Category Archives: lifestyle

DanceTeq graces Queen West in leaps and bounds

DanceTeq Centre has enfin quietly landed on its feet (as all dancers and stage performers should), tucked like a tightly held fifth position at the northwest corner of Queen West and McCaul right next to Malabar and just kitty corner to CityTV.

“It’s a brilliant spot—one we’ve all been working hard and patiently to achieve. And we’re finally here!” says Kevin Pugh, artistic director and former principal dancer of Canada’s critically acclaimed National Ballet.

dance-teq-centreThe expansive second floor of the 226 Queen St W location is composed of three spacious studios, two medium size rooms for wellness practitioners (physiotherapists, massage therapists etc) and large windows on all walls facing both Queen and McCaul.

DanceTeq has been a staple in the Toronto dance scene for over 15 years, offering open classes in ballet, jazz and contemporary to dancers of all ages and skill level.   And the new location is poised not only to continue offering a variety of dance classes but also a host of services that would cater to any type of performer, athlete or active, health-conscious urbanite.  A promising outlook that is sure to quickly push the centre forward in leaps and bounds as our busy-bodied population remains constantly on the market for fun and creative ways to stay fit and healthy.

danceteqChatting with Jeremy Naismith,  dancer (also formerly with the National Ballet) and business partner, he shares a vision of the new centre that would “create a permanent home for DanceTeq with enough room for Kevin to be able to grow with future demand. But more than that, to also create a comprehensive dance centre on par with Architanz in Tokyo, Pineapple Studios in London, or Steps in New York: offering a wide range of quality classes for all levels, and also maintenance and injury prevention” for active professionals from all walks of life who happen to be in Toronto.

As the final touches to the studios and spaces take shape, I can’t help but feel excited by its fresh appearance on one of the busiest and most popular neighbourhoods in town.

Faculty-picAfter years of classical dance training from some of most highly regarded, exceptional dance professionals (see short list below) having DanceTeq so conveniently accessible is a luxury and privilege for me.

How about you? As summer comes to a close and fall soon rolls around (with that roll on your waist from all the fun and bingeing under the sun), are you looking for a fresh new routine to stay in shape? Wanna bust a move and stay on your toes?

Drop in and check them out!

Follow DanceTeq on Twitter: @danceteq

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A short list of some of the incredible dancers who’ve taught and influenced @autom8:

  • Maureen Consolati (London Festival Ballet, National Ballet, ACTUS)
  • Josée Garant (ACTUS, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Josee Garant Dance)
  • Debbie Wilson (Cincinnati Ballet, Les Ballets Jazz, Ballet Jorgen, OMO Dance)
  • Marie-France Verdi (Martine Époque, Linda Rabin, École nationale de Cirque)
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Mây — a hot wildflower on Dundas West

Mây Toronto bar is located on the north side of  Dundas West between Manning and Claremont. Just as Chinatown cuts off from Bathurst westward, the rejuvenated face of Dundas has been flaunting its new hip-n-trendy swag in what used to be an uneventful corridor of Little Portugal.

image (1)
source: Mây Facebook page

“It’s been a whirlwind the past two years,” says Ana co-owner. “We’re quite pleased by the steady  success of our revitalized space. It’s been a lot of hard work and perseverance, and we’re so thrilled by how Mây is suddenly becoming a favourite spot for both locals and people (bands!) from everywhere.”

A longtime karaoke, Viet-centric establishment with tinted black windows that practically made it invisible to outside traffic, Mây has finally bloomed from a perpetually enclosed ‘fixer-upper’ bud of a bar into a veritable urban wildflower. In fact, it’s become a popular performance venue among upcoming artists, particularly musicians, exactly as their owners envisioned it two years ago.

image (2)
source: Mây Facebook page

“We’re now tagged as a music venue and have hosted NXNE and the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. Upcoming artists really dig our space, and we book bands from all music styles, but definitely rock, R&B and jazz tend to get magnetized here,” Ana smiles recounting past gigs.

When I first visited Mây two years ago, it was indeed in pretty rough shape. Now, the open, gallery style space sports a newly designed bar that’s been diligent with expanding a selection of beer and fancy cocktails. A favourite is a draft lager from local Hogtown Brewers, which goes well with any number of very reasonably priced tasty finger foods on the menu (Viet Tapas!)

