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This year marks the 70th anniversary of the voyage of the Empire Windrush from Jamaica to Tilbury which brought the first post war contingent of Afro-Caribbean workers to the United Kingdom. Hundreds of thousands of others followed them including the family of Sharon Watson, the artistic director of Phoenix Dance Theatre, and one of the choreographers I most admire.  Watson has celebrated the anniversary by creating Windrush: Movement of the People which opened at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds on 7 Feb 2018.  As the editor and principal contributor to Terpsichore I was fortunate enough to be invited to the premiere and press night.

 

I had already seen previews at Phoenix at Home in September and a work sharing just before Christmas (which I mentioned in my blog) so I knew it would be good as did many of Phoenix's friends and followers.   Its excellence, however, was quite beyond our expectation. The work chronicled the odyssey of some of the early travellers starting with the vivacity and colour of their home islands, the grey of Tilbury, the indifference and in many cases hostility that they met as they found lodgings and the institutions and culture that they brought to their new homeland.  For me the most moving part was a recitation: "You called and we came".

 

Watson had invited one of the few surviving passengers on the first voyage to her premiere.  An impressively tall gentleman with a ramrod straight back who must be well into his late 80s if not 90s. So, too, was her mother and many dignitaries including the Lord Mayor of Leeds and the daughter of the captain of the vessel. Watson has cooperated with some remarkable artists such as Chistella Litras to compose the score and Eleanor Bull to design the set.

 

The audience, which included Northern Ballet's David Nixon and Yoko Ichino who sat a few seats from me, seemed to love it.  At the end we rise to our feet as one. I have never seen a more enthusiastic audience in Leeds nor, indeed, artists who merited such applause more in any other performance in that city.   

 

Windrush is part of a triple bill the other works of which are Aletta Collins Maybe Yes Maybe, Maybe No Maybe and Christopher Bruce's Shadows.  Phoenix has just finished its season in Leeds and will proceed to Keswick, Cheltenham, Doncaster, Leicester, Aachen, London, Birmingham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. If you get the chance it is well worth seeing.

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  • 2 months later...

Phoenix Dance Theatre has brought Sharon Watson's Windrush - Movement of the People to the Peacock Theatre in London and its timing could not have been more appropriate.

According to the company the first night was a great success. The company tweeted:

The awesome #WindrushPhoenix team @Sadlers_Wells Peacock Theatre tonight. Fab after party by @TheVoiceNews and standing ovations from the audience 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

If you have not seen this company you really must because it is special. Windrush shows the company at its best.

Tonight there will be an after show discussion which I shall be nipping down to London tonight to see the work for a second time.   

I will review it again properly in Terpsichore and mention it again here.

 

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Really looking forward to seeing this tonight with my 15 year old son.

Like you say the timing of Windrush coming to London couldn't be more apposite  -looking forward to reading your review and hoping for a good audience turn out for the show and the talk after.

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Last night's performance went very well. The cast danced brilliantly. I don't think I have ever seen them dance better. But the atmosphere was different from the opening night in Leeds. Then it had been almost like a party.  The audience was more reflective last night.  But how could it be anything else in the light of recent events?

Phoenix will give one last performance in London tonight.   After that they go to Birmingham, Newcastle and Barnsley.

This show is well worth seeing.   In my review I said it was more than just art, it was an education.

 

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