40th Birthday Gala success for Phoenix Dance Theatre

3 Mar 2022

40th Birthday Gala success for Phoenix Dance Theatre 

To mark 40 years since Phoenix was founded in Leeds, and to celebrate its impact and legacy, the Company presented a special 40th Birthday Celebration Gala at the Leeds Playhouse on 12 February 2022. This featured an outstanding curation of acclaimed performances from the Company’s illustrious history, alongside guest performances from award-winning choreographers and dance companies from across the UK. With such an eclectic mix of performances, the Gala was a true tribute to the persisting power and importance of dance in arts, culture and society today. 

Audiences were welcomed by Phoenix founding member David Hamilton MBE and then treated to a selection of amazing dance performances from acclaimed guest artists including Northern Ballet, Company Chameleon, DeNada Dance Theatre, Scottish Ballet, Mark Bruce Company, ACE dance and music, FUBUNATION, and Yorke Dance Project, also joined by guest artists from The Royal Ballet. 

FUBUNATION said, “it was a pleasure to be included in such a great line-up of talented companies to celebrate 40 years of Phoenix. For us at FUBUNATION we feel very much aligned and connected to the roots and history of what makes Phoenix so special and try to imbue and reflect that in our own organisation. Thank you for creating the space and giving us the platform to showcase our work. We hope you continue to thrive for 40 more years and beyond.” 

Mark Bruce from Mark Bruce Company said, “it was an honour to be invited to be a part of Phoenix’s 40 Year Celebration Gala at Leeds Playhouse. It was wonderful to come together with so many other artists to contribute to this live event, especially after the challenges we have all faced over the last two years”; with other guest performers describing the event as, “incredible”, an “honour to be part of”; “a pivotal moment in Phoenix’s long history”, and “the energy in the auditorium was something very special”. 

As well as a stunning array of guest performances, Phoenix performed two of their own dance pieces from their illustrious repertoire: Family, an acrobatic spectacle that satirically depicts the ordinary dramas, passions and tensions that define family life, and an excerpt from Windrush: Movement of the People. Choreographed by former Artistic Director Sharon Watson MBE DL and performed with students from the prestigious Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Windrush tells the story of the arrival of passenger ship SS Empire Windrush, bringing with it the first Caribbean migrants to the UK. 

Charis Charles, Executive Director of Phoenix said: “It was an absolute pleasure and honour to host such a range of companies, sharing diverse works in our home city of Leeds to celebrate our birthday with us. Forty years is an incredible achievement, and we will continue to reflect on our past as we move into the future. The organisation remains proud to have reached this milestone and the celebrations will continue throughout the year with the launch of our Digital Exhibition and a commemorative book, details of both which will be announced in the coming months”. 

An audience member said, “it was a really outward-looking, daring and ambitious programme that heralded exciting possibilities for the company in the future”. 

The 40th Birthday Celebration Gala was made possible by the support from Phoenix collaborators and partners, the guest performers cited above, Phoenix dancers, Phoenix staff, Leeds Playhouse, and, of course, our amazing audience. 

The Gala was just one part of Phoenix’s 40th Birthday Celebrations, with several exciting events and activities taking place throughout the year, including the 40 Years of Phoenix Birthday Tour, the launch of our Digital Exhibition, Heritage podcasts and a commemorative book. Find out more about the Heritage-themed activity here. 

A selection of gala photographs below, captured by Peter Huggins MBE