The Documentary Release – TSP: Model for a City in the Making


The Toronto Salsa Practice: Model for a City in the Making, is the short story of a salsa practice that holds within it the story of a community transcending boundaries, immigrants finding belonging and diversity realizing its innovative and creative potential. All in all, it is the story of a city coming into its own, told not from hindsight but as its currently unfolding.

Toronto is a city of immense potential and in breaking down the model of the Toronto Salsa Practice (TSP), the documentary sheds light on how its magic could be applied to the city as a whole. It holds the key to realizing the globally rich and incredibly potent innovative power Toronoto holds and our best future forward.

*** WHAT ITS ALL ABOUT – The Documentary Breakdown ***      


Toronto is a city of immense potential.  A young city, barely 200 yrs old, its a blank canvas free to be who and whatever it wants to be only it hasn’t quite figured out what that is.  As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, with over half the population born outside the country, Toronto’s diversity is its strength.  When you add the incredible wealth of resources, talent, space and stability to this diversity, what you get is a recipe for immense opportunity.  Problem is, we have yet to come together in ways that truly access and see this potential through.  What we risk in not doing so, is squandering the rare opportunity to create a city of our making and failing to become a model for global diversity the world over.  Such are the stakes!


Many would argue we’ve made it, reached the pinnacle of our multicultural makeup with people from every part of the world living together in relative harmony. To call Toronto multicultural and stop there however, is to miss the point completely.  Multiculturalism is great as a concept, policy and first step towards pluralism, but our potential is about much more than any mosaic or tolerant form of co-existence. 


We are so much more than the sum of our parts and although the cultural festivals and ethnic restaurants in the city provide a sampling of our diversity, they’re passive in experience and only scratch the surface of our deeper potential. Our true potential lies in the creative and innovative power of our diversity which requires tapping into, deeply engaging and stepping across lines into the spaces that exist in between you and me, in order for the best of our differences to be brought out.  It requires going outside our comfort zone and connecting with something larger than ourselves.  Its not a process that respects the boundaries of political correctness, it steps right through them and challenges politeness with a genuine curiosity for what lies beyond.

Luckily for this city, there is a place where the true tolerance and potential of our diversity is being tested.  It is a salsa practice where the power of dance is combining with other key innovation ingredients to realize the potential our diversity holds.  In doing so its modelling a way forward to our best future.


What started out as a gathering of only 4 people coming together to practice a few salsa moves back in 2001, quickly grew into something much more than the organizers ever imagined.  From its humble beginnings, the Toronto Salsa Practice has since grown into a weekly event attracting hundreds of people from across the city, with over 10,000 admissions sold last year alone.  Known as the TSP for short, it is a relaxed, friendly place where a microcosm of Toronto’s diversity gathers every Saturday afternoon, for over 14yrs now, in a beautiful church, in the Annex, to dance to the Latin beat of salsa.

There in the middle of the dance floor bridges are being built, barriers broken and a community of incredibly diverse people is forming across race, religion and a myriad of other differences. Purely by accident, the TSP has given rise to the most critical and intangible pieces that make a city desirable; community, place and belonging.  A collective sense of self as a city is forming, something people can feel apart of.  This collective sense of self is fueling a complex identity of Toronto’s very own and one that’s critically important to us as a  city of  immigrants.  In fact, it can make all the difference between Toronto’s future as a transient city, a spot along the way to somewhere else for many, or a place to call home, invest in and help build.


A city’s identity forms a symbol for the people that call it home to look to and relate to.  Without this, people struggle to  navigate the culture and find their way into the collective, without which they can’t integrate or fully contribute.  In a city whose culture is open but also vague and unclear, Toronto’s symbolism and navigability is lacking and as such leaves new comes at a disadvantage.  Can it be overcome and are people not finding their way despite this?  Yes, however the process could be made much easier and result in far greater cohesive success if our symbolism better developed.  And that’s just what’s happening on the dance floor of the TSP.

Our global makeup is finding home in something new here on the dancefloor of the TSP.  Given this city’s newness and lack of otherwise strong carved out cultural identity , there’s space for a collective sense of self to emerge that spans our diversity while also incorporating, making room for and building upon our differences. Its a global identity that’s taking root in new behaviours and values emerging on the dancefloor of the TSP, adding back in a local dimension to our emerging identity.

