As a huge fan of the arts and contemporary dance, it gives me great pleasure to introduce this week’s Wonderful Women interview with Sharon Watson, the Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre in Leeds.
Trained at the London School of Contemporary Dance, Sharon Watson was one of the first female Principal Dancers invited to join the all-male award-winning Phoenix Dance Theatre, and toured with the Company from 1989 to 1997.
In 2010 she was named as one of the Cultural Leadership Programme’s Women to Watch, a list of 50 influential women working in arts and culture in the UK. Sharon recently received the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts’ Companionship Award from the school’s co-founder and Patron, Sir Paul McCartney.
Sharon is a trustee of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, The Place, West Yorkshire Playhouse, and an artistic advisor for Central School of Ballet. She has most recently been appointed as independent chair of the steering committee, bidding for European Capital of Culture Leeds 2023.
Describe a typical day for you?
That’s difficult as in reality I have no typical day, unless it’s a Sunday where more often than not I’m with my kids and husband with extended family having a pleasant Sunday gathering over lunch. This is where I laugh lots!
When I’m studio based, I begin by leading company class, taking the dancers through a rigorous training in preparation for the day. This is then followed by a creative rehearsal, either working on a dance that I’ve already created or devising and working on new ideas for a new première.
An office day can consist of back-to-back meetings, planning and administrating company business. From the logistics of touring a dance company to board discussion on the business plan and the future of the organisation. I will also meet with artists or source dancers for the company. It’s very rare will I have two days the same!
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
Every five years or so there is a different ‘ biggest achievement’! Reinventing the art I create is on that list! Being acknowledged as a cultural leader of significance. Having a family, probably my biggest.
What’s in your handbag?
A pencil case, an Oyster card, small toiletries, Iphone and IPad chargers, note book/s, mints, a bottle of water, tissues, oh and my purse (often empty)!
What are your ambitions in life?
To continue growing and to be inspired. To grow what I consider is the Phoenix Dance Theatre ‘empire’ for the greater good. To have all young people participate in a creative dance experience, as I know what values this art from and cultural engagement has and how it can truly change lives.
What advice would you give your pre-baby self, that you now know, having had children?
That’s its ok not to have all the answers. It’s ok to feel and be different.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Doing more of what I currently do, offering greater opportunity and support to a wider sector of people and organisations.
What advice would you give a budding Artistic Director?
The job is so rewarding however you shouldn’t lose sight of the vision. It can feel very lonely as you climb the ladder of success. Find your sounding boards and someone you trust. Enjoy the journey – and it’s more fun sharing this with others.
Finally, happiness is…
Being with my family. Feeling content with the people and the choices you make in your life.
Phoenix Dance Theatre celebrate 35 years throughout 2016 with an anniversary UK tour Triple Bill 2016. You can follow Sharon Watson on Twitter @watson_dance and keep up to date with Phoenix Dance Theatre at @Phoenix_Leeds.
You can also find some amazing daily dance photography on their Instagram.