‘Unexpected Item’: Reflections from Chloe

For our current project we are joined by Chloe, a recent graduate of The Urdang Academy. Here she reflects on the ‘Unexpected Item’ journey so far….

Taster workshop, 31st October: 

In my first taster session with SLiDE, I found myself from one minute drawing a portrait, of somebody of a similar age and height, with different parts of my body, to then creating a group of positions around an energetic three and half foot toddler in a yoga-eqsue position – very unexpected.  Having just graduated from The Urdang Academy where my training was heavily dance technique based, SLiDE gave me the opportunity to exchange my skills and ideas with those who have different backgrounds in dance.  I also appreciated the freedom Anita, from the SLiDE team, gave in the session, she initiated the tasks but didn’t dictate, as it was clear that everyone was given the opportunity to express themselves and their ideas were always respected.

The second session was equally as creative but focused on the themes of the piece, such as the library.  We were given ideas inspired by the library such as the corridors and from that we created moving book shelves! It was great to see how a simple object such as a book could be used in so many different ways, and ever create interesting dance motifs.

One thing SLiDE brings to South London is the idea that creativity and dance is accessible for everyone and can be achieved with people from down the road! Everyone made me feel welcome and provided an uninhibited environment for me to create and explore dance.  I felt that after the session I was looking at things around me with a fresh perspective; allowing myself to expect and accept the unexpected!  With this in mind I am intrigued and excited to see what happens on the rest of the SLiDE experience.

Creation day one: 2nd November: Shopping tents and basket backpacks.

My unexpected moment from this week’s session: 11am on a Saturday morning and I was wearing a Sainsbury’s shopping basket as a backpack in a game of ‘pass the basket’!  Later on in the day, a tent was passed around the circle and was used as a surf board and a dress.

This week built upon the games from Thursday’s session, ‘Book ledges’ ‘Disco book’ and ‘Circle time’ as well as a warm up game that involved copying someone else’s dance move in a circle.  This became choreography for later in the session, and developed into duets and trios.  In this session we experimented with the space, rearranging the recycling to get us moving and using the space in different ways.  Playing in the space was interesting as there became a number of ways to set up the space for the performance, instead of the conventional way of having the audience directly facing the stage.  We wondered how to create more of an experience for the audience not just a performance… I’m looking forward to playing with this idea more.

Creation day two: 9th November: Progress!

We created the first 10 minutes of the piece! It got there through some planning, a lot experimenting and of course, improvising and Gemma’s words of wisdom, ‘It’s the simple things’ were particularly relevant to Saturday’s session.  Mid afternoon both Gemma and I’s brains were feeling frazzled when working on a group section with shopping baskets. We tried several tasks but they didn’t feel as though they were really getting anywhere.  We then realised that we were looking too hard, and in actual fact the simplest part of the task, with two people simply stood back to back holding the baskets, was in fact visually very interesting and it could be used with another section, as well as sparking new ideas for other sections!

The work is really exciting, and each session gets more experimental – the number of ways in which everyday props can be used constantly surprises me! I’m enjoying experimenting and creating but most of all watching what others offer and getting to know everyone working on the piece better week by week.

20 %22Unexpected Item%22 rehearsal 2013

Barn Dance…Success!

They came, they danced…they ate cheese! We were amazed at the turnout we had to our recent Barn Dance, 85 people came, and everyone was eager to take part in the dancing. We raised over £600 to go towards our upcoming Project, and we were really grateful to everyone who helped us on the night. It was fantastic to see Selsdon Community Centre buzzing, and see a glimpse of what this venue can be for the community! A huge thank you to everyone who supported us. Watch this space for more in 2014…

What’s next for Unexpected Item? Taster workshops are happening tomorrow, and we start the Project rehearsals on Saturday.

It’s not too late to join us!

SLiDE Launches a crowd funder….!

Yesterday we launched our very first crowd funder to help raise funds for our latest project ‘Unexpected item’.

So far the response has been brilliant and we are super excited about our potential backers coming from far and wide. Gifts for our backers include SLiDE visiting your workplace to run a dance workshop, that is going to be very interesting….! Creative dance workshops around computers?! work stations?! supermarket isle’s?! We’re up for it!

To have a look at our page see: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/slide

Any help, big or small, gratefully received.

No barn? No problem


On Friday October 25th SLiDE will be hosting their first ever barn dance in Selsdon (Croydon) and it will launch their next community dance project ‘Unexpected item’. The barn dance will be called by Rosemary Harvey, a regular dancer in SLiDE’s projects. Here she discusses her route into barn dancing and the illusive issue, ‘so what is the difference between a Barn Dance and a Ceilidh?’.

How did you get into barn dancing, and calling?

I really got into Barn Dancing through teaching English Country dancing in Primary Schools: as part of PE and in Dance Clubs. However, I have been doing Scottish Country Dancing since I was a teenager – I think that expertise helped. Calling has been a more recent experience. I first did this about 8 years ago when a local church wanted to raise some money for outreach work abroad and decided to hold a Barn Dance. From that moment I was hooked.

Can you briefly describe the difference between a Barn Dance and a ceilidh? 

Ceilidh is a traditionally Scottish gathering where individuals bring along a talent to share: dancing, singing, acting, recitations and musical instruments to entertain everyone for the evening. More often they are mainly traditional Scottish Dances with a few people entertaining in between, but can also be just simple Scottish Dances and a few fun dances to encourage as many people as possible to ‘have a go’. Traditionally some of the musicians would play, but it is more common for there to be a band or CD’s today. Scottish Country dances are predominantly reels, jigs or strathspeys, which are of a slower tempo.

