LIFE · Walkabout: Jeff Walker April 8th, 2017

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Whirling under the skylights on Bayview

Local studio has turned Leaside into a ballroom dancing hub

The photo above captures debonair dance wizard Oleg Yedlin in street civvies, closing up shop for the day. The sky-lit space is his ‘Ballroom on Bayview’ studio — classy, but as informal as Yedlin at the moment. He’s just come off a particularly busy week of judging a ballroom dancing competition held at the Fairmont Royal York. It’s a big event, tied in with the other studio he runs, for “competitive dance,” north of Highway 401.

Ballroom on Bayview, however, is his “social dance” studio for those who mainly just want to have fun, newcomers most definitely included.

“Everybody comes in for a different reason,” studio manager (and instructor) Linda Marsella tells me. Some come to learn how to waltz for a wedding reception, and then get hooked on learning the whole spectrum of ballroom dances. Some have returned home to Leaside from a vacation in Latin America, inspired to master dance steps encountered there. Some come to learn nightclub dances that aren’t actually ballroom, strictly-speaking, like salsa or American-style east-coast and west-coast swing, descendants of 1920s Jive.

Which reminds me of Strictly Ballroom, the David Mirvish-produced musical opening on King Street in late April. Australia-based, it is best-known in its incarnation as a popular 1992 movie. It’s about the competitive ballroom dancing scene Down Under and the conflict between its traditionalists and its innovators. Anyone interested enough to purchase tickets for the show is bound to be dazzled by the beauty and splendour and grace (and eros!) of this social-art form. I can well imagine not a few Leasiders dropping in on Ballroom on Bayview to sign up for lessons afterwards.

Actually, I happen to know that David Mirvish’s famous father, “Honest Ed,” took weekly ballroom dance lessons with his wife for decades, and I can’t help but think that this might have drawn son David to the new stage production.

I myself had something of a fling with ballroom dancing in the late 1970s (good grief!) while living in Montreal. I did beginner’s lessons at the YMCA and then moved on to private lessons at a studio much like Ballroom on Bayview (B on B). Did I have a natural aptitude for ballroom? Give me a 4 out of 10, although if my partner at the time, Eva Jejinska, should stumble upon this column, she’d doubtless have a laugh over that inflated self-rating.

Anyway, it was an experience I can unreservedly recommend to anyone, and I wish that circumstances had allowed me to continue after decamping for Toronto. I was certainly gratified that Leaside became a ballroom dancing hub seven years ago with the opening of Oleg’s studio. It’s on the west side of Bayview directly above the bright red sign for Alex’s Farm Cheeses, also a classy operation.

Naturally, B on B has a website to familiarize prospective students with its variety of programs, dances taught, and its roster of instructors. Linda Marsella points out that while many hone in on a particular dance to master, “half the students like to learn everything.” Literally everything would include all these international, American and Latin dances: foxtrot/slow foxtrot, waltz, Viennese waltz, tango, quick step, Peabody, rhumba, cha cha cha, bolero, mambo, samba, salsa, merengue, and bachata. About three quarters of students sign up as pairs, mostly for private lessons. But singles can pair up in group lessons and with instructors. Same-sex couples are welcome.

Though they’d have to dodge distracted smart-phone users, I’d like to see some of B on B’s more exuberant couples twirling each other along the sidewalks, a real-life Bayview: the Musical. Or should we call it Strictly Bayview, with our favourite Green Hornet, ticket-book in hand, in hot but futile pursuit as onlookers cheer on the elusive sidewalk-dancers?

Okay, okay, I realize I’m getting a bit carried away here. Time to wrap it up. (Hmmm…how about Ba Ba Land?)

 

 

 

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