to be represented as our company, you know, like, how many people care about what we’re doing and actually want to show up? Because they want to be seen in that way. So, yeah, there are ups and downs, I would definitely say I think any company making a big change, especially in 2020, you know, it’s a constantly shifting train. And you have to also continually educate yourself. You can’t just, you know, go to a three hour workshop and say, Okay, I’m going to just slap a bumper sticker on it and say, we accept all genders, or, you know, now we have inclusive washrooms. And that’s that we have to advocate that’s other thing as a company and so right away, we went to all of our venues and all of our studios, we advocated for having gender inclusive washrooms and, and signs and things like that. We advocated for our students that needed certain things before they even asked, you know, we went out of our way to say, hey, just in case there’s anybody out there who might need this, we want to let all of you know that this is evident to you. Yeah, and I think just continually continuing to advocate for the people you are including, and continuing to educate yourself around what it is that they need. And maybe by, you know, opening up to one area, are you closing the door on another, and maybe identifying what that is and being really clear about it? Because at the end of the day, yeah, our program is women with an X only, you know, it’s not cisgendered men that are allowed in the room. But at the end of the day, there’s situations that are going to occur, in which you know, maybe somebody comes into the room that’s a non binary folk and they look different than everybody else in that room. And we want to make sure that everyone else in that room was prepared for that person to be there if they wanted to be. And that that person also came in feeling accepted and included and not feeling like they were standing out, you know. And so there’s a lot of there’s a lot of navigating was like, you know, it’s like riding a boat in the waves. But, yeah, but in the end, it’s been absolutely worth it.
Tammy Tsang 31:26
Mm hmm. Yeah. You mentioned in one of our first conversations about how even the language that you’re using, you’re constantly thinking about it now and you’re you’re changing your day to day, it’s a real commitment on a personal level to be inclusive as well, which I thought was kind of a beautiful process as well. Right? It is making a very conscious choice to be dedicated to this work.
Vanessa Young 31:51
Yeah, and on that, I will say too, I mean, just in the area of my staff and my own personal journey as well. But there is an area of shame that comes up when you’re learning how to be inclusive because you have to identify the things that you’ve been doing that are not. And so if you believe that you’re a kind, welcoming, inclusive person, that you believe that all gender identities are wonderful, then you realize that maybe you haven’t been making that space known or you haven’t been making those people comfortable. There’s a little bit of a shame spiral that happens and it’s almost like a grieving process where like, I would say, for about a month after our first training, we were constantly checking in with our teachers, and they were really navigating this like they were, you know, I had one teacher call me after class and just say, I wanted to ball because I like accidentally use the word ladies like three times and I realized that there’s a trans woman in my class and I was so sad and you know, calming them down and saying it’s okay, like you’re learning you’re trying you’re doing your best. And that’s what’s important. You know, and to not get caught up in the what you were doing before. At the end of the day you look at like Disney movies. They were very different in the 30s 40s 50s 60s than they are now. Yeah. And there’s even like little taglines, when you get to watch a Disney movie, it says this is showing exactly as, was made in, you know, 1946, which was a very different time. And so yeah, like there’s the navigating of the shame as well. And I think that on a personal note, that can be the hardest part, to recognize that in order to say, you’re going to do something different, you have to recognize that what you were doing is not working, even if it wasn’t wrong, per se, you know, if it still wasn’t working, and it still wasn’t inclusive.
Tammy Tsang 33:42
And I think that’s part of the why I love this space as well because it can be quite forgiving as long as you acknowledge your mistakes and you you because intention is not necessarily good enough. It’s the actions that you take afterwards. And while intention is, you know, the first step maybe, I think the kind call out that you talked about earlier is such a good example of that, where you’re constantly making these steps to become more inclusive and understand the dialogue and, and that it’s not an overnight thing. It’s not something you can purchase and slap on and then that’s that, right? It is something that you have to really embody, believe in, and take the time to, to get better at over over time. Because it’s it’s not only just one community, it’s thousands of communities that you need to learn about. And for one person to be educated on all of those in such a short period of time is not not doable, even if that’s your intent, right. So, I think learning about you know, even as simple as people of color, it’s just where you start, right? Yeah, so, um,
Vanessa Young 34:48
and there’s no wrong place to start. You know, we luckily had a bit of a introduction into people that could help us with that education. And that’s why I really love what what you you guys are all about is because you know, it’s creating a space where it is more comfortable to discuss and to try and come up with a plan and to try and navigate the changes, you know, with the right people on board. But yeah, absolutely. I mean, I use the term power meet now all the time. And recently I was like, Okay, I’m ready. Let’s go over here for a power meet and one of my teachers like, what’s the power meet? And my staff, my other staff member told me this and it’s because I used to use the word powwow. And I used to be like, let’s have a powwow. And then I’m like, what, that’s awfully culturally appropriative of word. And, you know, it’s like insulting to use it in that context. And so but it was like so used to coming out of my mouth. So I changed it to saying, Let’s have a power- meet that just became my term. And now it’s like, what I call my check ins like let’s have a power beach. This is so funny. Like sometimes you just you adapt around it for sure.
