How I became a Croydon dancer and how you can be one too


By - Thursday 2nd June, 2016

It’s never too late for Croydon to learn to dance, says Bernadette Fallon


Local dancers in rehearsal for the launch of Big Dance 2016 at City Hall London

Local dancers in rehearsal for the launch of Big Dance 2016 at City Hall London.
Photo by Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images for Big Dance, used with permission.

At the age of, er, well let’s just say that I’ll never see forty again, I find myself joining a dance group and becoming a dancer. Just for a few weeks: it’s a love affair, not a commitment. And you can do it too. To find out how… read on.

I’ve signed up to learn a dance choreographed by one of the world’s leading dancers, a man who provokes hushed silences in those-who-know-about-dance when you mention his name.

Akram Khan. (Look around: anyone nearby frozen into silence? Dancer!)

Want to impress a dancer? Tell them you’re dancing an Akram Khan piece.

As well as being, er, well, at the point I’ll never see forty again, I also have dodgy hips, and a few muscle problems in my back. My bones creak disobligingly when I move. I have arthritis in some of my joints. I had to use crutches to walk a few years ago. Sometimes I gasp out loud when I stand up.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m not the most obvious candidate for learning a dance routine.

The themes of the dance are identity, connection and hope

But I’ve done it. It’s only a three-minute routine, anyone – literally anyone can learn it – and you don’t even have to be able to stand upright to do it. The dance is also suitable for performing sitting down. (You can watch us rehearsing it here.)

Now that I’ve learned it, I can perform on the Big Dance stage at the Addiscombe festival in Ashburton Park on Sunday 29th May, at the Park Hill Park Family Fest on Saturday 4th June and even perhaps in London in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 2nd July.

It’s all part of Big Dance, the movement founded in 2006 that is now the world’s biggest celebration of dance: have a look at some of the dancers in action across the world. The Big Dance Festival runs across the UK from 20th May to 10th September, with lots of events and chances to get involved, including the Big Dance Bus that turned up in Ashburton and will be in Park Hill on the dates given above.

“People from all walks of life connect to communicate the joy and celebration of their bodies”

Big Dance Week is the highlight of the Festival, running from 2nd to 10th July, kicking off with a group of 1000 Londoners performing the dance devised by Akram Khan in Trafalgar Square. The dance is designed around the themes of identity, connection and hope, and is devised to be inclusive for all: those who have dance experience and those who have none, those of all ages, of all levels of mobility, those of any ability and with any type of hips and knees. From an older people’s group in Devon to a group of young people with learning disabilities, have a look at groups learning the dance here.

Last Thursday I performed the dance with over thirty others at a specially staged rehearsal for the media at London’s City Hall. Akram Khan turned up to watch it, as did the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Big Dance choreographer Akram Khan at a rehearsal for the launch of Big Dance 2016 at London City Hall.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Big Dance choreographer Akram Khan at a rehearsal for the launch of Big Dance 2016 at London City Hall.
Photo by Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images for Big Dance, used with permission.

Five of us met, slightly bleary eyed, at 7:00 am at East Croydon station and got on a train to London Bridge. And for that couple of hours, standing by the Thames, with Tower Bridge behind us as photographers circled with clicking cameras and TV cameras filmed, we were all dancers, no matter what the state of our hips or our knees or our dodgy ankles. Okay, so a few of us were slightly older than the majority of the young whippersnappers bending gracefully… but who cares, we could do the dance and we did it, over and over again to the beautiful music composed by Nitin Sawhney.

There is an amazing energy that comes from a group of people who are random strangers coming together for a short time to share an experience, particularly when that experience has been created in the name of connection and identity and hope. In the words of Akram Khan: “people from all walks of life connect to communicate the joy and celebration of their bodies”. And, joints creaking, we celebrated joyfully!

In the flow at rehearsals for the Big Dance launch

In the flow at rehearsals for the Big Dance launch.
Photo Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images for Big Dance, used with permission.

There’s still time to get involved and learn the dance. There will be a rehearsal at Park Hill Park on Saturday 4th June: just head for the Big Dance Bus when you arrive to find out more. Connect with your inner dancer… and ignore those creaking joints.


See the full Big Dance programme.

Follow Addiscombe festival and Park Hill Park family fest on Facebook for more information.

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette has been a journalist since the age of 7 when she devised, designed and launched ‘Fallon’s News’ – much to her family’s delight. Brought up in Ireland, she was born in Addiscombe where she now lives, though it took her several decades to find it again. She works as a journalist and broadcaster. Follow her at Twitter.com/bernibee

More Posts





  • PolarDog

    I practiced the dance with Body Harmony (www.body-harmony.org.uk) but at Addiscombe Festival found we’d learned a couple of bits in mirror image! It still worked out though – great experience.

    • Bernadette Fallon

      Haha – we had the same problem with the arm clasp movement when we did a practice at City Hall – everybody else was moving the opposite way! Such good fun though.