Phoenix Dance Theatre celebrates 40 fabulous years with a thrilling programme at Leeds Playhouse

Two dancers in a boxing ring. One, dressed as a boxer, is lying on their back holding the other, in a red Jazz Age dress, above them in an athletic pose.

Leeds-based Phoenix Dance Theatre â€“ one of the UK’s leading contemporary dance companies – is marking its milestone 40th anniversary with an exciting programme that brings together an eclectic range of work from across its illustrious history and culminates in a special celebratory gala.

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Hosted by Leeds Playhouse from 9–12 February, the celebrations include:

40 Years of Phoenix 9–11 February, 7.30pm

  • Pave Up Paradise â€“ Lost Dog’s dynamic, sensual and confrontational duet revisiting Adam and Eve after their fall from grace.
  • Heart of Chaos â€“ Choreographed by Phoenix’s former Artistic Director Darshan Singh Bhuller, this captures the spirit of boxer Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight champion of the world, who challenged the segregated sport and white America in the era of Jim Crow and the Jazz Age.
  • Signal â€“ Henri Oguike’s unflinching and powerful piece embracing both the frenzy of the battlefield and the calm at the centre of the storm.  
  • Family â€“ Choreographed by Shapiro and Smith, this satirical fly on the wall dance, elegantly captures the complexity of human interaction and ordinary passions that define family life.  
  • Harmonic Breakdown â€“ In Jane Dudley’s masterpiece, a lone female dancer creates a poetic representation of an individual’s struggle to gain self-respect and dignity in a cruel, volatile world.


40th Birthday Celebration Gala 12 February, 7pm

Phoenix Dance Theatre hosts a one-off Birthday Celebration Gala featuring repertoire from the Company as well as a host of special guest performances from celebrated and award-winning artists and dance companies from around the UK.


Dane Hurst, Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre, said: â€œThe 40 Years of Phoenix programme encapsulates the depth, breadth and complexity of dance in five key works that is a distillation of the energy, exuberance and spirit of Phoenix through the decades. The first half of the programme opens with the powerful and intense Signal by Henri Oguike set to a thumping Taiko drumming score followed by the immense and

impactful Harmonica Breakdown, a solo by the legendary Jane Dudley set to blues music. Closing the half is a satirical and poignant Family by American choreographic duo Shapiro and Smith.

“The second half opens with a touching and theatrical duet set to live music, Pave Up Paradise, by the award-winning team Ben Duke and Raquel Messeguer of Lost Dog, and we close with the newly recreated intense and cinematic Heart of Chaos inspired by the story of World Heavyweight Boxing champion Jack Johnson. The work is set to a pulsating Jazz score by Wynton Marsalis and created by Darshan Singh Bhuller.”

Talking about the 40th Birthday Celebration Gala, he said: â€œThe 40th Birthday Celebration Gala is a celebration of the impact and legacy of Phoenix Dance Theatre and a salute to the enduring power and relevance of dance within arts and culture. The Gala will feature performances from artists and companies from around the country, all coming together to share and celebrate the incredible depth, breadth and diversity of dance today. For one night only, audiences will get to see some of the best dance artists from around the UK coming together under one roof at Leeds Playhouse. It promises to be an unforgettable evening in celebration of 40 years of dance.”

Phoenix Dance Theatre was founded in 1981 by three black British men from Harehills in Leeds. Over four decades, it has grown into one of the UK’s leading contemporary dance companies, gaining international respect for its diverse multicultural artistic programming. Its creative team and permanent company of professional dancer continue to strive to produce dynamic and relevant work that embodies the organisation’s rich Caribbean history and shines a light on cultural narratives which are often overlooked or untold.


Quarry Theatre, Leeds Playhouse

9–11 February, 7.30pm

Press night: Wednesday 9 February


12 February, 7pm

Box office: 0113 213 7700

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