In this talk Sharon Watson, CEO and Principal of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, shares a provocation addressing whiteness in Dance Education. The talk is hosted by Shantel Ehrenberg, Co-Director of Centre of Performance Philosophy at the University of Surrey. The second half of the audio includes substantial conversation from participants; as their role in the day was not public we have chosen not to name them in the transcript.
Is it possible to step out of the way? And what does that mean for individuals when we’re talking about inequalities and talking about racism when we’re talking about various forms of disparity At what point does that become a job that we take on board personally or collectively? Can you hear me? When there are not more chairs at the table, we need to build a new table.
Keep Listening, Keep Talking (2020–1) is a partnership initiative by Independent Dance, Dance in Higher Education, Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry University and Centre for Performance Philosophy at the University of Surrey.
Sharon Watson is the fourth Principal of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Prior to this she was the longest-standing Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre.
During her tenure at Phoenix Dance Theatre, Sharon received a number of awards and accolades: 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. She was awarded The Sue Ryder ‘Yorkshire Women of Achievement in Business Award’ and named ‘Yorkshire Woman of the Year’ in 2016. She recently received the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts’ Companionship Award from Sir Paul McCartney and was recognised as one of ‘100 faces of a vibrant economy 2017’ by Grant Thornton. Acknowledged at the 2017 Northern Power Women Awards as part of the very first ‘Top 50 Power List’, in 2018 Sharon won the First English Woman’s Award for Arts and Culture.
Northern School of Contemporary Dance presented Sharon with an Honorary Fellowship in 2018. In July of 2019 Sharon received an Honorary Doctorate from Leeds Beckett University for her contribution to the arts and in October of the same year she was named the ‘Arts and Media Senior Leader of the Year’ by the Black British Business Awards. Sharon’s recognitions are testament to her continued passion and drive to contribute to the local and national creative industries through the medium of dance.
Sharon is a previous trustee of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures and The Place, a previous adviser for Central School of Ballet and a current trustee of Leeds Playhouse. She is currently a governor of Leeds Beckett University. Sharon was the Chair of the former Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group and sits on the Leeds 2023 Board of Trustees. She is committed to improving diversity within the arts by supporting the creative voices of women and Black artists.
In November 2020, Sharon was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire.
Bio adapted from one published in 2021.