On 12 April dance partners from across the city and the wider North region unveiled plans for the Leeds Dance Partnership at an event held at the Quarry Hill home of Northern Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre. Key stakeholders from across the region and industry were gathered together as exciting new plans were outlined that look set to put Leeds on the map as an international centre of excellence for dance.
Mark Skipper, Chief Executive of Northern Ballet and Chair of the Partnership Steering Group explained: “The idea of a Leeds Dance Partnership first originated in a coming together of a number of organisations – Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Yorkshire Dance, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, RJC, Balbir Singh Dance Company, DAZL and Leeds Beckett University, around a shared wish to raise the profile of the exceptional dance on offer in the city. In 2014 we became a City of Dance and we are now building on that collaboration to achieve an even greater step change in dance in the city.”
Wieke Eringa, Artistic Director and CEO of Yorkshire Dance, says, “Yorkshire Dance has been working tirelessly to initiate and facilitate this partnership and it is hugely exciting to share some of the outcomes of the work conducted by consultant Susanne Burns which has given us a strong foundation on which to build our aspirations for dance.”
The evening set out the Partnership’s vision for Leeds to be an international centre of excellence for dance – a dancing city providing leadership in the North for the development of the art form locally, nationally and internationally. The partnership will be open to all members of the dance community, from major dance companies through to emerging independent artists, as well as other cross-sector agencies with an interest and engagement in dance. It will be structured so that partners have real ownership and the ability to take an active role in driving activity forward. It is the intention of the partnership to create new resources and assets for the art form, develop more talent, create more great dance and develop artistic practice, increase access points for both participants and audiences and create more opportunities to attract the best in world class dance to Leeds.
Chief Executive of the Arts Council, Darren Henley OBE said: “When it comes to dance, Leeds is a hotbed of creative and artistic excellence. The Arts Council invests in a range of dance organisations across the city and I’m looking forward to seeing how the Leeds Dance Partnership will develop dance here, offering more chances for dancers and audiences to become involved in this brilliant artform.”
In addition, Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, gave her support for the initiative: “We are very fortunate to have several truly outstanding dance organisations in Leeds. This partnership will raise their profile and help the city become an international centre of excellence for dance, cementing Leeds’ place on the cultural map. It will encourage people to take part in dance or watch a performance, and it is a significant step on the road to the city’s ambition to become the European Capital of Culture in 2023.”
At the event, some of the impressive and eclectic dance already created in and around Leeds was showcased with performances from Gary Clarke Company, Akeim Toussaint-Buck, Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Northern School of Contemporary Dance’s Graduate Company VERVE, DAZL, Phoenix Dance Theatre Youth Academy and RJC Youth Dance Company.
Sharon Watson, Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre and Chair of the Leeds 2023 Steering Group, concluded: “The development of the Leeds Dance Partnership is an integral part on Leeds’ journey to becoming European Capital of Culture in 2023. With its rich dance offer Leeds is absolutely the perfect city to move forward with this exciting new ambition for the art form.”
In the coming months the Leeds Dance Partnership will be working to develop detailed plans and are applying to Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence Fund for support in moving their collective vision forward.