Dance has been part of Lerntz’s life for the past 10 years. He got hooked when he took Latin dance lessons. Soon, he was competing as a member of a semi-professional salsa troupe in Montréal, Québec, Ottawa and Toronto, and participating in Latin social events in the National Capital Region. Lerntz has also taught salsa in a well-known Ottawa school and shares his passion for dance at various events.
Lerntz has been able to use his love of dance to help others. In 2010, he became part of a humanitarian aid project in Togo, which involved collecting materials (bicycles, clothing, and school and medical supplies) to be distributed in impoverished villages, orphanages and clinics there. He funded the project by offering salsa lessons for a few months.
Lerntz and his team also had to meet a Togolese government minister to request an exemption from customs duties. This meeting was trickier than a salsa step and a real culture shock. The minister brought them into his office while other visitors were still there, answered a phone call from his mother in the middle of the meeting, and even invited them to his home for dinner! In short, it was far from the type of formal meetings we’re used to here in Canada. Fortunately, on the dance floor, everyone speaks the same language and shares the same culture.
Naturally, Lerntz’s humanitarian aid project had its share of difficulties. Through it all, he not only succeeded in spreading smiles with the materials he distributed, but also managed to teach the Togolese a few salsa moves. And, of course, the Togolese were only too happy to teach Lerntz their own popular traditional dances. Next to soccer, dancing is undoubtedly the favourite activity of both young and old in Togo! Music is everywhere, and everyone dances to the beat of djembes or old stereo systems. And the Togolese are delighted to learn new steps.
Lerntz was very inspired by African music. He is even thinking of creating an Afrobeat dance festival in the Gatineau–Ottawa region.
His next project is to teach salsa at Library and Archives Canada. “I want to recruit employees who are interested in Latin dance, whether or not they have experience. My challenge will be to make them work, polish their technique and turn them into salseros.” This summer, Lerntz hopes to introduce employees to another facet of their personalities, a way to reduce tension, and above all an opportunity to have a wonderful time with their colleagues