Portsmouth schoolchildren impress Dame Darcey Bussell as she hosts Diverse Dance Mix contest at the New Theatre Royal

SCHOOLCHILDREN got the chance to go head to head with other pupils from across the city as they showed off their dance moves in the presence of a star.

Saturday, 8th June 2019, 2:40 pm
Updated Saturday, 8th June 2019, 6:05 pm
Dame Darcey Bussell, back centre, with winners of her Diverse Dance Mix contest at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth, from St George's Beneficial Church of England Primary School. Picture: Byron Melton

Ballerina and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Dame Darcey Bussell watched on as teams from 13 Portsmouth schools competed in a Diverse Dance Mix showdown on the stage of the New Theatre Royal. 

This morning’s show in Portsmouth was the touring event’s third stop of seven as it makes its way across the UK to entice children into the creative arts at a time when staring at screens is the norm for many. 

Each school class, comprising contestants aged seven to 12, gave a two-and-a-half-minute performance in the theme of one of five genres. 

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Joseph Urquhart and Cazayah Sterling O'Sullivan, from St George's Beneficial Church of England Primary School, with their trophy for winning Dame Darcey Bussell's Diverse Dance Mix contest at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth. Picture: Byron Melton

And while Dame Darcey said ‘every child left a winner’, there was one team she judged worthy of a trophy – the contingent from St George’s Beneficial Church of England Primary School, of Hanover Street, with their hand jive routine. 

‘For many of us Darcey is our inspiration and it was amazing to see the crowd and Darcey smiling when we performed,’ said St George’s pupil, Joseph Urquhart, 11. 

‘We’ve been training for two weeks with sessions in the mornings and from June 3 to this day we’ve had afternoon sessions to give us an extra boost.’ 

He added: ‘I’d like to say thank you to our whole team for helping us – we all deserved to win.’

From left, Highbury Primary headteacher's PA Sarah Marsh, her daughter Phoebe Arthur, Sophie Dulake and Maisy Wallace. Picture: Byron Melton

His pal and fellow performer Cazayah Sterling O’Sullivan, eight, continued: ‘We were really scared and nervous at first, but whenever we went on stage we kept smiling at the audience, facing the front, not getting distracted, and worked as hard as we could.’

For the first time on the tour Dame Darcey, creator of the full-body Diverse Dance Mix workout, chose two runners-up – hailing Portsmouth performers the ‘best group of schools’ she has seen so far. 

Those nods went to Mayville High School in Southsea and the Flying Bull Academy. 

But fun was had across the board as youngsters wore beaming smiles as they performed to a packed theatre of teachers and family members. 

Highbury Primary School pals Phoebe Arthur, 11 and Maisy Wallace, nine, hailed the morning a ‘really fun experience’.

‘After training everyday after school until 4pm, for a week, we did a Japanese routine,’ Maisy said. 

Phoebe added: ‘We loved how the speed of our dance changed from slow to fast – we had a great time.

‘We want to say thank you to our PE teacher Mr [Nathan] Rudkin for helping us.’ 

It was Portsmouth Historic Dockyard-based events firm the Purple Group that organised the tour, after talks with Dame Darcey.

‘It really came from a conversation when we all did something with the Aylesbury Festival a few years ago,’ said managing director Neil Latter. 

‘We thought it would be a great idea to take it around the country and create a children’s competition for dance. 

‘Since it’s been refurbished The New Theatre Royal is a stunning venue and all the children today have had a brilliant time.

‘We’ve tried to make this an experience for every single person here and although the nature of a competition means you always have to have a winner, this has really been about trying to bringing communities together, in a non-commercial way, across the UK.’ 

The other 11 schools that competed were Fernhurst Junior, Solent Junior, Beacon View Primary, St Paul’s Catholic Primary, Isambard Brunel Junior, St Swithun’s Catholic Primary, Copnor Primary, Lyndhurst Junior and St Edmund’s Catholic.