Top Yorkshire dancer David Hamilton hopes MBE will help inspire youngsters

A dancer has told how he hopes his award of an MBE will help inspire young people to get involved in the arts.

Dancer David Hamilton founded the prestigious Phoenix Dance Company

David Hamilton, of Leeds, is an artist and dance teacher as well as a man who had dedicated time to his local community.

Growing up in a deprived, inner city area of Leeds, he was introduced to dance at school.

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He said: "It came out of the blue. I guess I am still letting it sink in.

"If this gets some more young people interested in dance, that will be good, very good."

Following only one year of professional dance training, he formed Phoenix Dance Theatre in November 1981 fusing contemporary dance technique with a black British cultural experience.

The fact that by autumn 1982 the company comprised all-male, all Black dancers was secondary to his motivation to share an expression of his cultural identity through dance.

Phoenix toured its new and distinct dance performances to many small and middle-scale venues including community centres, art centres and schools and staged workshops.

Phoenix grew to become a nationally celebrated group illustrated by London Weekend Television’s (LWT) South Bank Show recounting the rise of Phoenix in 1984.

He formed RJC Dance, to promote dance in local community contexts. RJC is now an established part of its local community with youth development and education at its core. RJC stands for reggae, jazz and contemporary dance.

His passion for community engagement shone through in his artistic collaboration with Geraldine Connor in the creation and staging of Carnival Messiah (Handel’s Messiah expressed in a Caribbean, specifically Trinidadian, Carnival style). In this, he performed as a principal dancer as well as being assistant choreographer and dance captain.

A large-scale production, featuring music, dance and Carnival designed costumes, it was presented for two critically acclaimed runs at West Yorkshire Playhouse (1999 and 2002) and again in the grounds of Harewood House (2007), as well as being performed in Trinidad in 2003 and 2004.

He is Chair of the Black History Month Sub-Hub in Leeds, organising events and debates around Black history. He places emphasis on remembering Carter G Woodson, the founder of Black History Month in the USA in 1926. Black History Month came to England in 1987.