The artistic director of Phoenix Dance Theatre, Sharon Watson, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from Leeds Beckett University.
She received the honour today (Tuesday 16 July) at Leeds Arena, alongside hundreds of graduating students.
Sharon trained at the London School of Contemporary Dance and gained an MA in Performance Works from Leeds Beckett University in 2009.
Sharon said today: “I am absolutely delighted to be recognised by Leeds Beckett for my contribution to dance and the wider culture sector.
“As the artistic director of Phoenix Dance Theatre, a company that has grown from small beginnings to an internationally recognised contemporary dance company, it really shows what a talented and culturally diverse city we have, and we should continue to nurture these characteristics.”
Sharon became one of the first female Principal Dancers to be invited to join the all-male award-winning Phoenix Dance Company and toured with them from 1989 to 1997.
Sir Bob Murray CBE, Chancellor of Leeds Beckett University, said: “Sharon has enjoyed a successful career within contemporary dance and we are very proud of her achievements. I’m delighted we are able to welcome Sharon back to recognise her contribution to the arts with this honorary award.”
In 2016 Sharon was awarded the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts’ Companionship Award from Sir Paul McCartney, the Sue Ryder ‘Yorkshire Women of Achievement in Business Award’ and was named ‘Yorkshire Woman of the Year’.
She was also acknowledged as part of the very first ‘Top 50 Power List’ at the Northern Power Women Awards in 2017.
She is committed to improving diversity within the arts by supporting the creative voices of women and black and ethnic minority artists.
Sharon was instrumental in the Leeds Bid to be European Capital of Culture for 2023, as chair of the steering committee, and plays a huge part in bringing arts and culture to the city.
Others receiving honorary doctorates include Keith Wakefield and Kevin Sinfield, with more names to be announced tomorrow.
Sharon Watson is Artistic Director at Phoenix Dance Theatre, having originally joined as a dancer from 1989 to 1997 and re-joining in 2000 as the company’s Rehearsal and Tour Director, before subsequently being appointed as the 7th Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre in May 2009.
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.