A PROJECT which uses dance to turn around the lives of disenfranchised young people is celebrating a long-term investment in its future.

Dance United Yorkshire became the latest Bradford-based arts company to be given 'national portfolio' status by the Arts Council England this week, meaning it gets substantial funding for the next three years, as well as being recognised as one of England's leading arts groups.

It is being awarded £90,000 each year for three years to support its work with young offenders, those excluded from school or any other young person at risk of becoming disengaged with society.

Artistic director Helen Linsell said: "This is a massive recognition that the Arts Council isn't just giving us some money to do a project, that they have actually looked at our work and said, 'We recognise this work is important, it is valuable and it is worth investing in'.

"That is very different to getting a project funded."

Dance United Yorkshire, based at St Peter's House in Forster Square, Bradford, works with school groups who suggest which young people could benefit from their programme.

The arts company then puts them through intensive five or six-week courses in contemporary dance, before they perform a piece in front of an audience at a professional venue such as the Alhambra Studio.

The aim is to build up their confidence, discipline and social interaction skills.

Miss Linsell said when they reached the end of the course, it was a "really, really emotional" experience.

She said: "I have got young people who say, 'This project changed my life'."

She said the extra money would help Dance United Yorkshire develop new choreography and reach even more young people, and also give them more support once they reached the end of the courses.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Bradford Council's executive member for culture, who has been campaigning for more arts cash for the district, said: "I'm really pleased they have achieved this level of funding from the Arts Council. It gives them three years of funding, and they are committed to Bradford as well. They work well in the district.

"I have seen performances they have done, and they have been producing really good quality work in Bradford."