With the coming of spring and the warm weather of summer just around the corner, a Toronto dancer’s mind turns to thoughts of outdoor dancing. Toronto is among the best cities in North America for its outdoor festivals, with each weekend following the “official beginning of summer”—Victoria Day—featuring multiple cultural, arts, drama, and you-name-it festivals. Salsa on St. Clair in early July is certainly a highlight with it tributes to Latino culture showcasing many of Toronto’s dance studios. But for its continuity, you cannot do better than the weekly Sidewalk Salsa event, this year in its 12th season.
Sidewalk Salsa, with its humble beginnings as a response to the lack of air conditioning at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre, has grown to welcome up to 100 dancers on some warm summer evenings. It has encouraged countless people to take up salsa dancing because of the close association between Sidewalk Salsa and Salsaholics Anonymous. And, it has served as a gateway to social engagement for those visiting Toronto. I personally have met many people from afar—often students at University of Toronto—who happen to walk by Sidewalk Salsa, stop by for a dance, meet other Toronto dancers, and are inevitably welcomed in to the Toronto dance scene.
Because of its convenient timing, namely, right after Salsaholics’ Repertoire class, Sidewalk Salsa provides a great opportunity to immediately practice the patterns we just learned on any given week. More than that, because it attracts such a wide range of dancers, from absolute beginners to those with advanced skill, Sidewalk creates opportunities to dance among friends while diversifying your experience. This will eventually enable new dancers to gain the confidence to attend Toronto Salsa Practice on Saturdays, Dovercourt on Sunday evening, and any of the other club venues throughout the city.
Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:
- Don’t wear your regular dance shoes on the sidewalk. Choose instead sneakers, shoes with durable soles, or with nylon soles (for spinning on concrete). Count on shoes wearing out after 1 season.
- Unless you can master a spin with non-grippy soled shoes, use a walkaround turn instead of a spot turn in your dancing.
Ensure your bags are in a well-lit area, preferably near the podium (where the music is playing). Although it has been very rare that anything has gone missing throughout the 12 years of Sidewalk Salsa, it has happened on rare occasion.
I highly encourage women to ask men to dance. Don’t just sit on the side throughout the evening waiting for someone to ask you. If there is a man that you’ve been always hoping would ask you to dance… ask him first!
If you happen to be dancing with a brand new beginner, respect their (lack of) ability. Rather than impressing them with your advanced-level dance-ninja moves, impress them instead with your calm, firm lead, your beautiful styling, the way you keep them safe, and the way you help them to overcome their trepidation about dancing in public. Confusing a new dancer with your trickery does not go very far; making them feel like they can actually dance can be the start of a beautiful friendship.
Sidewalk Salsa is all about creating a safe, respectful space, a fun experience, and a welcoming atmosphere. Let’s all do our part to make this season our very best to date!
See you on the Sidewalk!