Talented youngsters take to the stage for Sunderland's annual school dance festival
Hundreds of talented youngsters took to the stage in Sunderland for an annual dance festival.
Now in its 32nd year, the Sunderland Schools’ Annual Dance Festival is proving as popular as ever.
This year the show was once again hosted by BBC presenter, Jeff Brown, and proved to be a big hit at the Sunderland Empire.
The theme for this year was ‘Customs, Myths and Legends’ and inspired a wide range of pieces including Troll Party - in Nordic mythology, trolls were thought to be huge, evil and dangerous, but not these trolls, they just wanted to party.
Another routine was The Beautiful Dead - a contemporary choreography inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead, also known as All Souls Day, where dead ancestors are celebrated.
Lesley Younger, dance consultant and academic tutor at the University of Sunderland, said: “The show is always hugely popular with schools and often the highlight of the year.”
She said the 2017 show was a sell out with 1,400 people in the audience and 22 schools, almost 400 pupils, taking part, including infants, juniors and secondary youngsters.
The festival, which was initiated by Lesley as part of a masters degree course, started with just three schools performing in Monkwearmouth Academy’s school hall and has grown to the huge event it is today.
Lesley believes the longevity and success of the dance festival are partly due to the focus, which is one of celebration rather than competition.
She said: “Schools showcase their achievements in a very supportive environment, cheered on by family and friends and of course fellow pupils.
“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, BBC Look North Presenter, also adds to its continued success, but most importantly it makes the children feel very special and is certainly an event that they long remember.”
There are many educational purposes to the festival, but primarily it was conceived to not only enable young people to develop dance skills, but also enhance confidence and self esteem.
Lesley said: “The legacy of the SSDF continues and 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 then go on to become teachers and eventually bring their own school children to the festival.
“Long may the cycle continue.”