HUNDREDS of dancers from all over the world brought music and colour to the streets of a Teesside town as part of a 50-year-old festival.
This year the week-long Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance celebrates its half-century and on Saturday performers descended on the town for a lively opening ceremony.
Dancers from Chile, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, North Cyprus, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Thailand and the UK are performing in this year’s festival of culture and dance.
A parade of nations wound its way from Marsh House Avenue to the town centre on Saturday afternoon and there was also a 50th Anniversary opening ceremony concert at the Festival Arena.
Hundreds of spectators lined the streets to watch the procession go past, with an Italian flag-waving troop and folk dancers from Thailand.
On Saturday night the opening ceremony concert was held at the Forum Theatre in the town.
Organiser Olga Maloney said: “We had an absolutely brilliant opening ceremony. The groups were spectacular at the Forum theatre. Everyone enjoyed it very much, including people from the Arts Council, Stockton Council, the local MP Alex Cunningham and the Mayor of Stockton.
“We normally have about eight groups but this year, because it is our 50th anniversary, we have 11. There are workshops at Dance City in Newcastle and we also have contemporary dance performances.
“It was really packed for the opening parade on Saturday and we were so lucky with the weather.”
On Sunday the festivities continued with a World Dance Gala, featuring more than 150 dancers and musicians from Mexico, South Korea, Georgia and Russia, and a family concert.
Organisers said inclement weather meant some outside performances were being moved inside to indoor venues, including a marquee on Marsh House Avenue.
The colourful festival line-up includes parades, exhibitions and workshops and dance styles from all around the world are showcased, with performers from around the world performing alongside talented North-East troupes.
The festival dates back 50 years, when the new traffic-free shopping centre was developed in the centre of Billingham. To attract shoppers to stay in Billingham rather than the larger centres of Stockton and Middlesbrough the council organised entertainment in the town centre.
One Saturday an Irish dance troupe performed and attracted a huge, enthusiastic audience. They had just returned from a folklore festival overseas and said the traffic free town centre would be perfect for a similar event - and the Billingham festival was born.
For more information about the events and performances visit www.billinghamfestival.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01642-553220.
Up to date information is also available on Facebook – www.facebook.com/billinghamworlddancefestival and on Twitter - @BillFest.