Wearside students kept on their toes
Released: Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 15:16
Nearly 500 Wearside Billy Elliots put their best feet forward to showcase their talents at a popular annual event.
The 27th Sunderland Schools Dance Festival, developed by the University of Sunderland's Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, took place with 480 children from 24 Wearside schools at the Empire Theatre.
This year the students were given an Olympic theme to celebrate the Games coming to Britain. The aim of the festival is to celebrate young people’s dancing ability in a non-competitive environment. Family and friends shared the children’s success as the students lit up the stage with their talent.
BBC Look North presenter Jeff Brown was on hand to compère the 1,600 sell-out crowd to support the City where he grew up. He praised the event for keeping young people active.
He said: “My dad always said whatever job you want to do, aim high. Hopefully people will look at me, an ordinary lad from Roker who ended up on TV. I never thought I would, but ambition is important.
“This dance competition shows you don’t have to be the greatest performer or a sports fanatic, dance is just a great way of getting kids active. It can be tough to get a lot of girls involved in sport and dance is a great way of developing a healthy mind and body.”
The original concept for the festival began 27 years ago and was the brainchild of Lesley Younger, Head of Performing Arts and Dance at the University of Sunderland.
It originated as part of a Masters Degree dissertation into the innovation and development of dance in education - at Monkwearmouth Comprehensive School. As such it began in a very small way with just three schools taking part in the school hall. A new post at the then Sunderland Polytechnic saw the Festival move to Bede Theatre and grow in size.
Now in its 27th year, the festival continues to be organised by the University's Dance Department and is a firm fixture in the Wearside schools' calendar.
Several children participating in the show over the years have gone on to study dance at the university.
Graeme Thompson, Dean of Arts, Design and Media at the University of Sunderland, said: “This is a massively important event for the University because it is a showcase for performing arts in this city. You’ve got 480 children here, whose first encounter with the university is here with the performing arts department. Lesley and her team produce the whole show and it gives us a great connection with the schools around Sunderland. It’s a great celebratory event and it’s great to be able to do it.”