IMG_7625There is a mini arcade with two machines (one of which is a rare Iron Man pinball machine) at the front east side of the bar. On the west side is a cozy lounge area, which occasionally transforms into a small stage. The modular drinking/eating area occupies most of the middle space, while the back features a billiard table and a curtained area where they plan to dedicate as a video gaming lounge.

“The back part is key, as it’s often the area where musicians, DJ’s etc, set up and perform. But we also also have a space downstairs, which we’ve devoted to alternative music styles like punk rock, industrial, metal etc.”

In fact, Mây kind of reminds me of how the original Sneaky Dee’s used to be when it was just a sliver of a bar on Bloor West across from Honest Ed’s. Now-famous bands and artists first played at Sneaky’s basement before making it big . And that was way back in the 80’s. When I actually used to waiter for Sneaky Dee’s 😉

Here’s to hoping Mây keeps transforming into the next quiet gateway for artists as well as a well loved local hang out for years to come.

Mây—the force is definitely with you.

Mimico Cruising Club: truly an urban oasis

The Mimico Cruising Club is located in the idyllic stretch of Humber Bay Park West. Whether or not you have a penchant for nautical adventures, you will no doubt be delightfully surprised by its relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.

Mimico Cruising Club
source: http://mimicocruisingclub.com/

“First and foremost, the location and the grounds. While only a couple of blocks from busy Lakeshore, it’s been called ‘an oasis in the city’ and there’s a very good reason why,” says Michael Power,  sailor and member since 2008.

MCC’s grounds are not only aesthetically pleasing but also nestled against restored wildlife habitat for fish, flora, butterfly and migratory birds.  It’s an oasis for all, not just urbanites.

“I’ve been a member since 2008 when I first moved to Toronto. I had a boat that needed a home. The year before, while visiting on business, I got invited out for a sail by a member and thought the place remarkable. I really didn’t think about another club when it came time to find one,” recalls Power.

Mimico Cruising Club
source: http://mimicocruisingclub.com/

The “post-and-beam clubhouse design reflects the character of a park setting and was officially opened in 1984…We have grown from 250 members in 1979 to nearly 500, with docking facilities for 302 boats up to 49ft. (LOA) and dry sailing with a crane, for dinghies and keel boats to 3000 lbs.” [source: Mimico Cruising Club]

I’ve had the pleasure of sailing with Michael for a number of years now and continue to learn and discover more about the joys of sailing.  And when cycling to the club from downtown,  there are so many changing vignettes in the surrounding  areas of High Park and Sunnyside you get to appreciate; the Martin Goodman Trail takes you straight to their door.

Mimico Cruising Club
source: http://mimicocruisingclub.com/

So if you’re an urban sailor on the market for a new slip, Michael offers a tip, “Looking for a club? Get engaged. It’s a community with everyone having a common interest of being on the water. I’m always amazed at the variety of people you meet and their backgrounds. With regular membership turnover (as with anything else, people retire from boating just as others get into it), you’re always meeting new people.”

And if you’re a an adventurous landlubber longing for something new,  take note: “those wanting to try sailing should contact the club and see if anyone’s looking for crew — whether for cruising or racing. It’s a great introduction to a very different way to experience Toronto. Then you can determine if you want to take sailing courses (the Humber College Sailing School is next door) or eventually get your own boat.”

ezriders ‘sing the bike electric’ on the Danforth

2014-08-06 12.18.43ezriders is located on the north side of the Danforth in the middle of Greenwood and Coxwell. And while the Walt Whitman reference may be completely lost on your average urban cyclist, they’d certainly be thrilled knowing there’s a cool shop in the east end that specializes in electric bikes of all shapes and sizes!

