Vanessa Varghese has identified with various roles over the years – art director, lawyer and interior designer – before she turned her passion for dance into a successful career. As the founder and creator of Groove Therapy, she found meaning in business by bringing the benefits of dance to at-risk youth, Indigenous communities, dementia sufferers and refugees. 

We spoke to Vanessa about how she keeps her personal values a priority through it all.


I've always been rubbish at following through with work I find meaningless. One of my best friends (shout out to Ruby) once said to me "giving meaning to things is the meaning of life". It makes so much sense in retrospect. 

Everything I've lost interest in or eventually quit came down to it not resonating with my gut feeling. If that gut feeling rejects the same sorts of experiences consistently enough, boom! You've got a series of non-negotiables. That's how your value system is born.


This venture isn't really about the money. I know how to make that cheese – turn Groove Therapy into a franchise, train bulk instructors, market it as a fitness dance class, promise everyone a fun and easy set of abs, and throw some token empowerment quotes into the marketing strategy. 

Maybe this will feel right one day. Until then, I'm honestly just having a dance with a team of like-minded teachers and legend students. 

I advocate for showing vulnerability but I also intentionally put up walls. It's the idea of letting the world know that you're flawed, but also drawing the line with client relationships outside class. 

Often students feel so amazing after a dance class they blurt out all their personal problems to our teachers. That can be dangerous if you're dealing with hundreds of students and you get emotionally invested in all of them. Having said that it's a case-by-case basis. I've made some of my best friends through teaching dance class to rad humans! 

I used to do jobs or gigs that didn't align with my values and I'd walk away feeling genuinely embarrassed. Dancing is a very public thing. There was this point where I walked away from the scene of trendy influencers and decided to be like "whatevs, I'm a dork" and that shit went off! 

I can't believe I decided to be myself – which is way less cool than the serious Dancer|Choreographer|Artist vibe that I could easily play up – and I scored jobs for Adidas. How hilarious is that! 

Social media can be validating but it can be problematic. I know a lot of young girls of colour follow me and take a lot from watching me kick goals. At the same time, in my industry, you need to always post about your achievements and treat the 'gram like a resume. 

Sometimes I worry there's someone out there reading a glorified stream of me "winning at life" and feeling shit about themselves. I really don't want to perpetuate a culture I find so problematic. I truly worry about that a lot. 

There are things that disappoint me [about the fitness industry]. In the past I would get really angry and worked up over it, but I see so much internet ranting. I'm not about advocating for unity through aggression. 

Over time I've come to realise that things that grind your gears often grind a lot of other people's gears, too. My answer is to create the change you want to see. All the people who share your vibe will join the movement and it'll grow from there in its own little way. 

Watch Vanessa dance. It's kind of hypnotic.

Interviewed by Dee Behan

Read this interview in Issue #4


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