Clash of Culture- The Zumba Phenomenon (SP 4)

I never really enjoyed doing choreographed dance. Even when taking dance, it would frustrate me because I always wanted to do my own moves and routines.

Yesterday, three of my friends decided they were going to try out Zumba at the Hart House gym. And as the most caring and lovely of friends in the world they are (I need to make them sound super awesome in case they read this), my friends decided to drag me along as well.

I went in with an, “I-hate-this-please-let-me-leave-now” attitude, and began to do typical dance stretches. Looking around, I noticed the amount of people that were gathering in the gym. Different races, genders, ages, heights, dancing abilities, etc., were all standing there waiting for this workout to begin. Shortly after, our very animated but lovely dance instructor came in.

Everyone was nervous.  Many people were very fidgety. Which leads to my assumption that they’ve either had a lot of sugar, coffee, or they were just excited. And who am I kidding? I was excited/nervous too. It’s been almost six years since I’ve been to a dance class. (I had to stop because of knee problems if you’re wondering.)

When the powerful Latin music began to blare in the gym, and instructor began the workout, we all looked like lost prey running away from a hungry lion. Not even kidding; our lack of dance skills was quite obvious. No one was able to find a sense of direction or “Latin vibe”. Our hands and legs were everywhere. After about five minutes, people began to create small and harmless conversations with the people around them, laughing off their own mistakes.

Friendships were born.

That’s the great thing about public social activities; people get to interact! With all the social networking and technology these days, I feel that social skills are being lost, and everything seems more awkward. Now don’t mistake me, I’m a pretty socially awkward person as well (It’s probably one of the main reasons The Perks of Being a Wallflower appealed to me so much.) The only reason I talk to people is because sometimes I have a lot to say, and also I think I’m funny- which I’m probably not.

Watching all these people interact over a simple workout made me happy. Rather than making friends over Twitter or Tumblr that you will probably never meet (sad isn’t it? I’d love to meet to people I follow on Tumblr), this Zumba class provided us all withthe perfect opportunity to make new friends.

Social interaction, in my opinion, promotes social justice. By learning about another person’s culture and lifestyle, you are less prone to judging their culture. In a workout like this, the person’s life and background doesn’t matter. Their social status and wealth isn’t a big factor either. All that matters is that you have one thing in common; a lack of dance skill. And as well all know, having things in common creates friendships.

As university students, we should promote social interaction to stop social injustice. Attend school events (maybe not all of them), start a conversation in class, or even smile at someone as you’re walking down the street. In the end we might all still be socially awkward, but at least we’ll have other people to be socially awkward with.


The World’s Public Spaces (Link 4)

The World’s Public Spaces

I posted this particular article because it demonstrates the use of public space in Europe. Living in North America, our perception of public space can be quite different. For instance, I find in that people living here, even though Canadians are very friendly, are not as social as those residing in Europe.  I have been to Europe quite a numerous amount of times because my grandparents live there, and I can tell the difference between the two cultures (North American and European).

The article also touches upon the topic of the loss of the public realm, and how it is important for a city to have. It provides examples of the revitalization of different cities across the world.

Public spaces for Different Faces (Blog 4)


Determining the use of public space within a city is quite a difficult task in large, democratic countries should as Canada. While reading Jeffery Hou’s article, (Not) your everyday public space, I began to ponder upon the importance of public spaces within a city.  Living in a developed nation, we are fortunate to be provided with public areas for daily recreation and entertainment. The only question is, how public are these spaces?

There would be plenty of arguments in determining the limits of public input in public cities. Just as the pig in Hou’s article, every city could have their own opportunities to express their political, sociological, and economic expression. The issue with all this public expression, is the difference in opinions. What one person might view as art or a legitimate form of expression, may offend other citizens. Graffiti is a perfect example of the issues that could arise among the people in a city. First of all, many people do not see graffiti as a form of art, rather they view it as vulgar and ugly vandalism.  In a diverse city such as Toronto, they are many opinions and cultures colliding together that contrast each other in the most extreme ways.

The article by Mariana Valverde examined the legal and economic points of a public space within a city. Vendors on the streets of Toronto are a very common occurrence in present day although it shocked me that in 1959, Toronto ceased the distribution of vending permits (Valverde, 2012, 151). If a space is public, should permits even need to exist? Vending may seem very unappealing to some people, but it also illustrates culture in a big city (Valverde, 2012).  The variety of different foods being vended can attract many tourists and provide a sense of unity in the city. Not only is it a promotion of culture, vending provides jobs to many people.

Public space and gathering areas promote democracy, as they resemble the positives connotation that stimulates the active participation of citizens within the city (Hou, 2010). Public spaces are a historical cultural place that is crucially important to all cultures and generations in my opinion. There are many famous public spaces that we all know of such as the Spanish Steps in Italy, Times Squares, and even Young and Dundas Square. Public spaces such these can help unify large cities. With the rise of social networking, public spaces are not being utilized to the extent they were in the past. Could the restrictions put upon public spaces be the reason why? Or maybe it’s simply because social networking has made it impossible to talk to someone face-to-face. Just as in the case of vending, public spaces have other restrictions to them. Vandalism, I believe, is a key restriction to most public areas. Since the space is there for everyone’s use, one individual cannot simply mark his/her opinion in a spray painted design.

