Northern School of Contemporary Dance principal Sharon Watson on the importance of culture in education

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Leeds 2023 trustee Sharon Watson, the chief executive and principal of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, reflects on the importance of culture in education.

Has there ever been a more important time to recognise the importance of culture - art, music, dance - in education?

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Before they go to school, children are surrounded by creativity. They are encouraged to draw, sing, dance, make and do; whether at home or in a community hall, it’s a key part of their day-to-day life.

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Sharon Watson MBE DL is chief executive and principal of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance.Sharon Watson MBE DL is chief executive and principal of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance.
Sharon Watson MBE DL is chief executive and principal of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance.

It’s incredibly important that we help make sure that this creativity and innovation continues to be valued, not dismissed in favour of tests and tables.

Of course, there has to be balance, and as everyone heads back to school and college over the next few days and weeks, we need to seek out where culture can be found and enjoyed.

As we build towards Leeds 2023, it is vital that we develop access to and interest in the creativity that runs through our communities; challenging perceptions and reveling in the diversity to be found there.

Leeds is a city of dance, it’s who we are and it pulses through the city and embraces all cultures. Over 70 languages are spoken in the city, and each of those comes from a different background, bringing new influences and traditions, varieties of art, music, literature – and dance.

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It’s a way for people to communicate, to welcome others, to share stories. Dance and movement is a magical thread that runs through so much of our culture. Everyone has something to say and dance can be the wonderful way to express it.

On September 19, we will celebrate Leeds Dance Open Day and the world leading training and facilities we have here.

Bringing together Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Leeds Playhouse, Yorkshire Dance and the Northern School of Contemporary Dance [NSCD] we will be showcasing the incredible work these organisations do to inspire, educate and engage through a series of free events for all ages and abilities.

That’s the other thing about dance, it’s value can be underestimated when really it’s an artform that crosses over between young and old, expert or enthusiastic amateur. It’s also worth recognizing the value of being a spectator. The open day encourages everyone to enjoy dance whether for fun, a career, exercise or just to be part of the community.

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This, as with Leeds 2023, is a moment in time that shows us all what we as a city and people are capable of. Many people aren’t aware that in NSCD we have an internationally-recognised conservatoire, training aspiring professional dancers from across the world.

We want to demonstrate why and how Leeds is seen by those in the dance world as important, to people in neighbourhoods across Leeds, and give them something to be proud of and to even get involved in.

Visit to find out all about getting involved in the Leeds Dance Open Day.

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