Irene Holland
Founder/Proprietor - The Willow Tree Centre of Dance & Performing Arts.

Irene Holland (nee Starr) was born in South London in 1930.  She attended local dance schools from three years old. At the age of 13 Irene was accepted into the Italia Conti Stage School.  She spent 3 years on a performing arts course and earned a diploma in Musical Theatre and Dance.

Irene performed as a soloist at the London Coliseum in ‘Where the Rainbow Ends’. She has toured with the Sadlers Wells Opera and was Mezzo Soprano in the chorus of ‘Hansel and Gretel’.

Irene has also performed in Pantomimes in London, Exeter, Cheltenham, and the provinces.  She has performed in Variety Shows on tours of the provinces and Germany, summer seasons in Blackpool, Great Yarmouth and Brighton.

During the period 1949 to 1952 Irene performed at the London Palladium as a Tiller Girl in the Variety Season.  She has worked alongside such greats as Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Jimmy Durante, and The Nicholas Brothers to name but a few. She also performed at the Ritz and Grosvenor Hotels in charity shows arranged for those who were severely wounded at war.

Following her marriage Irene moved to Devon where she began teaching, in between raising her family.  The Willow Tree Dance Centre was born.  The school now has in excess of 200 students and continues to grow.  Through Irene’s hard work and commitment the school has celebrated in the success of many students who have gained places at some of the most prestigious colleges and universities over the years.  These include – The Royal Ballet Junior Associates, The BRIT School of Performing Arts, Guildford College of Dance & Drama, Nesta Brooking School of Ballet (London), The Urdang Academy of Ballet and Performing Arts, The Royal Academy of Dance, Middlesex University Arts Educational School , Italia Conti Academy, The Rambert School of Ballet and Performing Arts, The Stella Mann School of Performing Arts, and The Central School of Speech and Drama.  Each year Irene awards students for their progress with trophies, some of which are sponsored by well known celebrities - Ross Kemp (Senior Drama Award), Penny Smith (Senior Performing Arts Award), and Bucks Fizz (Senior Singing Award).

The Willow Tree Centre of Dance & Performing Arts has 15 teachers and incorporates The Willow Tree Theatre Company which was founded by Irene and has in excess of 50 regular members.