How exactly is this taking place?  For these answers we have to look to the power of dance itself.


The power of dance is something subtle but penetrating in its ability to raise us above ourselves and join us at the level of our common humanity.  In the case of salsa, its ability to transcend the differences that separate us and deeply engage us at our core is almost magical.  United here, there is space for our likeness and differences to co-exist, become one and yet still maintain the distinctiveness of our many parts. A united diversity is emerging, a collective sense of self that’s lending form and definition to who we are and could be as a people and a city.

Underlying all of this are the values and behaviours being cultivated and given form to on the dancefloor.  A culture of respect, open curiosity and bolder interactions are coming to define the collective at the TSP and Toronto’s differences are flowing more freely as a result.  There is a spirit alive at the TSP and it is our spirit as a city waking up to its own sense of self and its innovative potential.


When the elements of space, structure and safety are added to a diverse community that’s united by a deeply engaging and animating force such as dance, what you get is innovation and our city’s creative potential harnessed.  In the case of the TSP, the element of SPACE refers to the physical space itself.  For our diversity to come together as it does at the TSP, its takes an open, easy to access, functional as well as inspiring space to house the people forming the community.  Housed in a large, sun lit, high ceiling room, the TSP takes place in an inspiring, creative and community supportive space.  The fact that the location is easy to access, either by foot, subway, bicycle or car is key to its functionality as well.  The fact that admission to the Practice is highly affordability also contributes to its accessibility.  For the price of a fancy coffee, anyone can get in without income barriers standing in the way of their participation.

Once the space is in place, STRUCTURE kicks in.  There is a governing structure of simple rules, do’s and don’ts that keep things moving along smoothly and fairly.  These rules are underlined by a clear set of values that the LEADERSHIP, specifically Jim Gronau the TSP’s Director, embodies and consistently upholds.  Respect, kindness and equality are primary and can be found in everything from the simple greeting at the door to the basic etiquette policies that structure the practice.  As an example, Jim put an affirmative action policy in place to ensure women feel confident asking men to dance with the requirement that the men have to say yes to help tip the traditional scales back into balance. The VALUES of the TSP are critical to the strong structure its formed over the years and the Practice’s over 14yrs of success.  From the leadership, these values are translated by the community and carried onto the dance floor where they’re taking shape as an emerging and collective sense of self.

Next comes SAFETY. With a values based structure in place and an inspiring and functional space to come together in, the element of a safety comes into play.  At the TSP, people are free to come out and play, express themselves, mess up, have fun, learn and take risks without judgement or prejudice.   Within this play there’s a very important coming together taking place that’s giving rise to the mixing, mingling and meshing of our diverse strengths that’s realizing our city’s true potential.  Engaged at the level of our core and moved into deeper connection by the dance itself, safety then allows the best of who we are to emerge and meet itself as a collective in the protected space provided.

Its a collaboration and partnership expressed through salsa moves that takes us into a deeper experience of our diversity.  There on the dancefloor, we’re EXPERIMENTING, exploring and creating across boundaries and in this space, INNOVATION is taking place.  Each dance is a new experience, an improvisation that brings with it something slightly different. Sometimes the experiment goes far outside the box of the ordinary into new moves and developing personal styles and at other times its the collaboration itself an innovative experience.  On the dance floor, Toronto is tapping into and building upon what each individual brings to the dance floor and moving together from there.


These are the key ingredients that make the TSP a model for our city in the making. Whether it’s Toronto’s approach to building the city, the way in which we approach social challenges or encourage entrepreneurship, the TSP stands as model of how to take more risks, value play and embrace diversity more fully to realize our innovative potential as a city.  Our emerging identity and forming culture is one defined by both our sameness and differences to produce more than the sum of our parts and its here that our true potential lies and its here that the TSP has much learning to offer. 

In a world, not just a city, in need of more inventive and considerate ways forward, its high time we danced this model off the salsa floor and on to the streets of this city and others.  Toronto has the people, the space, the safety and little history to hold us back, all we’re missing is the desire and commitment to see this model and the potential it holds through.  Its starts with salsa but ends with a city of our own making if we take up the challenge.   Our economic, social and cultural future depends on it.  So what are we waiting for?  Its times we danced the model awake as the innovative means of achieving our city’s greatest potential.

If you have thoughts, ideas or comments to add – Please come and join the CONVERSATION here!  We’d love to hear from you.

