WHERE: Bloor West from Avenue Road to Yonge
WHAT: I Want Rhythm's street dance party powered by music provided by stores along the way
WHEN: Sunday, November 19, 3 pm The Motown classic Dancing In The Streets comes alive as a frolicking group of four turns the sidewalks along Bloor into their own private ballroom. Nicole Stoffman 's fifth instalment of I Want Rhythm , the "public space intervention" dance party, begins at the Bang & Olufsen store. Lounge beats inspire slo-mo James Bond spy moves that enthrall nearby Starbucks coffee-sippers.
"I feel like I'm in a Fatboy Slim video," laughs participant Trevor Homeniuk , shifting his legs as if they were weighed down by iron blocks.
The premise is simple: Stoffman and the participants meet at a given location and dance along a lively stretch of Toronto to music coming from shops, restaurants, cars and street musicians. The goal is to use tunes usually played to entice shoppers to boogie in public spaces. "I want to transform the sidewalk into a moving dance floor," says Stoffman.
A beeping crosswalk button beckons dancer Jonathon Neville . He cups his ear and proceeds to bop his head to the beat. "I call it signal-hopping," he says.
Dumbfounded parents and kids strolling after the Santa Claus Parade approach the waltzing duos and breakdancing fiends with caution. The kids look antsy to bust a move.
"Some people feel threatened by individual happiness, which dancing shows," says Stoffman. "It's radical, yet it's not."
A slight change in plans: we head from the street into Pottery Barn, where Stoffman asks management to turn up their swinging Ella Fitzgerald Christmas tunes. Homeniuk and Natalie Zend dance around overpriced dinner plates and silverware sets, while Neville goes into full swing, so to speak, with full-on arabesques.
A woman ends up spinning around with Neville and, a bit taken aback, says, "It's like that Dancing With The Stars TV show."
Back out on the pavement, Stoffman, calling our idleness "unacceptable," pulls NOW photographer Jeanette Martin and I into their circle of bodies. And, after a few failed and embarrassing tangos, I notice two other couples have joined us. We're this close to re-enacting that city-wide dance scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Stoffman even tries to get drivers out of their cars. She races over to a Honda Civic playing dance beats, but vehicles start zooming by when the light turns green.
Of all the stores, Holt Renfew is the least accommodating to our moves. Within three minutes of dancing beside mannequins, three security guards and two store clerks surround us.
"We've had some complaints from customers," says Nancy, the head security guard. "Your dancing is causing a disturbance."
Our journey ends in front of H&M, where a remix of You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch is blasting outside on the P.A. system. Zend and I start to waltz, and I'm surprised how little attention I pay to the strange looks people give us. I'm too fixated on my two left feet.