Dancers from Washington DC are heading to George Washington’s British ancestral birthplace to stage a series of shows on board a spectacular sailing ship.

More than 50 ships from around the world are currently setting sail for Sunderland which, as host port for The Tall Ships Races 2018, will hold five days of celebrations, from 10-14 July.

And, also making the journey to the North East coast, is a troupe of dancers from the US capital.

In a unique Anglo-American collaboration, they will join dance students from Sunderland College to perform a specially-choreographed piece on board the Dutch vessel, Oosterschelde.

Six Sunderland dance students will perform the first part of the contemporary work, entitled Of Earth, the Sky and the Boundless Sea, on the quayside.

They will then lead the audience below decks where three professional dancers from DC-based, Company E, whose executive and co-artistic director, Paul Emerson devised the piece, will perform the second part.

The dancers will perform to original songs, composed and performed by Barry Hyde, former vocalist with Sunderland punk band the Futureheads, and four professional folk singers.

The Boundless Sea is based on the lives of many of the people who lived and worked aboard the Oosterschelde during its 80 years as a merchant vessel.

Paul said: “We wanted to develop something that embraced not only Sunderland’s unique shipbuilding history but also honoured the lives of those who travelled the seas in those vessels made here and around the world.”

The project is the latest in a series of working partnerships that have developed from Sunderland City Council’s Sister City relationship with Washington DC.

Of Washington DC’s 13 sister cities worldwide, Sunderland is the only British one – and the only one which is not a capital.

“We have a very special relationship with Washington DC,” said Cllr John Kelly, Cabinet member for Communities and Culture, Sunderland City Council.

“We have a unique link in that George Washington’s ancestors once lived at Washington Old Hall.”

“This is the latest in a string of joint cultural projects which have been of huge benefit to our young people and we are incredibly grateful to Company E for making this journey,” he added.

“It will be a very beautiful show and very moving, in an entirely unique setting. However, as space below decks on the ship is limited, tickets are restricted to just 20 per performance, so I would urge people to book quickly.”

Performances of Of Earth, the Sky and the Boundless Sea will take place on Thursday 12 at 10.30am, 11.15am and 12.00 noon, and Friday 13 July at 10.30am and 11.15am.

Tickets, which are free, are available on Eventbrite at

They are limited to 20 people per performance, who must be aged over 10yrs and be sufficiently able bodied to climb up and down ships’ stairs.

For full details of the event programme and more information about The Tall Ships Races Sunderland 2018, visit follow on Twitter @TallShipsSund or Facebook at: Tall Ships Races Sunderland.

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