A dynamic cultural history of the internationally celebrated Phoenix Dance Company, unique in several ways: its members were in their teens when they formed the company in 1981, they gained recognition very early in their careers through an established television arts program in 1984, they were skillful performers but had not received formal training, they were based in the north of England at a time when most dance centered in London (and New York), and they were black British men who had known each other since childhood, coming from a tight-knit African-Caribbean community.
As children, they learned a lot from London Contemporary Dance Theatre and watched videos of Twyla Tharp, Netherlands Dance Company, Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Alvin Ailey Company.
This complex narrative, played out through gender, ethnicity and class, places Phoenix as a significant artistic force in contemporary dance. One of the paradoxes it faced was the expectation by funding bodies, critics and audiences that it represent the black community. Such expectations posed a challenge for each successive artistic director. This provocative story investigates institutional racism on the part of arts policy makers, funders and critics.