“I loved being on stage. I was so excited to perform in a big theatre.”

The Primary School Dance Festival is a flagship event for DU Dance (NI), so after a two-year hiatus, we were delighted to bring back the annual festival in May. We had missed the excitement of the build-up to the festival each year, popping into schools to deliver workshops and then sitting back and watching the creativity, energy and talent of each child performing on stage.

Our 12th festival brought together over 100 young people from Holy Rosary, Finaghy, Glenwood Primary Schools and Penrhyn Prep performing an exciting mix of dance in the professional settings of Belvoir Players Theatre from Disney classics, to Hip Hop and creative and contemporary dance.

There were plenty of nerves that morning when the children arrived as for many of them it was the very first time in a theatre, never mind performing onstage. However it was all made easier through the non-competitive and celebratory approach of the festival which values the input of each child. As one child shared, “I loved when everyone applauded for us as I was so nervous. Then I wasn’t nervous.”

As an art form, dance is rarely part of the school year and for many children their exposure to it is limited and often competitive based. Therefore it is important that our festival gives each child a positive experience of dance and performance which empowers them and breaks down the stereotypes of dance. It was wonderful to hear from one teacher, “Many of the boys commented that dancing is actually really fun.”

Sheena Kelly, DU Dance (NI) Community Engagement Artist explains “It has been a difficult few years for teachers and students alike so for DU Dance (NI) it was important to be able to launch our Primary School Dance Festival again and bring dance and creativity back into schools. The festival is non-competitive and celebrates every individual who takes to the stage aiming to create a safe environment for children to express themselves. For many of the children particularly the younger ones this was their first time inside a professional theatre never mind on the stage so for us it is important that that experience is positive.”

Have a look at these wonderful photos (credit to Jim Corr Photography) which capture the sheer joy at performing. As one of teacher said, “They absolutely loved every minute of it. Developing not only the dance skills but their confidence and self-esteem.”

The festival is funded by The Honourable The Irish Society and Esme Mitchell with support for refreshments from Lidl. Thank you Marie O’Donoghue from the Education Authority for their ongoing support and Belvoir Players Theatre for hosting.