Groove Therapy has only been in Sydney for one year, and already it’s selling out weeks in advance. The point of difference? It’s designed for people who are apprehensive about more traditional dance classes.
“I wanted to make my world of professional dancing accessible to all walks of life,” says Vanessa Marian, Groove Therapy’s founder. “We take away the scariness of dancing by taking away the mirrors, having dim lighting, and having a real street dance class rather than something gimmicky.”
Now it’s Melbourne’s turn. Marian has brought her “non-studio dance class” to The Workers Club in Fitzroy every Wednesday.
“You’ll be sweating from head-to-toe, but we don’t market this as an exercise and fitness class,” says Marian. “And that’s so important to the vibe and the audience and the body type that we pull in. We have so many different people walk through that door – surfer dudes and young mums and nervous teenagers.
“Everyone wants to tell me that they’re going to be the worst person I’ve ever taught. I’m like, ‘Literally everyone says that to us!’ And then they’ll lean in and be like, ‘No, but seriously’.”
The Fitzroy class is held on a proper dance floor with “legit dim lights” so that participants can only see silhouettes.
“It’s learning dance moves in the environment where you’re most likely to apply it,” Marian explains. Although Groove Therapy tries to avoid the rigid routines of more typical dance studios, each class follows a loose structure, beginning with “groove”.
“Groove is essentially what makes choreography look cool – it’s the soul and flavour. It’s the way you nod your head, the way you move your hips. The groove part of class is learning how to groove to different kinds of music – to just let go and have fun.”
After that, participants learn “steps”, such as the running man and the Nae Nae. “You can apply it to different songs and parts of a song, as opposed to choreography, which is learning one move that can be applied at a certain part of a song,” Marian says.
For Groove Therapy Melbourne, Marian has brought Hena Memishi on-board as the resident “groove therapist”. Memishi has years of experience teaching dance to refugees, migrants and marginalised kids.
Aside from the weekly classes in Melbourne and Sydney, Marian has launched a number of initiatives with at-risk youth, homeless youth, displaced young children and dementia patients. This kind of activism is at the heart of Groove Therapy’s identity.
Marian believes these classes can be transformative, giving people the chance to try something new in a judgment-free environment.
“Know your own body and limits … then leave the rest of it up to us and have a good time.”
Groove Therapy Melbourne takes place every Wednesday from 7pm to 8pm at The Workers Club at 51 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Casual passes are $20 and multi-class passes from $90.