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Kawhi Life: Fancy footwork found in Toronto

The Raptors had to do without Kawhi Leonard after he jammed his foot. Now he’s back, and looking to show off his moves on the court — and maybe elsewhere?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor — for at least one year. While the team’s on-court success has its part to play, we’ve decided to do our part in selling the city to the Klaw. Each week we’re talking Toronto, and letting Kawhi know what his life could be like here.

This Week in Toronto

Maybe it’s the early setting sun or the desultory weather, but I’ve been thinking about the dance floor again. I know what you’re thinking: Daniel Reynolds, that absolute dork, out there cutting a rug? He just used the phrase “cutting a rug” for chrissakes — there’s no way he’s got moves. Reader, it’s true: I don’t. But there is something satisfying about finding a good room, a fun jam, a party that hits the right notes. What can I say? Sometimes the music calls to you.

Now, I won’t pretend to be an expert regarding dance parties in Toronto (I’m 34 and uncool, let’s remember). But it is something to consider how many events there are in the city, even as the old school club scene, the one situated along the King-Adelaide-Richmond vectors (in which I spent too much unhappy time), has been flattened over the years. Places like the Guvernment, an out-of-the-way sanctuary for some, are gone. Even relatively new spots like, say, the back room at LeVack Block (a personal favourite), have gradually disappeared. It’s just the changing of the times, to a certain extent.

There is still energetic fun to be had though. This weekend, for example, the Goin’ Steady DJs will be back at work at the Garrison (on Dundas West) with their recurring Chronologic event. The concept here is simple: early in the night, the music starts in an early era (the event page promises a 1890 tip-off). By 11pm you’re rocking into the 70s, then moving to some 80s tunes and so on, before catching up with the contemporary sounds of the day. I can confirm: it’s hard not to enjoy tracking the progress.

After that, if you’ve still got the dancing bug, on November 17th it’s the 16th anniversary of Turning Point. This one may be my new favourite. Get in to listen to a Man Called Warwick, and (usually) a special guest flown in from parts unknown, as he takes you to all kinds of world music places you’ve never considered before. It’s once again at the Garrison, and the scene itself is comfortable. Whether you’re a good or bad dancer, I can guarantee you’ll have yourself a time (even if you’re the quiet type, like a certain Toronto Raptor).

Another good one: Footprints, perhaps the longest running and most revered dance party in the city. Here the music jumps all over the place, it’s funky, it’s international, it goes old and new. The party takes place in the backroom of the Rivoli — which is complete with a front bar/restaurant and an upstairs pool hall, if you’re looking for something else to do — and has also been there for over 16 years (the next one is happening on November 24th, for the record).

The vibe at all these places is significant. Many complain about the club scene for obvious reasons — the music often sucks, it costs too much, there are lines everywhere (to get in, to get a drink, to go to the bathroom). If you’re a woman, there are almost always one too many handsy assholes hanging around. I get it. Though, yes, I am not a woman, my experience with these aforementioned jams continues to be positive. It’s a group of people having a good time, enjoying the music, and, sure, each other’s company. It’s performative in a way, one dancer vibing off another, finding ways to entertain and challenge, but it also comes from a true and good place.

There are newer parties now in Toronto, ones I’m not as connected with or to (again: I’m 34). I’ve heard tell of some real rippers going down on Geary Avenue, or in the industrial warrens of Sterling Road. Not long ago I was at a basement party off Kensington Avenue — a room of bland tile and DIY spirit — and caught glimpse of an explosive scene happening underneath the more humdrum aspects of this city. Who knows if music still plays there, though it probably still is — at least somewhere. There’s a scene, if you’re looking.

Should Kawhi Care?

Well, no.

(But at least Kawhi’s foot is no longer jammed! I would love here to be able to tell you I dug up some footage of Kawhi Leonard actually putting together a few funky moves off-the-court. There is this commercial, which promises proof of Leonard’s prowess, but doesn’t actually deliver — Kawhi merely bobs his head; he also karate chops boards. This leaves me to ask: does Leonard like to dance? Does he enjoy a night out on the town? Most signs so far point towards no, the thrilling manufactured commercials of a life fully lived notwithstanding.

Then again, someone with this kind of body control has to have some skill on the dance floor, right?)