Rose Rouse dances her way around Harlesden

Rose Rouse dances her way around Harlesden

Rose Rouse dances her way around Harlesden - Credit: Archant

Writer Rose Rouse is on an adventure – not in Cuba, Bali or the Outer Hebrides but in Harlesden where she lives. Every month, she walks and talks with friends, neighbours around busy NW10 and meets people you may have heard of living on your doorstep. As part of her Not On Safari In Harlesden project, she went dancing in the street.

I’ll never forget the day in 2011 that my friends and I danced the walkways of Willesden Junction. The impossible happened – we did discover beauty in this hostile, industrial environment. The purple buddleia against the wire fences, the broad smile of the ticket office man as we jumped up and down to Anarchy in the UK, the deep red organza which became a wedding veil, the exquisite tenderness we shared in a dank, dark railway tunnel to the loving tones of Al Green and finally the intimacy and stillness between us as we emerged onto the Grand Union Canal. By the end, I felt as though I was part of a nomadic dancing tribe and I loved it.

So much so that I wanted to do it again. Enter Duncan – physical theatre teacher, Helen – theatrically trained, and Phil – music teacher and musician. Unlike last time, I wasn’t sure where this happening would take place. I had ideas about grave yards or parks. We went for a summer’s Harlesden walk. On our way to St Mary’s churchyard (not right, too English village), we came across a bunch of Somali gentlemen gathered around a car radio blasting funky tunes. We had even a digression into the Longstone Avenue allotments (amazing, there’s a distinct favela flavour with bedsteads replacing hedges) where I managed to get us locked in!

None of these locations were right. It had to be Harlesden proper. And the Jubilee Clock on the traffic island seemed the confluence of what Harlesden is today.

We’re in the middle of a bubble, dancing our hearts out when a police siren crescendos nearby. We hear it but somehow it doesn’t distract us.


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Others come up and ask questions. They want to join in and experience that feeling of closeness. For some, it looks as though we’ve been having some kind of sensual contact. We have, but not in the way, they think. One bloke – a builder – is dying to join in. Next time...

Dance Harlesden is coming in film format very soon.

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*5 Rhythms is a dance practice created by Gabrielle Roth and there are classes all over London. You don’t have to be able to dance to do it. Just a willingness to move. More info on calltodance.com

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