Barn Dance is usually full of English Country Dances and maybe some American Square Dances which are walked through and ‘called’ so that as many people as possible can join in. Usually a band will play but sometimes CD’s are used. Barn Dances are usually jigs and reels but can be waltzes or hornpipes.

The common ground between both types of dancing is that the figures are the same: reel, star, circle, doh-s-doh, for example. However, Scottish dancing has particular steps: pas-de-bas, travelling step, and Schottishe setting.

What’s your favourite thing about barn dancing? 

I love country dancing mostly because of the music which is lively and fun to dance to. However, I think Barn Dances are a good way to introduce people to this type of dancing as they are always ‘called’ so that people can relax and enjoy the dance. Whether I dance or ‘call’ it puts a smile on my face because everyone seems to enjoy themselves and it doesn’t matter if you go wrong – that’s part of the fun!

Could you sum up a barn dance in three words…

Dance! Laugh! Have fun!

Tickets are on sale now and we hope you can join us for what will be a laughter filled evening of dance:



When all the dancers have left the field…..

….the apple tree of technology has been cleared away, the CALAT gates locked for the last time and the dance mat cleaned and put away, is that really the end?

Absolutely not.

This is just the beginning…..

And when asked “what will you miss now that ‘Park life’ has ended?” the responses were hardly surprising….

‘I will miss the people I’ve met and how creative the whole project was. I never thought I would do something quite like this’ Alex

‘I will miss most the amazing and inspirational people I have met. Oh and dancing by the lake with the ducks’ Lauren

‘We will miss being with everyone and being out in a big open space, with sky, heat, fresh air and lovely people’ N and L

‘I will miss the friendships I have made and being able to wake up everyday and go to dance’ Carys

The people ALWAYS make the project and Anita and I were continually amazed, entertained, humbled and generally in awe of the people who joined us for ‘Park life’. We simply cannot wait for our next encounter…..

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The dancers survived the heat (almost) but were revived by our free SLIDE cupcakes….


Kindly donated by PMT Cafe, 231 Lower Addiscombe Road, CR0 6RD Croydon

Choreographing People

Water. Sun tan lotion. Hats. Chair.

This has been the unexpected mantra of the group as we try and stay safe in the heat. It has been tough work, but the group still love being outdoors in the park (phew).

Moments stand out: a rippling arm echoes a brief and rare breeze through the trees. Dancers support and help each other over the undulating ground. And one dancer, waiting alone in the field for a dancing partner, with clarity and intent.

It is easy to get bogged down in the practicalities of dancing in a heatwave (trust us, there are many), and yes, part of the rigour and clarity of movement naturally gets lost in the heat. But what replaces it is satisfying: a choreographing of people. Not just watching out for movement, but taking care of them.

You need a chair? No problem. Water? Yes, that will go into section 2. Responding to needs leads to some fun and unexpected moments in the piece. And really, any event like this is all choreographed, from booking the hall to sending the invites. We create the pathways and the movement where people meet and share.

The group has been amazing, upbeat and supportive.

Here is to tomorrow. Let me just grab the suntan lotion.

Should I stay or should I go?

So my life is immitating lyrics at the moment and none more so than of course the 1994 Blur classic ‘Park Life’. Even to the point that this morning (Wednesday) I was rudely woken by the dustmen!!!!! And then we go further back to The Clash classic, ‘Should I stay or should I go?’….

Five months of planning and five days of creation (two so far) will be the sum total of ‘Park Life’ and will draw the boundaries of the work Anita and I have put into it. Last night I mused over what stays and what goes during this process and on this occasion much has gone as the project was worked and reworked, before the arrival of the participants. Even the location at one point was a moveable feast as partnerships with local schools fell through, much to our dismay.

And even now with the participants ideas and phrases come and go. But like our post it notes on day 1, which one by one fell to the floor loosing their stickiness in the heat, the ideas that are the strongest always survive.

But by Friday 5pm we will know for sure what has stayed and what has gone.

Hot. Hot. Oh, and did we say it was hot?

Park Life is go!

The group arrives. I am nervous. How do we carry them all through this process? We ran ice breaking games (er, melting?), set some playful tasks, and it became clear that support for each other was building from within. Sometimes you need to set the structure and then get out of the way to allow a new group to breathe and come alive.

Armed with sun hats and high viz jackets, we took a walk around the park to show the group our “theatre” and test out the ground. Quickly, the trams that pass through and cut into the space and sound, worked their way into the structure of the piece.

“Hot”, “dry”, “arid” and “desert” are not really the words that you would associate with a park in South Norwood, but the sun has baked the ground to a crisp, and it is a very different space than than the one we explored at the start of the month.

We had planned for heat, but I was not prepared for the effect of heat on the creative process: my thinking felt really slow. But the group took it in their (good natured) stride and worked hard and generously all day, and we did get through a lot.  We mapped the first section and spent some times on duets. We decided to stay indoors in the afternoon, where we did some group map making /drawing. This allowed the group to enjoy talking together, and, as someone said, enjoy the “sociable” aspect of the work. We also started work on some fun “picnic rug” duets.

One idea that stays with me, is the idea that the piece is “unplugged”, we are only using the soundtrack that exists in the park already. One participants talked about how she loved this opportunity to unplug from everything and enjoy the space as it is.