A GROUP of 11 teenage dancers, who attend a performing arts academy in Worcester, have been chosen to take centre stage at an international dance celebration in London.

The students – aged 14 to 18 years - of Academy Theatre Arts, Infirmary Walk, will join an elite company of dancers from all over the world in an annual dance spectacular called Dance Proms at the Albert Hall.

Former professional dancer and choreographer Helen Leek, who established the academy in 1992, said she was thrilled her students, all female, were chosen to perform at the first time of asking.

She said the academy’s dancers take part in competitions regularly but have never been involved in the Dance Proms, which brings together hundreds of performers from all over the UK and the world, for a celebration of dance.

“This is the first time we have applied for this and that is why it is so exciting. I thought we really should try and get involved in the Dance Proms so I applied.

“It is a unique experience. We do dance competitions and so do the other dance schools. They are very competitive and great and very exciting but this is unique event and it is not competitive – it is a celebration of dance.”

Dance Proms started in 2011 and is run by the world’s leading dance examination boards – the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing; the International Dance Teachers’ Association and the Royal Academy of Dance – to create a national festival celebrating all forms of dance from ballet to tap and ballroom to jazz. This year's event is on Sunday October 30.

The proms have been supported since it started by a number of well-known industry professionals including the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing stars Anton Du Beke and Len Goodman; BBC journalist and “Strictly” winner Chris Hollins; newsreader and dancer Angela Rippon and former Royal Ballet dancer and choreographer Wayne Sleep.

The first proms involved 450 young people performing in front of an audience of 3,000.

Helen explained that she began by registering her interest and she then received details of what they would have to do. She had to choose the dance routine and the group of dancers who would perform it.

Due to the number of groups involved, each performance is limited to three and a half minutes in length. “The time limit is a factor. Some of our pieces are longer. I had to consider what would look good in the Albert Hall but in the end you have to go with your gut instinct and what we love doing.”

Helen chose a classical Greek piece she choreographed herself called Paradisi Gloria. “There are quite a few pieces that are deep and thought provoking and emotional but we decided on a celebration piece. We have done this piece quite a lot over the past year.”

She then had to upload photos of the dance and send in a video of the girls. Dance Proms also enables the performers to take part in a virtual Dance Festival linking in with dance teachers and their students from all over the world.

Helen received and e-mail telling her they were through to the big event and immediately told her students. “They did not realise how big it was until we were through and then they got very excited.” Everyone was sworn to secrecy though until a final wildcard place for Dance Proms was allocated.

Apart from doing their own spot, the Academy Theatre Arts students will also take part in a grand finale when all the dancers involved are on stage together.

“It is a very unusual venue for dancing,” Helen pointed out. “We will be doing extra preparation come September but they always prepare to the best of their ability.”

The dancers going to the Albert Hall are Emily White, Hannah Burgoyne, Lucy Morris, Libby Britten, Faye Kimberlin, Jade Kimberlin, Grace Rayner, Olivia Winfield, Lucy Jones, Chloe Harris and Megan Aucott.

“I am very proud of them. It is fantastic. They do all this at the academy while they juggle all their school work and exams. They are under a lot of pressure these days and it makes this even more fantastic when they do something like this.

“They have to have the passion and they love it. They have to say ‘no’ to some social activities to do this,” said 49-year-old Helen.

At the moment the dancers are preparing for a show at the Swan theatre called The Storyteller choreographed and directed by Helen. They are on stage from Thursday July 21 to Sunday July 24. The show uses dance, acting and singing to interpret some of the greatest stories ever told.

“We are preparing for the show at The Swan next week and then they go on holiday and when they come back it is full steam ahead for the Dance Proms.”

The academy, which has 300 students, has already enjoyed some outstanding achievements this year. “We’ve had such a superb year being a part of the Royal Academy of Dance patron’s lunch to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, some of the best exam results we’ve ever had, rehearsing for a brand new show and now Dance Proms. It’s never been a more exciting time for us,” added Helen.

The school works with many organisations such as the Worcester Repertory Company and the Elgar School of Music. Helen’s choreography has also travelled internationally with her work on the Worcester Rep’s The Comedy of Errors making an appearance at the International Shakespeare Festival in Romania alongside the National Theatre of Japan, Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory and many other internationally renowned theatre companies.

Associate director of the Worcester Repertory Company Ben Humphrey has worked with Helen for many years and said: “There’s no doubt that it’s a very exciting time to be a part of the arts community in Worcester.”

Helen added that there is a lot of talent – dancers, singer and actors – in Worcester from children through to adults.