Dance walking trend hits Toronto

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Balancing her boom box on her shoulder, Susan Shapiro leads our dance walk group of 24 brave souls down St. Clair Ave. W. on a hot, lazy Sunday morning in June.

We get a few curious stares and lots of smiles as our group bougies down the sidewalk to Abba’s Dancing Queen.

Shapiro got the idea when she, along with 19 million others, saw a YouTube video of NBC reporter Ben Aaron dance walking for LXTV.

Aaron was taping a segment on 5th Ave. in New York this spring when he and his camera crew captured a man walking and dancing down the sidewalk. As Aaron says in his video, he “did what anyone would do,” and joined him. The anonymous dance walker (later revealed to be a man named Joseph, from Brooklyn) inspired Aaron to exercise in a whole new way.

As he says in the video, “It dawned on me. This guy combines three of my favourite things: interacting with people, seeing the city, and dancing. This could be the workout I was waiting for.” With his electric blue sneakers and an iPod strapped to his arm, the lovable 31 year-old hit the streets and talked groups of strangers into dance walking with him.

The video went viral within three months. It also spawned a dance walking craze around the globe, including Dance Walk Toronto.

“I thought the video looked like fun,” Shapiro says. “I contacted close friends to see if they’d participate and they said ‘yes,’ and a good number came out.”

It all came full circle June 8, when the group nabbed Aaron to shimmy down in Toronto.

On my walk with the group — sans Aaron — I felt more cornered than inspired. It’s one thing to get excited about a video; it’s quite another to throw humility to the winds and dance walk in front of all the neighbours. But Shapiro’s enthusiasm was infectious.

Next to me, Isabelle Faucher, struts her stuff while pushing her two-week-old daughter Eloise in a stroller. “I was intrigued — and I needed to get out of the house with my four-year-old son William,” she says, laughing. “It was fun. My son liked it, and I discovered that he has rhythm and he likes to dance!”

After 30 minutes of dance walking, I had worked up a sweat and a smile. Exercise should be fun and it was a great way to catch up with friends in the neighbourhood. Shapiro’s three children “had a blast and after they came home, that’s all they talked about for the rest of the day. I thought it would be fun and it was.”

Inspired? DanceWalk Toronto contact organizers Vivek Patel and Tree Walsh confirmed that the next walk is scheduled for Oct. 20, at noon, in partnership with the “Take a Walk on the Riverside” Festival. Enthused Patel, “It will probably be our biggest DanceWalk yet!”

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