Culture / dance

Commons people

9 May 2024

Get your dancing shoes on, as Commons festival returns to our shores from next Tuesday until 26 May, with homegrown dance organisations Beeja, Birdgang and SLiDE leading the way. We caught up with the festival’s co-producers, Katie Hurley and Lydia Wharf, to find out more about this year’s takeover at Stanley Arts.

Croydonist: For our readers who haven’t heard of Commons, can you describe the festival in a sentence?

Lydia: Just one sentence? That’s tricky – it’s a pretty packed programme! But perhaps I’d summarise it as ‘a Croydon-focused celebration of dance for everyone’. We’ve really tried to make sure that the programme appeals to people from all walks of life – whether you want to join in and dance yourself, wander around our photo exhibition or watch a show, there’s something in here for you. Try a Waacking Workshop for beginners, come to our Mixed Bill Extravaganza, or bring the kids to our Family Day, featuring dance performances, pizza and free face painting! Dance is ‘common’ to us all – it brings us together.

Croydonist: Are we right in thinking this is the third edition of the festival? How will this year differ from previous years?

Katie: Yes that’s correct. I wasn’t involved in the first one but I believe it was online due to covid. The main difference this year is that the lead artists are all Croydon based companies; Beeja, Birdgang and SLiDE. We also have some workshops taking place in schools, colleges and youth clubs and additional artists leading workshops here at Stanley. There is a bit of a theme this year too! We want to reflect on and celebrate all the amazing dance performances that took place over the year Croydon was London Borough of Culture. We will be featuring images of the work in our Commons exhibition.

Croydonist: How has the festival been curated?

Katie: It’s a bit of a blend. The lead artists, mentioned previously, have been asked to present an event, a family work and contribution to the mixed bill extravaganza.

Lydia: So there’s a really good blend of styles threaded through the festival  – primarily South Asian, hip hop theatre and inclusive dance. But special guests too, to make sure that the festival represents the rich diversity and creativity of Croydon

Croydonist: Which artists are participating and what work are they performing?

Lydia: Well, our Extravaganza is a particularly fabulous mix; as well as work from the lead artists, we’ll be welcoming some very special guests, including a solo from Harry Alexander, who’s just been nominated for a prestigious National Dance Award for Outstanding Male Modern Performance. This is a don’t miss situation, for sure. There’ll also be infectious Afro-caribbean vibes from local group Caribsa, and a hilarious excerpt from Stuart Waters’ A Queer Collision that premiered at Brighton Festival last year. Loads of treats in one night!

Croydonist: Is it all about watching or are there any opportunities to participate for attendees?

Katie: There are plenty of opportunities to bust a move yourself. We have R&B line dancing on our opening night led by Soul Steppers, an introduction to Flamenco with Jose Agudo, a dance and art class led by Jules Cunningham AND a waacking workshop!

Croydonist: What are you most looking forward to about Commons?

Katie: Oooo that’s tough! I think the Extravaganza will be a really special evening. I’m also looking forward to the family day. There’s shows, crafts, even pizza!! It’s got a real festival feel!

Lydia: I absolutely love the sound of Jules Cunningham’s Dance and Art workshop, and I’m hoping to join in myself! Jules is a dance artist who’s incredibly well established; last year they choreographed and performed a new trio for themselves, Harry Alexander and Spice Girl Melanie C! But they are also a gifted artist, and this is a really rare opportunity to be creative in a space with them. I can’t wait.

Thank you to Katie and Lydia for chatting with us. 

The Commons programme includes:

14th – 31st May Exhibition

Tuesday 14th May Soul Steppers

Thursday 16th May Flamenco Workshop

Saturday 18th May Extravaganza 

Sunday 19th May Mini Movers & their Grown-up Groovers 

Sunday 19th May BirdGang Ltd presents Book 4 Shorts 

Sunday 19th May Jack & Friends

Sunday 19th May Choogh Choogh

Thursday 23th May Introduction to Waacking workshop

Friday 24th May SoDaDa

Saturday 25th May  Commons South Asia

Sunday 26th May The Battle Cage Vol. 4 

+ more events to be added.

Stanley Arts is at 12 South Norwood Hill, London, SE25 6AB – a 5 minute walk from Norwood Junction Station.

Media courtesy of Commons: top two images – SLiDE (left image by Paul Fuller); middle three images – Birdgang (left and middle images by Vipul Sangoi); bottom two images – Beeja (right image by Vipul Sangoi)

Posted by Julia

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