Hundreds show off their talents at Sunderland Schools Dance Festival

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HUNDREDS of budding Billy Elliots put on dancing shoes to showcase their talents.

The 28th Sunderland Schools Dance Festival at the Sunderland Empire attracted 480 children from Wearside schools.

Developed by the University of Sunderland’s Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, this year’s theme was the Lindisfarne Gospels, to celebrate their return to the region.

The aim of the festival is to celebrate young people’s dancing ability in a non-competitive environment.

South Shields Customs House executive director Ray Spencer was compere the event which attracted an audience of 1,600 family and friends supporting the children.

Ray said: “I think it is really important to engage young people in the arts. It is also great to see the University of Sunderland using the biggest stage in the North East to give students the experience of being on stage.”

The festival 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.

It started at Monkwearmouth Comprehensive School, with just three schools taking part, but has continued to grow.

Miss Younger said: “The aim of this event is to celebrate dance. It’s not a competition, it is about sharing and celebrating the achievements of students in Sunderland. Experiences like this can give the students confidence, aspirations to possibly move into a career in performing arts, but, most of all, they can feel special and share the feeling and moment with their school mates and parents.”