See also: 

The TSP: Model for a City in the Making Trailer

Background to the Documentary

Further writing on Toronto’s Real Potential – Innovation as Our Culture and Identity

The TSP as a Microcosm of Toronto’s Diversity

More on the History of the TSP

More on the TSP’s Director – Leadership Embodied



On Mourning and the Pain of Loss.

I post this video not to spread sadness or exploit the pain of so many, but to raise a point. Returning hatred with acts of hatred will only perpetuate the cycle of loss and create new wars where none exist. Attacking muslim women in the streets of our country will do nothing to ‘get back’ at the true perpetrators of the recent bombings, and it will do nothing to minimize the fear, anger and powerless we feel in light of recent events.

We should be outraged by what’s taken place in Syria, Beruit and Paris. These acts are unjust, and injustice breeds rage but the remedy to rage is not anger, its honesty, truth and right action. This little boy is crying out from the depths of his heart and giving voice to the pain of what it means to lose those we love most. We can only feel it, move through it, grieve it openly and fully.  It is a pain like none other that cuts from the inside out and no bandaid can make that hurt go away. We can only feel it, move through it and grieve it openly and fully.  We must then cut through the impulse for revenge and drive our anger into courage, the courage to act bigger, love deeper and reject fear stronger.

From there right action calls us to band together against further injustice. Syrian refugees are fleeing for their lives, they did not plant these bombs. A muslim women on a street anywhere in Canada is not a fair target of outrage. Ignorance, hatred, demonizing and manipulation of the disempowered are the real targets that we should instead be taking aim at.



A Teacher’s Lesson

Sometimes teachers teach us more about ourselves by way of their own imperfections than any practiced lesson ever could.

In a moment of unguarded conversation, a friend of mine slipped back into an old place of self doubt and insecurity at a critical moment for a potential new student.  Someone he did not yet know approached him in the hopes of learning, studying and developing under his wing.  He came to him with hands and heart wide open and instead of receiving the same back, what he got instead was a swift slap to the face. Unbeknownst to this eager new pupil, my friend the  teacher had stepped off the speakers podium and instead tripping over the stairs, he fumbled over his own self worth and landed head first into a puddle of self doubt. The part of him that holds a strong space and container for others, failed him and he collapsed into a space of self deprecation at a critical juncture.

Instead of receiving this student’s expression of interest graciously, he flippantly dismissed it.  Speaking not from his true self but that insecure place that takes over the head and hijacks the mouth, he struck this student down with a harsh reply.  Out came words of unintended rejection that caused great hurt and most unfortunately, a potentially irrevocable retreat of this student’s spirit back inside. There is a great amount of power to positively or negatively affect the growth of a student when one approaches a teacher with desire to be lead.  These are vulnerable moments of great courage that expose a deep seated need and request for help.  As a result, a great opportunity to reinforce, reward and nurture the new growth of this potential student was lost and the instead of opening up, he instantly shutdown and retreated away.

The good news is, teachers like all of us are human which is to say they too make mistakes, have flaws and act badly.  If however they’re a good teacher, they  will take these opportunities to push for their own improvement and pursue ever greater learning.  They are not Gods to be put up on pedestills and worshiped, instead they are to be learned from in whatever form their teachings come. In this case, my friend slipped up.  His insecurity got the best of him and he spoke from a dark place within that he too is working to overcome.  The real opportunity that exists now is for this teacher to truly teach from a place of greater honesty.  Its up to him to go back to this student, hat in hand and humbly admit his mistake, express his regret and reveal a few of his own short comings.  He made a blunder and has a chance to invite this student back in by sharing with him, his own process of learning.  Its not about saving face, its about saving the most important process we are all apart of in this world, self growth and evolution.  Its a chance to confront another from a place of great compassion and take responsibility in a way that requires that teachers themselves become bigger than our mistakes.  It requires stepping up and reaching out in a true act of humanity.

In the end we all teachers, and all students just trying to make our way in this crazy world. Staying out of self doubt and belittlement is important, but learning the art of humility is one of the greatest feats of all!

Toronto’s Real Potential – Innovation as Our Culture and Strength

Pico Iyer, in his book The Global Soul, hits upon the global cultural phenomena that Toronto itself is fully in the midst of.  As Iyer points out, there is a real loss and disintegration of national and cultural boundaries taking place around the world.  The globalization of people not just goods is seeing individual identities merge into a broader and more dispersed global sense of self.   This global merging is however, paradoxically and simultaneously leading to an increasing sense of fragmentation within the individual which more often than not leaves one feeling lost, disconnected and afloat in a sea of many cultures with no one place or people to fully feel apart of.

