WORLD famous ballerina Darcey Bussell DBE came to Newport on Friday to show school children how dance can be an important part of their lessons.

The Diverse Dance MIX (DDMIX) for Schools enterprise aims to get dance fitness into as many school’s as possible, making it an integral part of PE.

Benefits of DDMIX include it being easy to teach, celebrates diversity, inclusive, non-competitive, develops creativity, and children can do it in any space. Children love it, getting a release of feel good endorphins whilst getting fit.

DDMIX have created more than 30 different genres, ranging from the Haka and Bollywood, to Flamenco and line dance. Each dance is three minutes with just four key steps, allowing children exposure to multiple dance styles.

Giselle Parker is CEO of DDMIX and said: “Working with the children and getting them moving is so rewarding and lovely.

“Dance is a part of PE but often the classes aren’t that inspiring, so we’re trying to make it fun and inclusive. There are eight or nine schools from Newport that will be taking part in a celebratory show on Friday.

“We try to push the fun factor, using new and different routines from around the world. Everyone is on the same level, so there’s no bias and it’s inclusive.

“For Friday’s show at Dolman Theatre each school had involved was sent a routine which they performed.

“This shows the work that Darcey, and everyone involved – with more than 180 instructors involved – have put in to ensure children keep fit.

“If a child isn’t engaged in sports by the time they’re eight-years-old they may never engage, which is why it’s important to start young.

“Our classes aren’t extreme. They’re fun and creative, keeping children active. When they dance, they’ll release endorphins and they’ll associate being active with that good feeling.

“Everyone can dance. When your favourite song comes on you can’t help but to move about and we are all about that passion, enthusiasm and fun.”

A huge factor in DDMIX coming to school’s in Newport was a friendship between Jo Manoukian, from Newport, and Dame Darcey Bussell.

Ms Manoukian grew up on the Ringland Council Estate in Newport, attending St Gabriel’s Primary School and St Joseph’s High School (both of which are involved in the programme).

Reflecting on her younger years, Ms Manoukian said: “Always a keen dancer along with my friends, we entered the school dance conception as 4 Star. Wales’s version of 80’s band 5 Star. We came in second. We all lived and breathed dancing.”

Ms Manoukian left home and moved to London and, in 2008, founded her own dancing concept. She explained: “It was paramount to me that my ladies left my studio exhilarated not intimidated. To create an environment that encourages women to express themselves of which confidence is then a by-product was my incentive and my goal for every lady that steps in to my dance world.”

This career path led to her meeting Darcey who introduced her to DDMIX for schools, leading to Ms Manoukian funding the project to go to St Gabriel’s Primary School and St Joseph’s High School.

She said: “I have nothing but wonderful memories of my school years, I wanted to give back and help build the confidence of children. I strongly believe that my generation were more comfortable with themselves and therefore confident and certainly more active.

“I am not sure I can say the same about the youth of today. We can certainly work on trying to change that. I am honoured to make a small contribution to DDMIX for Schools and to my Welsh roots.”

There were 12 schools scheduled to take part in the DDMIX for Schools Festival on Friday, with young talent showcased at Dolman Theatre.

Darcey Bussell joined local instructors, including Kelly Bennett, in watching the performances, in an atmosphere buzzing with excitement and energy.

School’s included: St Joseph’s High School, Always Primary School, Glasllwch Primary School, Gaer Primary School, Glan Usk Primary School, Mount Pleasant Primary School, Crindau Primary School, Clytha Primary School, Eveswell Primary School, St Andrew’s Primary School and Ringland Primary School.

Unfortunately, St Gabriel’s Primary School, who are already part of the DDMIX programme, were unable to attend but that didn’t stop the excited atmosphere at the packed theatre.

Darcey welcomed everyone, even greeting them with the Welsh ‘croeso’ and said: “We are very excited to be here for this festival.

“Kelly runs the programme and she works incredible hard, with us showcasing DDMIX throughout the country until June.

“It’s a brilliant opportunity to experience a taste of what DDMIX is all about. I’m so happy you’ve all come to perform and couldn’t be more excited.

“Thank you to everyone, including Jo Manoukian who made this possible. We hope everyone has a fabulous time, full of energy and smiles from beginning to end.

“We want you to give 100 per cent so the roof flies off with energy.”

Following a warm-up, the schools took to the stage to show off their moves, demonstrating a range of dances including African, Japanese, line dancing, Arabic, 1980s and the hand jive, all performing fantastically.

Whilst Jo and Darcey took on the difficult challenge of picking a winner, Kelly Bennett who runs the programme told the audience more about the DDMIX programme.

She said: “We cover a range of eras and countries and genres, giving children the confidence to do more.

“Today was just a taster of what’s on offer, but the programme also includes games and activities, helping people develop their creativity and confidence so they can make their own dances.

“We can come to your school and train all your teachers so everyone can have a go. We also run workshops and training days, if you’d prefer to send a teacher to learn.

“We had a taster of what’s on offer today, but there’s so much more to it, including 1970 disco, Bollywood, swing and more.”

Darcey returned to the stage and said: “We are so inspired by your energy and we would love to do this again. Performing on stage can be daunting but you are all amazing and were all extra smiley. You all get a 10 out of 10 from me, but there can only be one winner.”

Glasllwch Primary School, who were dressed in black with glow bracelets, won with their performance of Japanese dancing. Each school that took part was praised and presented certificates for their hard work.

To find out more about DDMIX for Schools visit