truly fortunate to have a dance and performing arts school of a very high
standard. The Willow Tree Centre of Dance and Performing Arts
was founded 40 years ago and is still run by the amazing Irene Holland.
Last week, over 200 Willow Tree students took part in their end of year
showcase - aptly titled
Stage Door Street, in the
New Hall. Irene, herself, took to the boards in a cameo role which brought
the house down. She has a line-up of committed and talented
teacher/choreographers plus a back stage team whose organisational skills
must be second to none.
Performances were hugely entertaining with a massive range of
techniques and skills on display. The dance numbers from pure ballet to
street tap and hip hop, the accomplished singing, from the latest in popular
music to an ABBA medley, were all a delight. The costumes, as ever,
were colourful and imaginative with the Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz
taking the ultimate crown. The audience was enthralled as number after
number rolled out interspersed with a comic running gag in the shape of
banter between 2 hard-nosed theatre cleaners, Julie Firbanks and Mandy Hunt
- one with a life time ambition to perform in a musical. And she got her
chance as the evening ended with the entire cast zapping us with numbers
Ed Pocock sang Mr Cellophane
with the right poignancy while the energy and bravado of the choreography as
demonstrated by the Willow Tree performers was remarkable. Issy Hollis,
among many others, gave it her all.
The finale of the
first half of the evening, Tyre Tracks, an advanced jazz number, was
also tremendously exhilarating with a notable performance from Mollie
Shearman. The intermediate ballet Ghosts was a visual feast as the
impressionist paintings of ballet dancers by Degas floated before our eyes
and transported us back to 19th century Paris. I loved it.
Of many outstanding performers, I thought Emily Searle showed
charisma and talent as did Abi Richardson, Esther Felix, Beth Dinsdale,
Lauren Bridgeman and Amy Garland; Sammy Firbanks and Abi Pudney sang their
hearts out in a duet from Miss Saigon, Finlay Broadhead and 6 year
old David Baldwin who cart wheeled his way to an ovation.
It was a joyous evening in which the young dancers and
singers of Tiverton's Willow Tree Centre had a wonderful opportunity to
express themselves creatively and perform to a packed house every evening
for a week. Such valuable experience cannot be quantified.
by Amanda Knott