Sharon Watson MBE DL - Northern School of Contemporary Dance


CEO & Principal

After studying at London Contemporary Dance School, Sharon graduated from the BPA (Hons) in Contemporary Dance at NSCD in 1997.

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. Her journey with the company began when she was one of the first female Principal Dancers invited to join the all-male award-winning company, touring from 1989 to 1997 and choreographing Never Still and Shaded Limits. Having left Phoenix to pursue a number of other ventures including setting up her own company ABCD, Sharon returned in 2009 as the new Artistic Director. Sharon choreographed numerous works for the company including the celebrated Windrush: Movement of the People and Black Waters.

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.

Sharon succeeded Janet Smith MBE to become the fourth Principal of Northern School of Contemporary Dance in May 2020.

In November 2020, Sharon was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire. In January 2022 she was awarded an MBE for Services to Dance. She appears in the Yorkshire Insider Power 100 list 2022.

Headshot by David Lindsay

Windrush: Movement of the People performance image by Brian Slater