Govt funding to find next ‘Billy Elliot’

The government today launched a £5.5 million hunt for the next Billy Elliot.

The money will be used to raise the status of dance as a school sport, but ministers hope it will also boost Britain’s reputation on the global stage.

Talented dancers in inner-cities will be identified through six new Centres of Advanced training, to be opened by 2011. The best dancers will be offered the opportunity to study the discipline at the Royal Ballet School.

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, said: “Ballet or ballroom, hip-hop or Highland, dance is something we’re really good at in this country.

“It also combines physical activity, creativity and beauty in a way that appeals to all. So it’s right and good that government support for the dance world should be put on a new footing, and I look forward to seeing the next generation of dancers – and the one after that – benefit from it.”

The government also plans to pilot dance co-ordinators in schools, who will promote it as both an art form and school sport.

Schools minister Andrew Adonis, who announced the initiative alongside Mr Burnham, said dance was already the second most popular exercise in school after football.

The Liberal Democrats said the extra funding was welcome after the government’s “very lax” approach towards dance so far.

Lib Dems are concerned 320,000 women dropped out of active sport last year, but sports spokesman Don Foster said dance is “extremely popular” with women.

Mr Foster said: “While I very much welcome the funding commitment announced today, dance has been put on the back burner for far too long. The dance review was originally due out last year and has been repeatedly delayed.

“With this kind of attitude, it’s no wonder that the percentage of women taking part in sport is decreasing.”