Sunderland Schools Dance Festival returns to Empire for 35th year

City pupils were able to step into the Empire spotlight once again thanks to the return of the Sunderland Schools’ Dance Festival.

Monday, 20th June 2022, 2:06 pm
Updated Monday, 20th June 2022, 2:06 pm

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The annual festival couldn’t take place over the lockdowns but returned in style for its 35th year.

The non-competitive festival’s aim is to celebrate the dance achievements of Sunderland’s young people, which they can share with friends and family to help boost their confidence.

More than 400 performers from 22 schools took part in this year’s event, with many more coming along to show their support, with parents and guardians also making up the audience.

Pupils from Hill View Primary school on stage at the Sunderland Empire with BBC reporter Jeff Brown. Picture by FRANk REID

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For 2022, the theme was ‘The Natural World’ which inspired a wide range of dances based on such things as the behaviour of animals in the wild, different or changing seasons, the weather, climate change and the impact on our world.

Easington Lane Primary School created a buzzing adventure named A Celebration of Pollination to show the work and importance of bees. Meanwhile, Biddick Academy’s All Must Pay Their Debt to Nature was inspired by the Blue Planet and the impact of pollution and global warming.

BBC Look North Presenter, Jeff Brown, also returned as Master of Ceremonies.

The one-day event is organised by performing arts staff in the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries at the University of Sunderland.

The festival was originally initiated as part of a Masters Degree, investigating effective strategies in the promotion of dance in secondary education and began in a very small way with just three schools taking part.

It gradually grew over the years to become an established, annual event in Sunderland Empire’s community calendar .

Lesley Younger, festival director said: "I find it very moving and inspirational to watch the sheer joy, enthusiasm and talent of the children performing and of course I am very appreciative of the commitment and immense amount of hard work put in by the teachers.”

Jeff Brown, BBC Look North presenter and festival host, said: “It was so good to see the Dance Festival back, and an absolute pleasure to be hosting it once


He added: “The arts are so important in lifting everyone’s spirits, and you can only imagine the confidence boost it gives the youngsters when they pluck up the courage to go out and perform in front of an audience.

"Top marks to Lesley Younger and her team at Sunderland University. They refused to let the festival die.”

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