Hundreds of children take part in Olympic-themed Sunderland dance festival

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HUNDREDS of toe-tapping children have been enjoying a city dance festival.

Almost 500 young dancers put their best feet forward to showcase their talents at the 27th Sunderland Schools Dance Festival, developed by the University of Sunderland’s Faculty of Arts, Design and Media.

Held at the Empire Theatre, pupils from 24 Sunderland schools took part and the theme this year was the Olympics.

The aim of the festival is to celebrate young people’s dancing ability in a non-competitive environment, with family and friends invited along to watch the show.

BBC Look North presenter, Jeff Brown, was on hand to host the event.

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 was the brainchild of Lesley Younger, Head of Performing Arts and Dance at the University and it began in a very small way with just three schools taking part in Monkwearmouth School hall.

Now, the festival continues to be organised by the University’s Dance Department and is a firm fixture in the Wearside schools’ calendar.

Graeme Thompson, Dean of Arts, Design and Media, 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 whose first encounter with the university is 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.”