INSPIRATIONAL choreographer Zac Healey is currently taking centre stage in the Mail’s Pride of Hartlepool Awards.
Zac’s talent and commitment has earned the praise of West End director Nick Evans, whose productions have included the hit musicals Billy Elliot and Rock of Ages.
Nick, who contacted the Hartlepool Mail from London’s Shaftesbury Theatre, said: “As a West End director, I am used to meeting special, and driven young performers.
“But even after many years as director of Billy Elliot and Rock of Ages in London’s West End, I am humbled to see the great success Ruff Diamond have brought to Hartlepool and the drive, hope and focus that literally hundreds of young people in Hartlepool have drawn from Zac’s performing, teaching and guidance.
“I got to know him through the Billy Elliot show and what makes Zac really special is the quiet, unassuming manner he brings to all he does.
“He rarely seeks attention or plaudits for what he does. He commands attention and respect in a way few professional performers do. And most pleasingly for one so young, he is not interested in using such rapt respect for his own egotistical ends.
“He has my total respect and admiration, and it is an honour to suggest that he embodies the very best of what Hartlepool is about.”
The talented dance maestro has also been nominated by a string of local people who have paid tribute to his dedication and determination.
Many have spoken not only of his artistic talent but also of his commitment to youngsters across Hartlepool.
The 20 year old, whose mum Val runs the Val Armstrong School of Performing Arts, in Whitby Street South, Hartlepool, is the driving force behind hip-hop sensation Ruff Diamond and the junior version Lil Diamondz.
The groups have achieved national and international acclaim under his guidance and have taken the dance world by storm including a top 10 ranking for Ruff Diamond in the World Hip Hop Championships in Las Vegas.
The group was also recently involved in the heats of the Sky 1 HD show Got To Dance. Davina McCall hosts the competition, which offers a cash prize of £250,000.
Lil Diamondz, whose members are aged between 10 and 13, grabbed headlines themselves when they were crowned winners of Alesha’s Street Dance Stars, in the CBBC television search for Britain’s best young street dancers.
Despite his astonishing success, Zac, of Greatham, has kept his dancing feet firmly on the ground.
His attitude has seen his nominations for a Pride of Hartlepool award run into double figures.
Karen Miller, from the Rift House area of Hartlepool, wrote: “Zac is a true inspiration to the town. He is the most unselfish person I have ever met.
“He gives young children from all backgrounds the equal opportunity to express themselves in hip hop.
“I can think of no one better in our town to be recognised for what he does and what he stands for.”
Janet Williams, of Wingate, wrote: “He has had an enormous impact on a lot of young people and has brought together children from all backgrounds and ages.
“His students have achieved success in world championships and on TV but Zac is not big-headed and keeps his feet firmly on the ground.”
Libby Griffiths, from the Park Road area of Hartlepool, said: “It is amazing what he has achieved at such a young age but he also deserves an award for his ongoing charity work and the time he gives to working with children who have special needs.
“He is a worthy winner in my opinion. A lovely lad, down to earth and with a huge heart.”
The Pride of Hartlepool Awards were launched to honour those unsung heroes who go that extra mile to improve the lives of others in the community.
There are 12 categories and nomination forms can be downloaded from www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk or picked up from the Mail reception, in New Clarence House, Wesley Square, the information kiosk in Middleton Grange shopping centre and the reception areas of Hartlepool College of Further Education and Hartlepool Sixth Form College.
Anyone wanting further information about the awards should contact the Mail’s head of news, Paul Watson, on (01429) 239361 or email@example.com
The deadline for nominations is Monday, February 13.