In few other places can this be seen or felt more than in Toronto where our emerging multicultural make up is global but dissconnected from a larger fabric, leaving our identity open to all things and no one at the same time. Toronto, in its relative infancy is fertile soil for a multicultural people to shape and grow and global identity rooted in the local given the peaceful and harmonious conditions we benefit from.  Iyers himself sees Toronto as an ideal global city with the potential to both imagine and create an urban, pluralistic, civil, and peaceful global heaven on earth.  I believe we’ve begun to do just that but not in the way we may think or doing all we can to support. On the dance floor of a salsa practice however, (the Toronto Salsa Practice), we are doing just that. As a model for what we could be doing city wide, our differences are being transcended and we’re coming together in the places where our sameness exists and can be tapped into; our basic humanity, global soul or oneness. Its that hard to get to place where deep connection between different people, cultures and religions takes place and judgments and superficialities fall away.  Dance is brilliant at achieving this and its this kind of space that allows the best of our diversity to emerge.  The strength of Toronto is its vastly diverse people, but tapping into the potential we hold requires an integration that both penetrates our differences while also drawing strengths from them.  A contradiction and mission impossible it would seem but not so for Toronto, as we hold the right conditions to achieve just that.

The model for this level of integration be realized and along with it our innovative potential if we translated what’s taking shape in places like the TSP, elsewhere across areas the city.  Why do so?  Because the innovative potential we hold as a people is incredible, powerful and something not to be taken for granted.  Diversity when joined together in a way that transcends differences and then allows the individual a safe space and a means of expressing themself, leads to experimentation, failure, learning and eventually creativity and invention.  This is not only Toronto’s potential, it is our way of being and who are as a city and people when we embrace our diversity for what it truly is, an incredible muscle we need to learn to flex and an identit we need to learn to embrace.  In this sense our potential is not only innovation itself, it is the realization of innovation as a culture and our own uniquely developing way of being.

The conditions that exist here are unique in many ways in the world.   We are a young country with few historical reminants or strife to hold us back from designing our own way forward and a porous cultural identity which often times acts more like an open space to be filled instead of a strong and dominant culture to overcome.  In the space that remains other more strongly defined cultures of the world have found spence to exist here.  When shaped by the right conditions, our coming together can produce behaviours and ways of relating that are specific to Toronto.  In turn, these new ways of coming together are influencing our emerging identity and grounding it back at the local level. Whereas the globalization of identity instills a sense of connection to the everything and paradoxically comes at the cost of feeling apart of nothing, parts of Toronto are finding a means of connecting to the global oneness of our makeup while also beginning to plant roots back at the local level.  The collective experience of finding connection across our global make up and the behaviours we’re developing as a means of doing so, is creating bridge between the our global identity and our developing Torontonian identification.  This is why Toronto’s search for a superseding and uniting identity is so important, it makes room for our displacing differences and allows them space to exist in a united way because they have a place to call home.  It is also why embracing our innovative nature as this bridging identity and capacity holds the key to both our future in practical (economic, business and development) terms as well emotional and spiritual city terms as well.

The individual fragmentation Pico Iyer refers to does have a remedy and its one we are developing here and now.  In unsuspecting corners of the city, like the dance floor of a salsa practice, people are able to engage as distinct individuals and citizens of a global city collective, both as subjects and creators of.  In Toronto, one can be many things at the same time but the key is to balance the global with a uniting sense of local belonging and to do that we need look no further than examples such as the Toronto Salsa Practice for the inspiration and formula to follow.

The Strong Quiet Types – Our Unsung Community Heroes

Much of the success of the Toronto Salsa Practice (TSP) has to do with Jim Groneau, the leader, director and organizer of the TSP.  Not one to speak about himself, he embodies all the virtues that make the TSP the success it is and exemplifies what a true community leader is all about – the community itself.

