“I loved getting to dance. Can we go back?” (P1 pupil)

Last week we spent two days in the company of almost 200 children who came along to our Primary School Dance Festival at Belvoir Studio Theatre.

Over the two mornings we travelled under the sea, on the Eurovision bandwagon and to ancient Egypt. We were moved by a piece about the environment crisis and uplifted by characters from Encanto, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and Hairspray.

Feedback from teaching staff at the five schools who took part was incredibly positive.  Importantly they feel an event like this really sparks something in many that perhaps never would have thought of dancing before and helps show the children that hard work and practice really pays off.   For the DU Dance team it was really clear from the smiles and chatter how the children’s confidence was sky high after the festival and apparently it was all they talked about on the bus trip home!

The Festival provides a special opportunity for children to perform on stage in front of an audience  in a non-competitive environment.  It introduces children to the importance of dance and shows them how capable they are without any pressure

One P5 teacher said “Children were extremely proud of themselves and what they had achieved. They loved watching the other schools dance and perform.”

Sheena Kelly, Community Engagement Artist, has big plans for the festival next year:  “Year after year, this event demonstrates just how impactful this opportunity to dance and perform can be for young children, helping them grow in confidence, explore movement and practice teamwork.  We are hoping to extend the opportunity to more primary schools in Greater Belfast in 2024 and increase the number of school workshops DU Dance deliver in the run-up to support the children in creating their piece for the festival.”

If you would like to find out more about the Primary School Dance Festival please contact Sheena on sheena@dudanceni.com

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this year’s festival.  Firstly, the professional dancers Sean O’Neill and Emily McDonagh who created a piece specially for the festival called “Solas” about friends exploring together using light to guide the way.  The audiences’ jaws dropped when a creature-like tent with torchlit eyes morphed into a display of acrobatic prowess by Emily and Sean.

Secondly, artist Lina from Misty Blue Craft who ran a really well-received workshop for the children with wonderful paper collages of dance poses surrounded by movement patterns.

Next, thank you to Marie O’Donoghue, Arts Educationalist, Education Authority Northern Ireland and DU Dance board member, who gave the closing words with  her usual warmth and encouragement to the children and handed out certificates.

Finally, thank you to funders Community Foundation NI and Halifax Foundation.

Day 1:

Day 2:

(Photography: Joe Fox)