Youngsters took to the stage at the Sunderland Empire for the city’s annual dance festival for schools

Schools Annual Dance Festival at Sunderland Empire.
Fulwell Junior School pupils
Schools Annual Dance Festival at Sunderland Empire. Fulwell Junior School pupils
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Hundreds of talented youngsters took to the stage in Sunderland for an annual dance festival.

Now in its 31st year, the Sunderland Schools’ Annual Dance Festival is proving as popular as ever with more than 450 young people taking part.

Schools Annual Dance Festival at Sunderland Empire.
Fulwell Junior School pupils

Schools Annual Dance Festival at Sunderland Empire. Fulwell Junior School pupils

Again, this year the show, hosted by BBC presenter, Jeff Brown, was a sell-out for the Sunderland Empire and a massive success.

The theme for the 2016 festival was ‘Science Fact and Science Fiction’, which inspired a wide range of dance pieces such as Super Massive Black Hole, exploring the dark mysteries of space Field Force, the heroic struggle of good versus evil.

Festival director, Lesley Youngster, said 23 schools took part in the event, including infant, junior and secondary schools and it also included a piece by DUSC Youth, a company of gifted and talented young dancers drawn from Sunderland schools, which is run by the dance team at the University of Sunderland and supported by the festival.

Lesley, who is head of performing arts at the Wearside university, initiated the festival as part of a masters degree dissertation and it grew from just three schools performing in Monkwearmouth’s school hall to the huge event it is today.

Schools Annual Dance Festival at Sunderland Empire.
Fulwell Junior School pupils with BBC Jeff Brown

Schools Annual Dance Festival at Sunderland Empire. Fulwell Junior School pupils with BBC Jeff Brown

Lesley said: “Its longevity and success are partly due to the focus which is one of celebration rather than competition.

“Schools show and share their achievements in a very supportive environment.

“Being able to hold the event in the magnificent Empire Theatre and lucky enough to have the support of high profile MC’s such as Jeff Brown, also adds to its continued success, but more importantly it makes the performers feel that bit more special.”

The lecturer said the youngsters who take part are not only able to develop dance skills, but also enhance their confidence and self esteem, which in turn enhance their learning.

Lesley said: “Over the years I have had the great satisfaction of seeing youngsters who took part as school pupils, continue their dance education at the university, many of them

have then gone on to become teachers, who, in turn, have returned to the festival with their own school children. Long may the cycle continue.”