Full of humility, he is stills surprised to learn of the practice’s impact on the many people it has touched over the years.  Dedicated to the Practice, he continues to man it from behind the scenes and on the front lines where he’s almost always there to greet people at the front door with a smile, hug  or handshake.  And the effort a leader makes to be present for his community, to provide for it and engage with it makes a real difference.  Jim for example has honed his photographic skills over the years by taking shots of the dancers on the floor which increases the community’s engagement and gives back to it in a way that allows it to bear witness to its own involvement.  We all feel more connected as a result.

As the best of community leaders do, he has set and consistently upheld the values that matter most to him; those of social justice, equality, fairness and respect for everyone who enters the space.  These values have come to underline the Practice and set the tone for interactions on the dance floor which is unique among most salsa practices.  The friendly and welcoming vibe that the TSP is known for and continues to garner success as a result of, is because of the values Jim continues to embody and uphold.  There is the affirmative action policy in place for example, that reverses the role of the man as the one who asks the woman to dance.  This change up has seen to it that no woman gets left behind on the sidelines and instead both genders feel free to ask who they please to dance, with a little added boost of confidence for those that need it.

Some community leaders rise to great notoriety, but many don’t despite the important impact they have on the city and the lives of those they touch.  Jim doesn’t ask for nor does he crave recognition, instead he’s in it for all the right reasons – care for the community, strong values, a love of dance and fairness for all.  He stands as an example of the hard work it takes to make a difference but also the rewards that come from that.  Hopefully what he as achieved on the dance floor of the TSP will inspire others to follow in his foot steps.  So here’s to you Jim, you are a true community leader – an unsung hero with accomplishments many want to sing about!

Join the Conversation!

ADD your VOICE to the DISCUSSION of the ideas put forth and sparked by the Short Doc –Toronto Salsa Practice:  A Model for Our City in the Making!

If you have to something to say about the ideas and concepts contained in the documentary, including Toronto’s:


..then please leave a comment below in the “Leave Rely” box, OR post to our Facebook page We look forward to hearing from you soon!

History of the TSP – The Practice That Started It All

History of the Toronto Salsa Practice (TSP)

How It All Began – In January 2001, four people new to salsa decided to meet outside of class to practice in a space in Trinity St.Paul’s, a church in the Annex, in the heart of Toronto.  What started off as an idea to learn faster by way of helping each other out in an informal and friendly way soon became a favourite weekly event tha each found themselves looking forward to.  They continued meeting and practicing – and going out for coffee or dinner afterwards.  The cost of practicing was studio rent that they split four ways and each took turns bringing a boombox for the music.  Their salsa moves improved and soon, they started to attract attention.

Before long, people from other salsa schools were joining in and others came out until numbers started to push a hundred and the lineup to get wove down the hall and into the basement.  Within a couple of years, so many people were coming that a proper sound system had to be bought and the Toronto Salsa Practice (TSP) was formally created.  People from across the city, other parts of the province and even newcomers visiting from as far away as Israel, Holland, Germany and California, were showing up to dance.  What set this practice apart was the energy that everyone contributed to in those early days and the warmth and camaraderie that first brought people together.  In fact, its what still makes the TSP what it is today and keeps people coming back for more.

Even more to the story, the Toronto Salsa Practice was the first of its kind in the city and started a salsa movement that’s taken off in more ways than one.  Many salsa schools and salsa socials have the TSP to thank for their existence having taken inspiration from the practice itself.  Before the TSP, there were few places to dance salsa and of those most were clubs too intimidating for many to set foot in.  Learning was limited to an hour or two of salsa in a class setting each week, offered by only a number of existing salsa schools.

When the TSP entered the scene it filled the need many had for a space that bridged the gap between the dance club and the classroom with a safe place to stumble, fumble and get back up again, learning more and more salsa along the way. The number of people who now dance salsa across the city has flourished into the hundreds and while not all of salsa’s success in Toronto can be attributed to the TSP, it was precedent setting in terms of having created something new and needed in a practice and creation of  community for Torontonians and recent immigrants alike.  Since its inception, the TSP has been replicated many times over with practices taking place in almost every corner of the city and a club to dance in each night of the week.  The old Toronto is no longer without the latin flare of the South!

More on the Practice and what its achieved available here:

The Trailer 

The Documentary 

 The Toronto Salsa Practice

Toronto’s Diversity on the Dance Floor

So Just How Diverse is the Toronto Salsa Practice (TSP)?

A look at the Toronto Salsa Practice (TSP) as a microcosm of Toronto’s diversity.