So ending my opinions, my question to you is, to what extent should a public space be considered “public”, or without any government or political interference?

Hou, J. 2010. (Not) your everyday public space in Hou, J(ed)
Insurgent Public Space, New York; Routledge, 1-11.

Valverde, M. 2012. Putting Diversity on the Menu in Everyday Law
on the Street. United States: University of Chicago Press, 141- 164.

Questions for our Guests

Matt Blackett:  As a former freelance graphic designer, I assume you interest yourself in some for of artistic design. Do you believe that graffiti is an artistic expression that defy’s a city, or simply an act of vandalism?


Laurie Monsebraaten: Do you believe that residents of low-income/welfare in Toronto should be provided with opportunities to gain jobs through a city program, or should they search for jobs themselves?

Quote (SP 3)

“When aesthetically inclined people with money choose to look and act, live and talk just like poor artists, the poor artists cannot win, because the rules of the game have changed. Indeed, the game is over; there is no game.”
-Mark Kingwell

Kingwell writes in this quote exactly what I struggled to state in last week’s post. These creatively inclined individuals socially labeled as “hipsters”, are not choosing to promote their lifestyle. In fact, their lives are still horrible and rather than improving, they have become worse, due to the ongoing increase of property value in their neighbourhoods. It’s quite amusing that the “fashion-forward” teens of present day society pay hundreds of dollars to look like the financially struggling artists who shop at thrift stores. All of this makes me wonder how our society works.

Kingwell, M. 208. Toronto: Justice Denied. The Walrus, February, Online.

Toronto and Gentrification (Blog 3)

When I had finalized my decision to attend the University of Toronto, my decision was not based solely on academics. Due to the fact that I have family in and around Toronto, I spent an abundant amount of time in the city as a child. Choosing Toronto was basically like choosing to stay at home.

This past summer, my friends and I spent more time in Toronto than we did at home. We would search for excuses to come to Toronto for an enjoyable day out with the girls. During our visits, we would try to engage in various events to learn about the diverse culture that Toronto holds within itself. From Chinatown to the entertainment district, this so-called “untidy and unphotogenic” city captures a feeling of unity among the people (Reid, 20).

In Mark Kingwell’s article, I felt that stereotypes are a big factor in determining aspects of social justice. Large successful cities are usually affiliated with success, money, and the wealthy. Normally, educated and wealthy individuals are portrayed as the better, more humane individuals, were in reality, the less educated or “poor people” are not necessarily worse people (Kingwell, 2008). As Reid stated, a city with the creative class culture could simply be a façade, taking away from its natural urbanism (Reid, 2010). I could easily compare his point to a night out at a Leafs game. When purchasing seats rink-side, you are placed with a group of individuals that is clearly on a higher social scale. They are draped in their fancy jerseys, whipping out their Blackberries to take photographs of their amazing seats to share with people on all their social media networks. In contrast, when sitting in the higher levels, you are among genuine hockey fans who maybe came out to catch a live game. Obviously there are expects in both cases. The majority of people can afford rink-side seats, but it is definitely not an everyday luxury. But as in all events, there is a split in social class, and possibly a façade. The rink-side fans that are there simply to display their income can be compared to fauxhemians.

“As fauxhemians move in to gentrify an area, generating Starbucks franchises and Pottery Barn outlets, driving property values up and grotty art galleries down, the “real” bohemians, about to lose their studios, lofts, and self-image, rise up in protest” (Kingwell, 2008).  This statement made by Mark Kingwell illustrates exactly what I would want to express. Social differentiation is quite a dominant issue of social justice within Toronto that bothers me.

Although Toronto struggles with a social class split, the city still demonstrates a positive clash of culture.Nuit Blanche, Pride week, and Luminato are a few of the events that Reid lists within his article which demonstrate a new, social justice striving Toronto Reid, 2010). This argument leads me to think, maybe gentrification is a positive concept. Events such as these allow the majority of people to learn about different cultures and show the art expressed by true low-key, talents artists.

Both Reid and Kingwell contribute to my belief that neoliberalism is a negative political orientation which targets people of low income. Gentrification in contrast, may lead to a positive change, if it can help the low-income residents. Each of them also pointed out that sometimes a messy urbanism is better than an organized one. I agree with that point as well. My only question though: who is to make a decision between gentrification and natural urbanism? Is natural “messy” urbanism worth the possible chaos within the city?

Kingwell, M. 2008. Toronto:Justice Denied. The Walrus, February. Online

Reid, D. 2010. Bless this mess. Spacing (Summer), 18-23. Course Website.