Tammy Tsang 35:56
And there’s so many things that are embedded in social culture and that’s no excuse by any means. But I think the first step is just education and intention, and then going from there. But yeah, I think it’s really important to have a platform for all the organizations doing inclusive work. And I’d love to share the contact of the team that you worked with as well. Because it’s important to push the whole industry together, forward. It doesn’t take one person, it takes many. So I think that’s really important. I think that you talked a little bit about how you did a bit of your internal D&I work previously, that it was kind of part of your values already. And then you also then took this initiative and made it an external communications campaign as well as the training at the same time. In the first steps, was training kind of like the first step. should take based on your experience? Or was there more thought that had to go into it first before kind of entering the space?
Vanessa Young 37:10
Yeah, I mean, I think that investigation is really important and to just allow your curiosity to take you because there were a lot of areas around D&I that I had never even thought of, or been open to or realize that we were a part of, until really just listening to a full overview of what are some of the other areas that are in our industry as problems in this? And so I think the first thing you know, as you know, as a CEO who was deciding this is something that we’re going to do I really took the time to look at all the all the different areas of it and decide, are we gonna do all of them, you know, are we gonna, you know, do land acknowledgments and get rid of diet culture and also, you know, do gender identities or do we focus on one. And we made a decision as I involve my team and based on what my team was seeing in the student body and what they were also experiencing with themselves. Yeah, they were down to just really jump in and, you know, be a company to be a role model and this, you know, and to just plow forward and say, This is what we are. Now we recognize that we were not doing this before, but this is what we’re doing now. And we really want to collaborate with other communities and other businesses that might be, you know, investigating this and thinking about is this the next move for them? For me, it was training just because my teachers and my assistants are mostly the point of contact to the student body, so in doing an external launch about it as well, it had to start from them. But also, I just kind of owned it. I just owned it, it was like the decision that I made for myself is I’m going to step into this role. As the new CEO, you know, my business partners leaving, it’s a perfect opportunity for us to take a look and evaluate what’s been working with the company. And so I just kind of came out, we had a, an open, you know, Facebook Live on our, our community page. And I just said, you know, we’ve been doing a lot of investigating, and this is what I found. And this is what I believe in. And this is why we’re going to do it this way from now on. And so yeah, we just really owned it. We got asked a few difficult questions, you know, on a live and we didn’t have all the answers, but we committed to finding them. We committed to finding them. And that was enough. But yeah, externally, we just, we really owned it. We changed all the dialogue on our website, we made sure that we were very clear so that anybody could go to our website and they could understand right away. You know who this was for? Mm hmm. And it’s still okay to have your niche I mean, we still, we still are a woman’s program at the end of the day we work with, you know, the center of gravity being lower, we understand that it’s not in everybody but that is where it started from, you know, we work in heels, which is really heels were designed particularly for women and they’re not so much anymore but, you know, there’s some there’s some shaping and, you know, identity of knowing your niche and, and yeah, owning that. But yeah, I would say that’s kind of how we did it. I don’t know quite where the way is to start. But what I do know is that having the conversations with people that you trust, and people that really know your business, or that really want or that really want to help you, those are those are the places to start.
Tammy Tsang 40:45
That’s fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me and share your experience your knowledge, I think it’s so important that other CEOs, like yourself, share their experience that they can navigate this complicated journey together. I don’t I don’t personally, I’ve learned a lot from you. So thank you for sharing. So, before we wrap up here, I just want to do our closing question, which is what are you grateful for?
Vanessa Young 41:16
Our community. Our community is fantastic. They are all rad human beings, and they have helped us; they’ve supported us, especially as this COVID situation has come. I mean, we have been really hit hard and in our industry and had to close down and cancel shows and a lot of disappointments, you know, through the the community and yet, everybody still came together, everybody’s still supportive and said, You know what, I’ll be back when your doors are open. And I really do believe that that comes from being so honest about our values and being really clear that our intention is for our, our clients. We’re a team that is about our clients. So yeah, that’s what I’m grateful for.
Tammy Tsang 42:01
That’s amazing. Yeah, I’m I’m totally grateful for just, I think having parents around, I have a two year old, not unlike yourself. And I’ve actually had some babysitting recently. And that’s been amazing. Just have a bit of time to myself again, actually put on clothes, put on like makeup and do my hair for myself, which is amazing. So just having a bit of that has been great. But so I want to make sure people know where to find you. And then also the contact to the organization that you worked with as well. So I’ll grab that from you. And I’ll make sure I’ll have this at the end of the video as well. But where can people find you? And I know you’re operating right now online as well. So where can people find that as well?
Vanessa Young 42:50
Yeah, so you can find us anywhere now. You know, the silver lining of COVID is everybody has to work for Julie. Yeah, right now we’re running virtual classes and we are gonna hopefully start some in person classes again, and we’re hoping to jump right back in in September. Everything’s on our website. It’s just Luminesquedance.com. There’s even a shop where you can purchase downloadables if you just want to try something out and your first class is always free, so no matter who you are, you are welcome. And yeah, you can also find us on Instagram and Facebook just @luminequedance.
Tammy Tsang 43:22
And I’ll make sure I’ll link all of that as well to the description and information. And for our audience here. If you have more questions that weren’t answered today or our other videos, please let us know. And if you’re interested in being interviewed or joining our community, please let us know. You can find all the information at AndHumanity.ca and look forward to speaking to you guys again. Thank you
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