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The dance floor of the TSP is one of the most multi-cultural places in all of the city of Toronto.  Home to numerous cultural festivals, Toronto is used to diversity but no where else in the city does our diversity come together so fully or completely as it does at the TSP.  And for one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, that’s saying a lot.  From race, religion, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation to occupation, the extent of Toronto’s diversity present on the dance floor is impressive and its what makes the TSP a microcosm of our city.  What better place to play, experiment and take chances with diversity than here!

To lend weight to the TSP as a microcosm of Toronto’s diversity, a random survey was carried out one day at the Practice and here are some of the findings:

– Of the almost 100 surveyed, 60% were born outside of Canada.

– In terms of ethnicity, only 13% identified as Canadian-Caucasian.  Other ethnicities present ranged from Asian, Filipino, Persian, Hispanic, Caribbean, European, East European and African.

– 60% spoke more than one language and of those, 40% spoke three or more different languages.

– Ages aged from 21 to 65 yrs old, with the majority in their 20’s, 30’s or 40’s.

– Occupations ranged from librarian, engineer, lawyer, florist, pension officer, retiree, student, chef, chemist, social worker, banker, advertising exec, medical technician, marketer, software developer to business owner.

Put into the broader city wide context, these numbers accurately represent the city’s ethnic, linguistic and immigrant make up, and at times surpass them.  Based 2006 national statistics for example, 50% of Toronto’s 2.79 million population, was born outside the country, and 47% identified as members of a visible minority.  Statistic show that Toronto is home to over 140 languages and dialects and just over 30 per cent of Toronto residents speak a language other than English or French at home.  Similar to the ethnic groups found on the dance floor of the TSP, the top five visible minority groups in Toronto as reported in 2006, include:

  • South Asian at 298,372 or 12 per cent of our population
  • Chinese at 283,075 or 11.4 per cent
  • Black at 208,555 or 8.4 per cent
  • Filipino at 102,555 or 4.1 per cent
  • Latin American at 64,860 or 2.6 per cent

See the City of Toronto’s website here, for these and other statistics.

A larger map of the TSP dance floor can be found here.


The Story Behind the Story of the TSP Documentary!

The Lure – One afternoon while walking along Bloor Street, I found myself pulled through the front doors of a church of all things, by the pulsating sound of salsa music.  Following the beat, I entered a large, sun lit room and was immediately struck by what I saw. There on the dance floor, in the middle of a church,  the most incredible collection of vastly diverse people I’d ever seen were gathered all in one place. No where else in the city had I seen so much of our diversity joined together in such a deeply engrossing and engaged way. Every shape, size, colour, age, religion and ethnicity was represented on that dance floor and the place was alive with a sense of connection, cohesion, possibility and excitement. The energy of it was absolutely infectious.

Something More – Beyond the dancing and fun being had at what I came to learn was a weekly salsa practice, there was far more going on than first met the eye and I wanted to get to the bottom of it.  I was drawn to investigate further not only because I myself hungered for the same sense of belonging and community I saw on the dance floor, but also because the place as a whole seemed to hold the answers to similar longings we as a City yearned for.  Before long it became clear to me that who we are as a city, and the potential we hold when we came together in the right way, was taking shape right on this dance floor.  In a city that holds so much promise but at times frustrates those in pursuit of it, I felt the secrets held by the TSP needed to be told and the idea for the documentary was born.

The Toronto Salsa Practice: Model for a City in the Making, is in essence the story of a salsa practice that holds within it the story of a community transcending boundaries, immigrants finding belonging and diversity realizing its innovative and creative potential.  All in all, it is the story of a city coming into its own, told not from hindsight but as its currently unfolding. It is a labour of love both in support of the Practice and the city itself.  Although short in length, it aims to inspire and spur all of us on in the pursuit of Toronto’s true and vastly dynamic potential.  We have such an amazing opportunity before us to create Toronto into the city of our own making, so let’s not waste it!  This film is rallying cry while also suggesting the means of realizing our potential by looking no further than the Toronto Salsa Practice as a model to get us there.

Premiere Screening of the documentary takes place at 4.30 pm on Saturday January 24th, at the 14th Anniversary Party of the Toronto Salsa Practice itself.  Church address is 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto (Bloor and Spadina major intersection). The documentary will be live online after the screening at

Part II – Toronto a City in the Making

The coming of age story of a city on the cusp of something big! DOCUMENTARY RELEASE DATEJanuary 24th, 2015.

