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Northern Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre celebrate launch of state-of-the-art new home in cultural quarter of Leeds

  • Date: 19 January 2011
  • Area: National, North
Northern Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre's new building

Northern Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre's new building. Credit: Jonathan Taylor

Northern Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre have launched their new world-class centre for dance in Leeds, with an official opening by Northern Ballet's Royal Patron, HRH the Earl of Wessex.

The launch featured a series of performances from both companies as well as students from Northern Ballet Academy and participants from the Learning Department's courses. 

On Saturday 22 January a public open day will offer the chance to get behind the scenes of both companies, watch classes and rehearsals and take part in free ballet, contemporary, jazz and African dance classes.  

These events mark the official completion of the companies' new home, which is the largest purpose-built centre for dance in the UK. It is unique in uniting a major ballet and contemporary dance company, associated classical dance schools in the Northern Ballet Academy and Phoenix Youth Academy as well as further and higher education dance students.

The £12 million building has been financed through a combination of public and private funding from Leeds City Council, Arts Council England lottery funds, Yorkshire Forward and trusts, foundations and individual donors.

The building comprises seven dance studios including a 230-seat Studio Theatre, a health suite, wardrobe facilities, office space, conference facilities and a public exhibition space.

It provides a new way of working for both Northern Ballet and Phoenix. They will create and rehearse new and current repertoire, offer choreographic workshops for their own dancers and others as well as invite international guest teachers and choreographers to work with them. Dance artists from across the North will benefit from the best dance facilities outside London.

It also provides an opportunity to expand education and training activities, which include the Northern Ballet Academy and Phoenix Youth Academy, as well as public dance classes and courses for school and community groups. It will be a unique and vibrant training environment where people can experience working alongside two internationally-renowned dance companies.

Northern Ballet's Artistic Director, David Nixon, OBE, said: 'Our new dance centre will help establish Leeds as a powerhouse for dance in the UK.

'Northern Ballet and Phoenix have grown-up here. Alongside Opera North and West Yorkshire Playhouse, we started out decades ago as young ambitious arts companies and have become an established part of the cultural scene, not just locally, but nationally and internationally thanks to years of extensive touring.

'Our new home is a testament to the strength of support and confidence in the future of dance at the forefront of the cultural life of Leeds. It will nourish future talent by allowing young aspiring dancers from across the north to access outstanding training in excellent facilities without having to leave home, and continue to expand Leeds' reputation as a crucible for the arts for generations to come.'

Sharon Watson, Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre, said: 'Our new home is much more than just an excellent practice space, it is an inspiration. The opportunities provided by being in this building will allow us to develop timeless aspirations. Phoenix Dance Theatre shares an ambition with Northern Ballet to deliver and create quality dance to and with communities from across the North and the facilities we now have access to are key to us achieving this goal.

'The building has already begun to shape Phoenix's artistic output - the first work choreographed here, Melt, would physically not have been possible in our previous space. Removing these boundaries means in the future the only limits we will have creatively is our imaginations, as an Artistic Director it's a wonderful position to be in.'

Jim Tough, Executive Director, Arts Council England added: 'Congratulations to Northern Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre on the opening of their state-of-the art new home in Leeds. We are delighted that our lottery investment has helped develop this centre of excellence for dance, with two of the country's leading dance companies at its heart. Together they will help create even more opportunities to bring great art to everyone.'

The six-storey development was designed by the Strategic Design Alliance, a partnership between Jacobs and Leeds City Council, and developed by Wates Construction. It is located in the burgeoning cultural quarter at Quarry Hill in central Leeds, alongside West Yorkshire Playhouse, BBC Leeds, Yorkshire Dance and Leeds College of Music.