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Phoenix Dance Theatre is delighted to announce that the internationally acclaimed and award-winning choreographer and dancer Dane Hurst has been appointed as the new Artistic Director.


Hurst will be the eighth Artistic Director of Phoenix, and takes up the mantle from Sharon Watson who departed the company in May 2020. Hurst will take up the role in early 2021, ahead of its 40th birthday in November 2021.


Hurst, who is currently the Associate Artist in residence at Jazzart Dance Theatre and Artistic Director and founder of the Moving Assembly Project, is a multi-award winning director, choreographer and dancer. Born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, he trained at Rambert School in London, supported by a Nelson Mandela/Linbury Trust scholarship in 2003, and later joined Rambert Dance Company as the first recipient of the Sally Gilmour memorial trust bursary in 2004. As a dancer, he has made guest appearances with National Dance Company of Wales and Company Wayne McGregor, and was a company dancer for Phoenix from 2007 to 2009. His career as a dancer has garnered him several accolades and critical acclaim, both nationally and internationally. He won the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards twice; first in 2006 in the ‘Spotlight Dancer of the Year’ category and again in 2014, winning the Best Male Dancer of the Year Award. He was also voted 3rd by an international jury of dance writers and critics for Dance Europe Magazine’s Top 100 Dancers of the Year in 2012. As a choreographer, Dane won the MAMAs Award with Kira Zhigalina for the Kinetika Art Fair 2012, the Aesthetica Film Festival 2015 ‘Best Dance Film’ category winner for ‘Primitive’ with Director Tom Rowland, the LA Shorts International Film Festival 2017 ‘Best Music Video’ winner for ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ with Fabio D’Andrea and the Ovation Encore Award for ‘Love in the Time of Revolution’ with Moving Assembly Project at the National Arts Festival in South Africa, 2018.


As a choreographer, he has been commissioned by a wide variety of companies and organisations including Rambert, The Place Prize, The Barbican, RichMix, InTransit Festival, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery and Wilton’s Music Hall. He has performed his choreographic works at venues across the UK, including Sadler’s Wells, Robin Howard Theatre, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Royal Opera House, Wilton’s Music Hall, The Commonwealth Institute, Hall for Cornwall – Truro and The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon.


Dane Hurst said today: “I am honoured and humbled to take up the role of Artistic Director for the powerhouse of contemporary dance that is Phoenix Dance Theatre. I have followed the Phoenix trajectory since being a part of the company from 2007 to 2009. My aim is to celebrate and build upon the foundations laid and successes achieved under the visionary founders and previous directors. As the company approaches its 40th anniversary, there’s a huge amount to celebrate and recognise, not least its rich and expansive history, standing as a beacon of light within the arts and culture industry, championing diversity and achieving excellence.


“I aspire to serve the company to the best of my abilities and to use my experience and history to elevate and creatively lead the company into the future. My mission is to honour and protect the legacy, respecting the traditions and maintaining the spirit and urgency out of which the company was created in 1981. My ultimate vision is for Phoenix Dance Theatre to be a burning light that sparks our energies and ignites the fires of our imagination and for that to be offered to our audiences here in the UK as well as shared on the world stage – as a representation of a vibrant and multi-cultural Britain of today.”


The Board of Directors have today said: “Dane Hurst is an internationally renowned talent with an extraordinary vision for the company. It’s difficult to imagine a better leader to stand at the helm of the company as it embarks upon a new chapter and prepares for its 40thbirthday year. We’re honoured to have him return to Phoenix and we know that his tremendous talent, innovative thinking and inspiring energy will take the company to new heights and invigorate the wider dance sector. We’re waiting with anticipation and excitement to see what his directorship will bring.”


Image: Pierre Tappon

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This is absolutely wonderful news. He is such a thoughtful man, with strong values and a lively creative and innovative impulse, that he is capable of moving Phoenix on at a time when all companies are fighting for survival. I spoke to him early this year, when I bumped into him at ROH, asking if there was any chance of him performing in Leeds again, and he indicated then (somewhat to my surprise!) that he was keen to be more involved in Yorkshire but that a performing contract had prevented him to take up some opportunities that had been mooted.

My only query is whether he will continue to perform- I can't find any reference in the Phoenix email I got, or the press release Janet has kindly posted, on his future career as a dancer. He has the most marvellous movement quality, as beautiful as Michael Clark's when young. It would be a great loss if he feels he has to give up dancing in order to prioritise the onerous responsibilities of directing the company in these difficult times.

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