After ruminating over the questions Michelle Dean’s letter to the city left me with; are we really passionless, dreamless and uninspiring the answer suddenly revealed itself to me on the middle of the salsa dance floor.  Right there before my eyes was the picture of who and what we could be as a city and the transformative city building process we’re in the midst. The missing pieces we’re not seeing are clear as can be and they are coming together to the rhythm of a Latin beat.

Its not that we don’t have heart, soul or a place to pull passion from, its that we’re looking for it all the wrong places.  Spaces that aren’t ours, ways and statues, structures and achievements that may belong to other great cities of the world, but not ours and looking externally will never hold our answer to our truth.  Unlike New York or the Londons and Paris`s of the world our energy and aliveness isn’t there to be seen in neon flashing lights, its not loud or obvious and we need to stop looking for it to be.  Instead its found in the most surprising of places like the middle of the salsa dance floor where our diversity is at its most alive, inventive and collaborative as well as the mix of creative spaces and community places where work is quietly taking place in new and city changing ways.  Its in these lesser known parts of the city that we and our Toronto are becoming who and what we truly are and the potential we could yet be is taking shape.

So who and or what is that?  Who we are is a city in development, a city on the cusp of adulthood trying to figure itself out.  We are new and full of possibility.  Only a couple hundred years old, we are a clean slate that each and every one of us has the chance to make their mark on and help sculpt and mold into whatever we want it to be.  How many other cities of the world can offer you that?  Sure there’s an excitement to being on the ground of some of the other great cities of the world, but what about being able to help create that excitement as opposed to merely being swept up by it?  Creating the wave instead of just riding it requires more effort for sure, but there’s the promise of greater reward as well!  Many of other cities of the world it could be argued are already built, too fully formed and saturated in identity and culture to be able to affect in any noticeable way, unless you already have the money and backing to make a splash .  Not however, our Toronto, there`s a lot of room here to be part of our shaping as well as a good deal of need for it.

Plus who we are is up to us to decide, not our history.  We’re not plagued by the shadow of our past, we haven’t suffered centuries of war, nor the kind of ongoing bloodshed that acts to segregate, deform and divide so many other cities of the world. Without these issues to contend with, its only possibility that we face when choosing who we want to be.  More on the responsibilities attached to this freedom and privilege to come, but for now let’s just say enormous opportunity lies in the clean slated-ness our limited history affords us; opportunity we need to recognize and value as our own and pull excitability from as part of our own particular makeup.

Next is the fact that we are full of space, we are free, open and stocked with plenty resources.  We are lucky enough to have for example the space and freedom to come together just as we are, distinct and individual, talented and with a breadth of different skills and experiences to experiment and create together in new and exciting ways.  These experiments plus our developing ways of coming together, visioning, working, building and dreaming, are who we are – they are our own developing way of being.  If we so choose to embrace them, they are ours for the taking and can become the underpinnings of our identity, our culture and the pieces we’ve been overlooking and undermining when turning elsewhere for the answers to our greatness.

Engaging these pieces on a broader scale, valuing them as critical resources and embracing them as our innovative fuel is critical to fulfilling our potential. This valuing is key to stirring up and motivating the kind of passion sought after and that same je ne sais quoi that each and every one of us is longing for on some deeper level.  We all want to belong to something bigger than ourselves, to be part of something greater and that opportunity is here in our city, we just need to open our eyes to it and be willing to add to the dream with some passion and belief of our own.

And so how do we do that?  By looking to those pockets of the city where this is already taking place and using these example as models to build our city upon.  There is one particular place, where the who and what of this city’s potential is taking shape and its found on the dancefloor of a church. Although having nothing to do with religion, there is a real spirit and sense of city self developing. At this weekly salsa practice a highly integrated community has formed, an identity beyond multiculturalism is emerging and our incredible innovative potential is coming forth. The heart and soul we long for is alive and well as the Toronto Salsa Practice (TSP for short) and the how of expanding it is the subject of the documentary title, The Toronto Salsa Practice: A Model for a City in the Making.  We are a city with the rare ability to design our own future so let’s not waste it.  Michelle Dean’s letter to the city has an answer and its spinning about to the rhythm of salsa, just waiting for us to dance off the floor to the furthest reaches of our city!

Live Your Right Life

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