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!