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!

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