On June 11, Eastwood Community League’s rink came alive with dance, laughter, and music. 

The league hosted a series of free dance workshops open to residents, and participants had the chance to dance with experienced instructors and learn African-fusion dance, Soca, and Bhangra. 

This is the third year that Eastwood has offered dance workshops. The first dance workshops were organized by Arts on the Ave for Black History Month, and now, Eastwood organizes the workshops in June to line up with the ParticipACTION Community Better Challenge, a national initiative that encourages communities to get active. 

“It’s a way to get some activity in the rink space,” says Kate Wilson, the league’s facility coordinator, “just to add some vibrancy to this space. We had our PA system installed in 2019 thanks to [a grant from] the City… and we also want to use that as much as possible… to build community connections and get the neighbours involved. Just building community capacity.” 

Ivan Touko taught the Afro-fusion dance workshop, and he also taught the workshop last year in Eastwood’s rink. “We did so many different things, from South African dance moves all the way to Ghana and even some traditional West African steps,” says Touko. “It was a really great day today.”

“You can feel the community inside this space,” adds Touko. “I really like that I can dance [freely], I like that it’s outdoors, the PA system is amazing, and apparently people can hear [the music] on the other side [of the league], so it even adds a little bit of joy in the neighbourhood. Even if they aren’t here with us, I’m sure [residents] hear the music and they’re like, ‘Hey this is cool!’”

Amanda Bambrick attended the dance workshops last year, and she was excited to see that the workshops would be offered again this year. “These events are really exciting because we get to dance with Ivan, Masani, [and] other teachers who are really well-known and respected dance teachers in the community, in a relaxed and personal space,” says Bambrick. 

Masani St. Rose taught the Soca workshop, and her favourite part about teaching workshops is getting the chance to connect with everyone. “Movement just has a way of connecting people from their soul to the soles of their feet,” says St. Rose. “That’s my tagline. I like to keep arts and culture alive from soul to sole.”

Her goal is to help participants have a fun experience in a safe way. “I find so many of us, either we’ve never danced before or [we] are just getting back in as adults, and we’re very conscious of how we look, [and] how we feel,” continues St. Rose. “But it’s just being safe with a whole bunch of people who are having that same experience.”

Aisha Farinre attended the workshops for the first time on June 11. “As a very shy person, I feel like this was a very safe space and I really enjoyed it,” says Farinre. “Every part was my favourite because I got to move and just be free.” 

“Dance and movement are part of the ways to release stress, to enjoy life, and enjoy the little things that are good about [life],” says Touko. “So I do hope that people will not only learn from other cultures or learn [about] different styles of dances… but most importantly that [they learn] just to enjoy life.”