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‘Pioneering leader in dance world’ Emma Gladstone dies at 63

Emma Gladstone, a former artistic programmer at Sadler’s Wells and chief executive of dance festival Dance Umbrella, has been hailed as “a pioneering and highly respected leader in the dance world across the globe” after her death at 63.

She died at home on Monday after a short illness, surrounded by her loving family, a statement from the festival said.

Gladstone was artistic programmer at Sadler’s Wells from 2005 to 2013, where she established the Jerwood Choreographic Research Programme, which aims to stimulate new thinking in choreography by enabling artists to think, dream and experiment freely.

Alistair Spalding, artistic director and co-chief executive of Sadler’s Wells, said: “I knew Emma in many of her guises – beautiful dancer, programmer, advocate, leader, producer and friend.

“She was so dedicated to the art form she loved – always thoughtful, articulate and charming.

“She meant so much to all the people she touched in and outside the dance world. She was also definitely the best-dressed woman in the arts! I will so miss her.”

Emma Gladstone has died aged 63 after a short illness (Foteini Christofilopoulou/PA)
Emma Gladstone has died aged 63 after a short illness (Foteini Christofilopoulou/PA)

Before her programming career, Gladstone danced for 20 years with choreographer and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Dame Arlene Phillips, and Lea Anderson’s The Cholmondeleys.

She also co-founded Adventures In Motion Pictures (now New Adventures) with Sir Matthew Bourne.

From 2013 to 2021 she was artistic director and chief executive of Dance Umbrella, London’s long-running international dance festival.

A statement from the festival said: “It is with great sadness that we are announcing the death of Emma Gladstone OBE”, adding she was “a pioneering and highly respected leader in the dance world across the globe” who was “internationally celebrated for her exquisite taste and incisive acumen”.

Emma Gladstone dancing with The Cholmondeleys (Chris Nash/PA)
Emma Gladstone dancing with The Cholmondeleys (Chris Nash/PA)

Freddie Opoku-Addaie, who currently heads the festival, said: “Emma embodied a vital and informed outlook about what the non-verbal expression of dance can do for all humanity.

“Hold on… having read what I’ve written back to myself, I can hear Emma asking ‘What on Earth do you mean, Freddie? Let’s get as close to the point as possible’.

“One of Emma’s superpowers was the readiness to share tools, impart lived experience and dive into the deep end to reach the desired goal with care. Not to dampen down, but rather to be able to take as many people with you as you can.

“What will forever remain in mine and all our hearts is your glorious smile, wicked sense of humour and unwavering drive for us all to do better by one another.”

Gladstone was made an OBE in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to dance.