UK’S Phoenix Dance Theatre celebrates the launch of groundbreaking interactive virtual gallery & commemorative book
Phoenix Dance Theatre, based in Yorkshire, England, has launched a ground-breaking interactive Virtual Gallery allowing dance fans from across the globe to discover and engage with the company’s repertoire and to learn about its history and development over four decades.
Containing more than 250 artifacts, the virtual gallery can be accessed from Phoenix Dance Theatre’s website. Once ‘inside’ visitors can look through programs and publications scattered around the rooms, see 360-degree views of some of the costumes displayed on mannequins and dancers, zoom in on posters and photographs to see more detail, and identify significant props that were created for some of the dance pieces. Visitors can pick up virtual headphones to listen to previous artistic directors and key people through the ages sharing some of their memories and can watch AI-enhanced video clips from early years in the company’s development through to the present day. Accompanying captions add greater context to the items on display.
The state-of-the-art Virtual Gallery has been designed and created and by award-winning, Yorkshire based, One to One Development Trust. The Phoenix Virtual Gallery is an imaginative and immersive online space to explore the company’s rich history. The gallery is divided into four rooms and offers an innovative and interactive way of showcasing the growth, development and artistry of the first four decades of Phoenix. Each room, accessed via the ‘foyer’, features some of the iconic memorabilia of that period. Albeit virtual, this gallery is firmly grounded in Phoenix’s hometown of Leeds with views of the city’s skyline visible from the gallery windows.
The gallery was unveiled at a special double-launch event on Friday 27 January at Phoenix Dance Theatre’s headquarters in Leeds city center, where invited guests were also treated to the first look at a special commemorative book which also celebrates the company’s heritage.
The Phoenix Virtual Gallery and 40 Years of Phoenix: A Photographic Journey are the result of an intensive period of archival research and collation commenced during the company’s 40th anniversary year. The aim was to create two very different ways of presenting a portion of Phoenix’s vast archive enabling it to be shared with Phoenix and dance fans around the world.
The company’s founder and first artistic director, David Hamilton MBE, was among those speaking at the event. He was joined by Delia Barker, Chair of the Phoenix Board of Trustees, and former Artistic Director, Dane Hurst, whose vision it was to create these lasting resources for the company.
Phoenix Dance Theatre is the longest running contemporary dance company based outside of London and it celebrated its milestone 40th anniversary year from November 2021.
As Dane Hurst explains: “My vision as the incoming artistic director in Phoenix’s 40th anniversary year was to commission a series of works to honor and celebrate the incredible work of all the artists and leaders who have contributed to the company’s illustrious history. The aim was to make the rich and colorful archive of photographs and works available to the public in a more accessible and creatively informative way.”
His vision developed into the creation of a commemorative book of photographs and the commissioning of a virtual gallery. Both are tangible artistic and historical records which capture the presence and exuberance of company members and guest artists who have created and sustained the legacy of Phoenix.
In 40 Years of Phoenix: A Photographic Journey, a 136-page hardback coffee table book, the company is celebrated in a photographic collection of more than 125 images spanning four decades, charting the company’s artistry and innovation from humble beginnings to recognition as one of the UK’s leading contemporary dance companies. Images are accompanied by quotes from many who have played a part in the diverse progression of Phoenix, including founders, former dancers and artistic directors, with a foreword by the company’s founder, David Hamilton MBE. Historical narratives introduce each section of the book and explores the progression, variety and breadth of the company’s repertoire.
These commemorative resources give everyone the opportunity to explore Phoenix’s rich history from the comfort of their own homes, honoring the first four decades as the company looks to the next steps in its story.
Jennifer Coleman-Peers, CEO of Phoenix Dance Theatre said: “As we look to the future so we also must look to the past. This incredible book and innovative virtual gallery offer an insight into the journey Phoenix has been on across its first forty years and provides inspiration for the company as we set out on our next exciting chapter. It feels fitting to be launching this celebration of Phoenix’s heritage and rich archive now as we will shortly be announcing our new strategy and the company’s heritage has been central to our thinking. We look forward to sharing more details of our future plans very soon.”