“This opportunity provides valuable time and space. Creative thinking whether academic or artistic can land a vision in unexpected places. We don’t have a defined are of interest – we are happy to be engaged in conversation to explore.” – Sharon Watson, Artistic Director, Phoenix Dance Theatre, who will be the Creative Lab artist.

Triple Bill

“…under Sharon Watson’s inspired artistic leadership [Phoenix Dance Theatre] is currently in a very strong place, punching at above its weight in the very top tier of contemporary dance performance in the UK. They unveiled their latest stall of new …work to a London audience with a palpable sparkle of confidence and élan.” – Graham Watts, Dance Tabs, November 2015

Founded 34 years ago by three young black men in inner city Leeds, Phoenix Dance Theatre has grown from these small beginnings to become one of the UK’s leading mid-scale contemporary dance companies. We are the longest established and most high profile contemporary dance company outside of London. Phoenix has performed, educated and inspired people across the UK and parts of the world, often taking dance to people who have never experienced the Arts live before. A registered charity governed by a proactive group of Trustees who bring a wide range of expertise to direct the organisation’s delivery of its objectives. Phoenix has been a recipient of Arts Council England regular funding for over 29 years; the company became an ACE National Portfolio Organisation in 2012.

“…as Phoenix celebrates its 35th anniversary [next year], the Leeds-based company can pride itself on being one of Britain’s most enduring dance institutions […] it’s never lost sight of its underlying brand – mixing the popular mainstream with the unexpected and unpredictable”. – Judith Mackrell, The Guardian, November 2015

As a national repertory dance company based in the north of England, Phoenix tours a mixed bill of work with its company of 8 permanently employed dancers – performing over 30 shows in middle scale venues across the UK, reaching audiences of up to 30,000 last year. Each programme articulates the company’s artistic vision that celebrates diversity and strives for excellence. Our mixed bills showcase an eclectic array of choreographic voices from seasoned professionals to emerging choreographers who have created new works or re-staged contemporary classics for our expanding repertoire. Recent commissions include works from some of the biggest names in dance such as Christopher Bruce CBE and Itzik Galili (knighted in the Netherlands); both of whom are highly celebrated in the sector and have received numerous awards and nominations for their choreographies. These commissions were quite a coup for Phoenix, a middle scale company operating within a stringent production budget.

Phoenix has extensive experience of working in collaboration with numerous individuals including composers; lighting designers; dramaturgy; scientist; and performers of theatre/dance/and numerous others. As Sharon describes: –

“One experience which still resonates is relating to my last creation ‘TearFall’ (see below). The quote I will share “we set out to make a difference in creating this new work (we being the dramaturg and I ) in a creative process, the biggest difference I have experienced and acknowledged was with myself”

Other Phoenix Dance Theatre projects include: –

Frankenstein’s Wedding

Phoenix delivered a series of workshops to teach 2,000 locals a special wedding dance routine. This culminated in a mass celebratory wedding dance live at BBC Three’s Frankenstein’s Wedding… Live In Leeds, by an audience of 12,000.


Supported by the Wellcome Trust, this new piece was inspired by the exploration of the biochemical make up of tears, and how their appearance and composition is affected by different emotional states. TearFall looked at the differences between how tears function and how they are perceived, asking why we cry and what happens when we laugh until we cry.


Melt, sees elements colliding as dancers swoop and glide across the stage in a graceful, beautiful piece which explores the vertical as much as the horizontal. Set to the distinctive, evocative music of Mercury Music Prize nominees Wild Beasts, this elegant mix of aerial dance and innovative contemporary choreography merges the floor and the space above to create a breath-taking, visually stunning work.

Ghost Peloton

Ghost Peloton, is our highly ambitious collaboration with NVA, in partnership with Sustrans, was commissioned as one of the headline events for the Yorkshire Festival 2014, which marked the build-up to July’s Grand Départ. Inspired by the wheel in motion, the work fused performance cycling with athletic choreography performed by Phoenix’s dancers on film, with the varied landscapes of Yorkshire. It was epic public art, operating on the grandest scale, where physical surroundings become an open canvas carrying a new visual language, expressing mood and movement, comprised of form, colour and line.

Try Then/Try Now

‘Try Then/Try Now’ was a celebration of 120 years of the Rugby League. Using extracts from live rugby league commentary spanning over a century, the piece is inspired by the highs and lows of the game – highlighting the teamwork and dedication of those both on and off the pitch.

Commissioned by Rugby League Cares and working across 13 different locations, Phoenix Dance Theatre delivered 15 intensive summer camps throughout July and August. During this time participants worked with Phoenix Dance Theatre’s leading practitioners to learn mass movement material.