One of my favorite things about The Smile Project is the opportunity to meet and connect with other social entrepreneurs. Through a nonprofit Facebook group, I connected with Morgan Mackay Teel, of Austin, Texas. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of Dance Waterloo.
Without further ado, allow me to introduce her project!
Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Give me a “Happiness is.”
Morgan: Happiness is sunshine.
Liz: What is your organization?
Morgan: Dance Waterloo is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that produces dance performance and dance educational programming in public space such as parks, libraries, coffee shops, or even a hair salon!
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
Morgan: We work really hard and it definitely pays off when we meet people in the community that are just passing by and stumbling upon a class or performance! We bring dance to where people already are. Because dance is primarily a non-verbal form of communication, people are often deterred from it if they cannot easily find meaning. We empower audiences to make their own meanings and provide a platform for audiences to have dialogue about what they see. Community is built upon verbal dialogue about similarities and differences in experience.
Liz: What does service mean to you?
Morgan: Service means investing time and energy into people or projects that benefit the greater good of the world - people, animals, and the environment.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Morgan: There are so many ways people can get involved! If you are local in Austin, join us for a class or performance. If you are located outside of Austin but love what we do, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s bring a performance or program to your city! If you would like to stay up to date and get the inside scoop into our work, you can follow us on Facebook and Instagram or visit our website.
Liz: Anything else you'd like to add?
Morgan: Dance is for everyone! We move every single day both physically and mentally through decision-making. We are all making moves! I encourage everyone to stimulate their bodies and brains either by taking a movement class or seeing movement in action. It’s so easy to get consumed and lose awareness of what the human body is capable of. Dancing is just a way to remember all the things that you can do in your body and your brain.
Liz: Do you have a favorite piece of advice?
Morgan: I once had a mentor/boss that told me to value and give priority to people over projects. It can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and events and forget that there are people operating behind these with lives and experiences that are different than your own.
At Dance Waterloo, people over project means we always end rehearsals and meetings on time to be respectful of everyone’s time. People over projects means when we are evaluating our annual budget or undergo budget cuts, we never cut employees and in fact always work to increase employee wages even in the midst of a budget cut. People over projects means being mindful of what everyone is going through whether it is outside stress, a death in the family, medical condition, etc. People over projects means caring and offering professional development for each individual employee even if that means assisting them advancing with a different company.