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.

Rain or shine: six days and counting

Naturally being British Anita and I planned a park based dance piece with slight in-trepidation, mainly asking ourselves ‘will it be raining in July?’. Now with less than a week to go do we exchange umbrella’s and wellies for sun lotion and ice lollies? 

Come what may this will be a week to remember for the 20 local Croydon residents who will be dancing alongside Rick Rodgers from Candoco (and co-incidentally former Croydon resident). And of course on top of that the audience members which includes the Mayor of Croydon! 

This will definitely be a first for South Norwood Country Park and hopefully not the last site-specific dance piece it encounters. 

Park Life

The park is “booked”, the invites are going out, Park Life is up and running people!

Gemma, Sophie and I took another visit to the park. Pathways, crossings, sight lines and maps are all emerging. There are some interesting spaces where the audience can see “through” to other layers behind, and the the tram cuts througn the space, bringing sound and speed.

As well as the dirt bikes 🙂