The public turned out in force show their support for an arts festival that has entertained thousands of people across five decades.
The 52nd Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance kicked off in style with the traditional “Parade of Nations” which worked its way through the town centre to the Festival Arena that will be the focus of dance action until next weekend.
Hundreds of people applauded the parading dancers as Billingham Town Centre was bathed in sunshine – some young spectators had to sit on the shoulders of their parents to grab a good view.
The festival worked its usual magic by attracting generation-upon-generation of families to welcome the dance groups, who’ve travelled thousands of miles to perform in Billingham.
In total over 350 performers from seven different countries are involved in BIFF 2016 including Chile; Martinique; Mexico; North Cyprus; Russia; South Korea; and UK.
The opening day was hailed a massive success with the dance performance Synchronised, which also features synchronised swimming being a complete sell-out at the Billingham Forum swimming pool.
The event pays homage to Busby Berkeley’s legendary Hollywood ‘water musicals’ of the 1940s and 50s with an influence of traditional North Indian Kathak dance; and was originally commissioned for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Caitlin Hutchinson, five, of Billingham, took part in the ‘Parade of Nations’ for the first time.
She paraded with the Tapshoes & Tutus dance company; and was brought by her mother Kirsty.
Caitlin said: “The parade was brilliant and very, very good. I loved the pretty costumes and the cheerful music.”
Joe Maloney, festival director, said: “It never fails to amaze me how after 50 years, people still have an affiliation for the Folklore Festival with familiar faces being joined by new audiences.
“This is down to the town’s heritage and the way it has continued to be supported on an annual basis.
“People coming out to wave and cheer dancers who’ve left their own families to entertain people on the other side of the world is moving to see.
“The empathy from our International counterparts is heartening and encouraging as the feedback we receive about our dance festival is one of respect and notoriety.
“We can’t do this without the audiences’ support and we hope to see as many people as possible over the coming days.”