BROUGHT TO BY Rahim Salsa FRIDAY 

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My passion for running Latin dance events was born through years of taking Latin dance lessons in Canada, as well as overseas in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Australia, Dubai and Europe.  I love to dance and I love to meet new people; through dancing, DJing, and running local events, I have been able to establish a following of local dancers, make friends and also make a living doing what I love.  Dancing has added so much to my life as a first-generation immigrant. I want to share my passion with the Ottawa-Gatineau community and help promote this wonderful activity to as many people as possible.    

 

Back in 2006 I realized something important was missing from the Latin dance scene of the country’s Capital: a weekly social event that could bring people of many walks of life together, to socialize, to have fun and to feel a sense of joy from their everyday life.  I decided to experiment with a salsa dancing social event on Sunday evenings at Amigos Sports Club on Merivale road in fall of 2006.  While my “mini project” lasted only a few months, it provided me with a unique opportunity to experience and learn about the challenges of planning and organizing social events. Meanwhile, I became aware that St. John's Parish Hall on Elgin Street had been recently renovated and available for social events. With a concrete proposal to present, I made my first contact with the Church’s facility manager, which then led to securing the necessary approvals by the Father and the Bishop. This marked the beginning of my journey into the world of hosting salsa dance socials. Next with the help of a few of my friends, who shared my passion for salsa  and community work, I officially started the first Rahim’s Salsa Friday on October 12, 2007. 

 

It has been over 12 years since that very first event in 2007, and not only has this event gained in popularity, but it has evolved into what is now  much bigger than what I had originally imagined. Hundreds of people attend the events monthly, and there has been so much demand that I have hosted other events in different venues and other independent socials have popped up around the city as a testament to the large demand.   

 

Over the years I have been undertaking the challenge of hosting dance events as an evening hobby after I finish a full of day of 9 am-5 pm work for a large telecom company. It has not been easy, but what has been my most important driver to continue has been the role that this and other similar events play in ensuring the health & well-being of our community. To this end, I am very pleased to see that Rahim’s Salsa Friday has become a true community effort, with an annual charity event devoted to local organizations such as Ottawa Food Bank & CHEO for the past 12 years where we showcase local dance talents to raise funds and help charity organizations.  I am able to now dedicate myself full time to my passion that is running Rahim’s Latin Friday among other Latin dancing events. 

 

As I continued on this journey, my vision for the future has been to build on the successes of Rahim’s Latin Friday, to expand on its community involvement and to put Ottawa-Gatineau on the map for international tourists. With this dream, I began Ottawa-Gatineau International Salsa Festival that takes place in November at the Canadian Museum of History & Queen St. Fare.  The event has been running for four years and I am in the midst of planning for the 5th edition.     

 

The Ottawa - Gatineau International Salsa Festival is a non-profit dance festival that celebrates Latin dance culture in the Ottawa-Gatineau region by providing an opportunity for dancers to develop their skills and showcase their talents in a three-day festival once a year. By inviting local, national and international artists to teach publicly-accessible workshops in a variety of Latin dance styles (such as Salsa, Bachata, Cha-Cha, Kizomba, Zouk, Tango, Latin Ballroom), we give dancers a unique opportunity to refine their techniques and abilities while introducing non dancers to a multitude of vibrant and culturally rich styles of dance. In addition, we also provide an opportunity for our local dancers and their studios to showcase their talents in evening performances that are open to the public.

While salsa formal exist all around the world, we are the only such organization in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. Further, as our festival takes place in November, we are capable of attracting out-of-town visitors to the region at a time when tourism is typically low. We are now in entering the fifth iteration of our festival, and have proven that:

 

  • We are able to provide a platform that has allowed and encouraged 1,500 people to participate in Latin dance culture through more than 25 workshops (7 hours a day) and 95 shows;

 

  • We can successfully in organize evening shows for upwards of 200 artists to showcase their talents and inspire others through dance; and that

 

  • We present a rare opportunity for Ottawa-Gatineau dancers to have access to world-renowned national and international artists that are inaccessible outside of large festivals such as ours. In previous editions of our festival, we hosted World Champion Salsa and Bachata dancers from Winnipeg (Harold and Regan), Vancouver (Patrick and Scarlet), and Mexico (Dioney de Silva and Jesus Doza).  

 

In addition, we are consciously increasing representation among performing Latin dance artists by inviting Indigenous performers and members of the LGBTQ+ community. In particular, this includes Dioney de Silva and Jesus Doza, members of the LGBTQ+ community, who utilize their dancing and the platform provided by the Ottawa-Gatineau International Salsa Festival to de-stigmatize same-gender male dancing in the Latin community. Our International Salsa Festival is the only Latin dance festival in Canada in which two members of the LGBTQ+ community are headliners, and we look forward to continuing to prominently feature such diversity in the Latin dance community.

 

Over the years, the Ottawa-Gatineau International Salsa Festival has per objective to attract more participants from Canada and abroad and to welcome more well renowned artists from the national and international scene to perform and teach to beginners and experimented dancers. Consequently, the duration of the festival will be longer. We are also working hard to see the Ottawa-Gatineau region as being a major an inclusive destination all year round for dancers from all around the world who can come, be themselves and have fun on latin rythmes while discovering our regional attractions.