The Underdog Dance Corp., situated in the heart of Uptown Waterloo since September 2020, is an embodiment of the phrase, “dance from the heart”. Given the narrative of many small businesses struggling through the past two years, Underdog sticks out as a success.
Underdog is the only Latin dance studio for adults in the region. It features 1,000 square feet of dance space for both veterans and curious beginners to dance at their leisure.
“I have to say that I don’t feel like I run it solo because our instructors are the instructors that work at the studio. They all take so much ownership and initiative and so I’ve never really felt alone with it. I’ve been really, really lucky to feel like it’s a team effort there,” Emily Peat, owner of the Underdog Dance Corp., said.
The development and eventual opening of Underdog truly was a passion project. Peat started dancing in 2017 at 25 years old with the University of Waterloo Mambo Club. An instant passion for salsa and bachata grew. Where she lacked experience, she compensated with perseverance as she fell for the art more and more. Less than two years later she pursued her dream of dancing all day despite having a degree in Engineering.
By the end of 2018, she was teaching 17 classes per week and hosting monthly social dances. Now, Peat is Waterloo Region’s underdog dance instructor as she is an independent business owner with the least conventional dancing qualifications. The studio’s biggest challenge in the past few years has been managing their revenue stream amidst the constant lockdowns and changing COVID-19 Restrictions. In Peat’s original pitch to investors she was advised not to follow through with the idea because of her lack of business partner. And yet,Underdog stands.
“Lockdowns were really not able to generate [us any] revenue, but we still had all of the expenses of maintaining the studio,” Peat said. “So that’s been really, really difficult and it seemed like every time we opened and we just financially recovered, then we were hit with another one. And then just kind of trying to hold out hope through all of that.”
A loyal and tight-knit community has grown from the Underdog Dance Corp. despite all of the hardships. The studio has a wide variety of program offerings, from five week sessions to drop in classes. Some classes are also available for either in-person or online attendance. One of the studio’s goals is to celebrate dance in all of its forms, including athleticism and art. As a business owner Peat also makes sure the studio is an LGBTQ+ safe space so all people feel welcome to dance.
“[You have to ask yourself] what’s your intention or what do you want to get out of it? The other thing is that we talk often in class about how it [dancing] feels compared to how it looks. We’ve had people come in, day one, they don’t want to stand in front of the mirror and so they’re off in the back corner. And then week five, they like asking us to film, they just want to share their dancing and just makes you feel so good to see them,” Peat said.
As Underdog’s head instructor she and her team ensure that all folks who dance with them meet their movement goals. Regardless of skill level, dancers have a chance to build on what they already know while also picking up new techniques. Weekly events include bachata classes, chair dance, jazz funk and drop-in hip hop.