“I definitely agree. Toronto is a booming cycling town , and compared to other major cities like Vancouver and Montreal, the city’s geography is a lot more bike-friendly,” notes Greg Moore, owner of ezrider. “There is a growing market for ebikes globally although the uptake in usage in town hasn’t been as obvious.”

image (2)Indeed, ebikes are ideal, alternative commuter vehicles that rival the efficiency of non-electric bikes, scooters and motorbikes, and it only costs about a quarter to charge its lithium batteries (the way you’d charge a smartphone).

ezriders carries a series of ebike brand names including Pedego (California), Stromer (Switzerland), Currie (California) and Easymotion of BH (Spain) as well as their own line of ebikes like EZcargo and EZfolder. And although they are slowly moving away from showcasing this model, they also have the odd e-scooter.

Scooters here range from $800 up to $2300 and bikes can start from $900 up to $4300. They currently have a special running for cargo bikes at $2500 (orig. $2800). I noticed a handsome,  black matte Ford (Pedego) cruiser, which prompted Greg to segue into a funny story familiar to many, but made me forget to ask him what the black beauty was going for.

image (1)“When we were on Queen, we had our share of challenges and successes with having the commuting public understand and appreciate ebikes .  But now as gas prices never seem to stop climbing, people are becoming more aware of greener alternatives, and looking for equally efficient ways of getting around town.”

ezriders don’t just do ebikes. They also service non-electric bikes and offer a basic tune up for $40.

Timbuk2 on Queen West

photo 3San Francisco messenger bag company, Timbuk2, opened its doors in Toronto last Wednesday and already it’s hopping. The steady influx of foot traffic on Queen West makes the intrepid shop an ideal stop for cyclists, urban commuters, tourists and shoppers of all interest and intent.

“We have a friend who’s going back to Australia, and we’re looking for something that would remind him of Canada,” asked two ladies rushing in on a mission. Incidentally, Timbuk2 produced a limited edition Toronto Messenger Classic blag bearing the city’s flag. Mission accomplished. “Wow, I think they got the first one!” says Vanessa Christie, retail marketing lead at Timbuk2, who’s overseeing the launch.

The Medium
Whether or not you’re familiar with the Timbuk2 brand, you’ll know off the bat that it’s all about bags for urban life and lifestyles. Bags are a key accessory. And choice luggage is both useful and appealing. Otherwise, it’s just baggage.

An island table at the front of the shop features the ‘Distill’ series: tastefully styled business casual bags for the fastidious professional. “We’re also expanding our line dedicated for women,” notes Christie as she demo’s the classy n clever handbag with hideable pannier hooks, thank you very much. Popular among cyclists is the Medio backpack with multiple features including ‘incognito’ reflective panels and expandable compartment for stashing a helmet. Oh and, for the fitness oriented urban professional, she or he would really dig the ‘Raid Pack’. This backpack is compact and whams you with cool features like a shirt board, hanger and shoe pouches: perfect for that pre-9 am workout.

The Messenger
photo 2Of course, fans will definitely want to check out the classic messenger bag and its various iterations. Currently, the most popular picks are among the ‘Command’ series: a line that accommodates life on the go with laptop and tablet. I also noticed a few bags designed with cloth-like materials like wool and tweed. Apparently, the next generation of bags will have more of these.

At the back of the store is a Custom Design studio where you can pick and choose from a wide selection of fabrics. mix and match on a touch screen and have an order placed and processed. In 3-7 business days, your custom bag will be ready for free shipping to the store or to your address for an $8 fee.

As expected of a company rooted in the bike messenger ethos, Timbuk2’s product aesthetic is refreshingly pragmatic, understated and enduring. Indeed, the messenger bag continues to transform with the frenetic pace of urban living.

The Message
“Our fabric and liner materials are thoroughly tested for durability and made of 100% recycled yarn from plastic bottles,” says Christie. I can attest to how these bags are built to last with my own classic bag from the late 90’s.

photo 1Eco-conscious messaging is part what’s always remained true of Timbuk2 as the brand matures steadily from its humble beginnings in a garage where Rob Honeycutt hand-sewed bags to its present North American expansion (#timbuk2takeover).

“We value community involvement. It just comes naturally when creating sustainable options for many types of urban lifestyles on the move,” reflects Christie.

“We’re also quite excited to connect with some of Toronto’s active cycling groups like CycleTO. We look forward to collaborating with organizations that help enhance cycling culture in the city.”