In 2017 VERVE presents an exhilarating programme of four new dance works created by international artists. Verve is artistically led by Matthew Robinson.

Matthew Robinson Verve Artistic Director and Programme Leader


Matthew trained at London Contemporary Dance School, joining Scottish Dance Theatre as an apprentice before going on to perform as a company member over many years. In his time with the company he worked with a diverse range of UK and international choreographers in the creation of new work, touring throughout Scotland and the world. In recent years he took on the responsibilities of Rehearsal Director for the company, supporting numerous choreographers and dancers in the creative process. During this time Matthew also developed his own work as an independent choreographer, creating commissioned work and researching his practice with the support of multiple partner organisations and collaborators. He has led classes and workshops across Scotland, the UK and internationally.



James Cousins 

Described by Matthew Bourne as ‘one of the UK’s most promising choreographic talents’ and called ‘a rising star’ by The Independent, James was the winner of the inaugural New Adventures Choreographer Award, which culminated in a sold out performance at Sadler’s Wells in 2012.

After the showcase he formed James Cousins Company with producer Francesca Moseley, to act as a vehicle for creating and performing his work, which has toured to critical acclaim both nationally and internationally from South America to East Asia. As a freelance choreographer James has been commissioned to create work for companies around the world including National Ballet of Chile, Opera Graz, Royal Ballet of Flanders and Scottish Ballet.

James is a Work Place artist at The Place and in summer 2015 he was selected to be a part of Sadler’s Wells’ four year Summer University programme.

Carlos Pons Guerra 

Carlos Pons Guerra (Spain) is an independent choreographer who has choreographed for, and worked with, international companies such as Rambert, the National Young Ballet and the National Dance Company of the Dominican Republic, Attakalari Centre for Movement Arts (India) and the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Carlos was nominated for a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award in 2015, in the category of ‘Best Emerging Artist’, and was invited as one of the guest choreographers for Northern Ballet’s choreographic laboratory in 2016. He directs his own company, DeNada Dance Theatre, with which he has recently completed a successful national tour of his triple bill, Ham and Passion.  Originally from Gran Canaria, Carlos began his ballet training at the Choreographic Centre of Las Palmas, furthering his studies at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and the Conservatoire for Dance of Madrid.

“Pons Guerra is a choreographer of innate intelligence and theatricality” Dance Europe.

Leila McMillan 

Leila is an international choreographer, teacher and performer who has worked with artists including David Zambrano, Crystal Pite, and Wendy Houstoun. She recently curated This Way, That Way (2016) at Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells as part of Wild Card, to a sold-out audience.  Her newest work Family Portrait has been presented at Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells; Greenwich Dance and Dance4.

Since receiving a place on David Zambrano’s 50 Days Flying Low and Passing Through (2010), Leila is now one of the few internationally certified artists teaching this technique, and has led the development of this approach in the UK. She is a Lecturer at London Contemporary Dance School and has gone on to teach throughout Europe, Middle East, United States and South America.

Leila is the winner of Blueprint Bursary 2008.  She has an ongoing collaboration with visual artist Paolo Fiorientini producing a series of video, still images and installations under the project Envelop.

She is the co-owner of Muxima, an Independent art and culture café in Bow, East London, winner of ‘Best Café in Bow’ from TimeOut London 2015 and 2016.

Matthias Sperling 

Canadian Matthias Sperling is an artist, choreographer and performer living and working in the UK.  Born in Toronto he studied with the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre (1984-1993) and went on to study philosophy at university in Canada before coming to the UK to complete his dance studies with Transitions Dance Company at Laban (1997-1998). His works include performances in theatre, gallery and museum contexts, video works, and exchanges that take place in public spaces and online. His work has been presented at Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Southbank Centre, Royal Opera House and Dance Umbrella among others. Matthias is a frequent collaborator with Siobhan Davies with whom he has created and presented works at galleries including the ICA, Whitechapel, Hayward, Tramway and Turner Contemporary. He has also collaborated with visual artists including Pablo Bronstein, Carlos Motta and Hetain Patel along with composers including Scanner and George Benjamin. Matthias has danced with many UK companies including Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance and Matthew Bourne’s Adventures In Motion Pictures. He then pursued his own choreographic work and in 2012 he created an adaptation of a solo choreographic score by Deborah Hay which he co-commissioned through Hay’s Solo Performance Commissioning Project. He was an Associate Artist with Dance4 (2007-2015) and is the winner of a Bonnie Bird New Choreography Award (2008). He has taught extensively, both in the UK and internationally.