For the past two terms, hundreds of children have been arriving at school early or giving up their lunch break, all in the name of art.
The primary and high school students have been rehearsing for one of the biggest events on the region's performing arts calendar - the 27th South Coast Public Schools Dance Festival.
The practice has been necessary to not only perfect the choreography but to ensure the dancers are telling the story, expressing an emotion or setting the mood of the dance.
Festival director Chris Richards said one of the aims of the festival, which is performed for the public at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre from Wednesday to Saturday, was to provide an opportunity for the community to recognise dance as an art form.
The performances will feature all styles of dancing including modern, contemporary, ballet, jazz, hip hop and tap.
Mr Richards, a dance teacher at the Wollongong High School of Performing Arts (WHSPA), said the festival was a celebration of the achievements in dance from students ranging from kindergarten to year 12.
"In classrooms all across our region, teachers have been rehearsing with their students for two terms to nurture talent and ensure quality performances for the audience to enjoy," he said. "The festival aims to showcase the outcomes of dance education in the Illawarra and South East region and to encourage excellence in these programs."
He said the event provided an opportunity for students to work towards a quality performance in a professional venue. "They work towards presenting an original, entertaining and professional event, which provides a positive and memorable experience for the teachers and students involved."
In addition, the festival encouraged the development and teaching of dance programs at a school level.
This year, there are 32 schools involved from Bulli to Mulwaree (in Goulburn district): 19 primary schools, 13 high schools and three special schools. The Illawarra and South East Region (ISER) Primary Dance Company will also perform twice.
Nine hundred children will present 51 items. Mr Richards said there would be six performances during the festival, with one additional closed performance. Each school can perform up to three times.
He said the strengths of the public education system in dance were recognised last year with the selection of 11 dance items in the State Dance Festival.
The groups that represented the region at a state level were Unanderra Public School, Nowra High School, WHSPA, and the ISER Primary Dance Company.
WHSPA performed five items with two of those selected for the showcase performance. The ISER Primary Dance Company was also selected for the showcase.
2014 South Coast Public Schools Dance Festival
Public performances: Wednesday, at 6.30pm; Thursday, at midday and 6.30pm; Friday, at 6.30pm; and Saturday, at midday and 6.30pm.
Tickets: $25 adult, $15 student/children, $10 Thursday matinee children/student Visit: merrigong.com.au