Phoenix Dance Theatre announce title of 2020 production

Published: 12 Apr 2019

Black Waters a poignant new contemporary dance piece born out of a multicultural collaboration

Choreographed by Sharon Watson, Ronnie Shambik Ghose and Dr Mitul Sengupta

Critically acclaimed Phoenix Dance Theatre will next year present audiences with an original, full-length contemporary dance production titled Black Waters which sees the Company’s Artistic Director, Sharon Watson co-choreograph for the first time with Indian choreographer Ronnie Shambik Ghose and Dr Mitul Sengupta in a collaboration between Phoenix Dance Theatre and Kolkata-based Rhythmosaic Dance Company.

Black Waters will premiere at Leeds Playhouse in February 2020 and draws on themes from two narratives; that of the 18th century Zong massacre and of Indian freedom fighters who were incarcerated in an island jail called Kala Pani.

Sharon Watson, Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director said “I am delighted to once again be creating work that highlights a significant moment in British-Caribbean history and, for the first time, I am co-choreographing meaning that not only do I give a platform to a black British narrative but also one of Indian heritage.”

The first story to be explored in Black Waters is of a British/Jamaican perspective and draws inspiration from The Zong massacre, where 130 slaves were thrown overboard and drowned in order to claim insurance on their lives. It led to a major court case and the insurance was never paid – the case was significant in the abolition of slavery. After the murders the boat docked in the Black River. Presented alongside the Zong massacre narrative will be reference to a story of British colonialism and more specifically when Indian freedom fighters were incarcerated in an island jail called Kala Pani on the Andaman and Nicobar Island. Kala Pani means Black Waters in Hindi.

Watson continues “Black Waters is not about recreating the two events through contemporary dance, but is an exploration of identity, worth and belonging, which can often be conflicting for people of colour.”

The piece will be underpinned by an original score infused with Indo-Caribbean influences and will present the journeys of the men and women impacted in both stories and their subsequent struggles, blending of cultures and fragmented identities which gave birth to an Indo-Caribbean diaspora for whom “home” always remained a contested space.

Following the world premiere of Black Waters in February 2020 at Leeds Playhouse, Phoenix Dance Theatre will embark on their annual national tour of venues with the production.