Every school holidays, the Wanganui Competitions Society hosts talented young dancers, singers, musicians and actors from around New Zealand.

The October Dance Festival is currently in full swing at the Royal Wanganui Opera House and society vice president Hayley Sellars said it is the biggest dance competition in recent years.

"We had to close off the entries after only five days and there are over 800 items on the programme.

"This year there are 46 groups and troupes competing."

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For a number of years, the competitions have been held at Whanganui Girls' College where some of the larger groups struggled to perform on the stage.

"The move to the opera house has been on the cards for a while and we've had backing from some amazing dance schools around the country including Judith Fuge Dance Studios and the Dean McKerras School of Dance," Sellars said.

Zoe Chapman demonstrates her flexibility on the Royal Wanganui Opera House stage. Photo / Lewis Gardner
Zoe Chapman demonstrates her flexibility on the Royal Wanganui Opera House stage. Photo / Lewis Gardner

National judges for each performing art come to Whanganui each year and this year's dance adjudicator is Sara Scott.

Wanganui Competitions Society was formed in 1912 and has been encouraging young Whanganui talent with classes in performing arts ever since.

Sellars said the competitions formerly included highland dancing as well as jump rope contests and there are plans afoot to revive the Celtic dancing.

"Our job, as the committee, is to ensure the continued running of these local competitions, ensuring that the integrity of the society is maintained for future entrants. Here's to another 100 years."

Mizaan Turner puts on her best moves at the October Dance Festival competitions. Photo / Lewis Gardner
Mizaan Turner puts on her best moves at the October Dance Festival competitions. Photo / Lewis Gardner

For many years, the competitions were largely driven by Wanganui Competitions Society past president Eris Walker who died in August 2017.

Her family established the Eris Walker Trophy which is presented to an adult volunteer each year, along with numerous awards for performers.

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Kenzi Waters performing on the Royal Wanganui Opera House stage. Photo / Lewis Gardner
Kenzi Waters performing on the Royal Wanganui Opera House stage. Photo / Lewis Gardner

October Dance Festival: Royal Wanganui Opera House. Festival pass: adult $14.50, child $8.50. Daily passes also available. Book at RWOH.