GIFTED dancers from Swindon led Team England to resounding victory at a worldwide competition that saw them scoop two individual champion titles.

A group of 18 Swindon Academy of Dance performers were selected by a panel of industry experts to join around 200 English contestants at the Dance World Cup in Portugal and vie for the first place against nearly 3,000 children from across the world.

From tap, to ballet and folklore, the students aged between nine and 16 showcased their technical skills and passion at the international dance-off in Lagoa between June 29 and July 5.

They received three bronze medals and gold for their tap quartet and fusion dance group and the troupe was instrumental in propelling Team England to first place overall, ahead of Spain and Portugal.

Academy director Sarah Watson said: “We went in with no expectations. We submitted DVDs of the children to adjudicators and they selected 15 numbers. When they were announcing the winners for the fusion group, we heard the third place, and then second place being announced and I thought ‘oh well, maybe we have come fourth or fifth’ and then they called our name for first.

“It was amazing. It was very difficult to get them all to sleep after that. I just can’t explain what an experience it was.

“The children’s fusion group and tap quartet both achieved first place, which grants them automatic entry into next year’s final in Bucharest.

“To see the children having so much fun and enjoying their dancing was what it was all about.”

Pupils’ work ethic was tested in the run up to the World Cup finals with six weeks of intensive rehearsals.

“It was lovely for them to have their moment,” added the 48-year-old.

“They had worked very hard for six weeks. I think meeting dancers from so many different countries and seeing what’s out there made them raise their game. They want to strive to be better. I’ve really seen a change in their approach to their work.”