Press Report


Tiverton Gazette


Tuesday July 20, 2010

Dancers take the audience on an artistic journey

   FROM Bollywood to the world under the sea, via Paris and Berlin, the audience in Tiverton was certainly taken on some journeys as part of this year's summer show from Willow Tree.
   The annual show serves as a culmination of the work throughout the year at the Tiverton-based centre for dance and performing arts.
   The show, entitled Journeys, ran at the New Hall in Barrington Street from July 14 to July 17 in front of a packed house.
   Becky Budden, who teaches modern dance at Willow Tree, said this year's show was every bit as popular with the audience as in previous years. She said: "The first night went really well. It is a very slick and polished show and you can tell from the looks on the young faces that the cast themselves are enjoying it."
   There is a place for everyone in the Willow Tree family in the show, which runs for two hours with interval, from the youngest pupils aged from four to five up to those aged 18 or 19 who are veterans of many summer shows.
   The junior singers make an appearance in the opening act, and later on the junior ballet dancers also enjoy their moment in the spotlight.
   "It is not overwhelming for them, it is a short spot but gives the young ones a chance to be up on stage and each year they do a little bit more, so they don't have to go in at the deep end," Becky said.
   There is also a dance for those set to leave the school, a rite of passage for those following in the footsteps of previous dancers who have gone on to some of the most prestigious stage schools.
   "The show is always a sell-out. It is a local show and the extended family and friends want to come along and see people they know," Becky said.

   A mix of different styles is showcased in the end of term show, including a Bollywood-style dance, a ballet with jellyfish under the sea, a tap routine begun waiting for a bus and a journey from Paris to Berlin in modern dance. Segments that played on familiar references included a Bugsy Malone homage, a Queen medley and an opening reinterpretation of Circle of Life from Disney's The Lion King.
This year's show was co-ordinated by Vicky Baldwin, with help behind the curtain from Vicki Baker.
   Becky said: "It can get very hectic backstage - some people have got to change costumes from one number at the side of the stage, in time for the next number, and make it look effortless."
   She said the show reflected the high professional standards expected from Willow Tree principal Irene Holland.
   "We have such a good team and Irene is such an inspiration to everyone, and makes us all want to put on a show which is the best it possibly can be," she said.

by Richard Wevill



Press Review


Tiverton Gazette


Tuesday July 27, 2010

Journey to jungle with Willow Tree stage show

   EACH year, I look forward to seeing Irene Holland's Willow Tree showcase at the New Hall. As ever, I was not disappointed by the evening's colourful entertainment. The overriding sense of pride and pleasure exuded by all students, of which there are over 200, is a joy.
   The Willow Tree curriculum is bulging with opportunities to learn a range of dancing and singing skills - taught throughout the school year by dedicated teachers without whom, as Irene said when she took to the stage, her school would not be what it is. The show was proof of the commitment of teachers and students.
   The African jungle was the theme of the opening number In the Beginning. The evocative song Wimoweh put the audience into a jolly good mood. The lions were portrayed by young pupils who were charming with their furry ears and furry patches.
   The singing was terrific; beautifully schooled and transformed for stage by Katy Baker and Debbie Shearman.
   The pianist throughout the evening, Alex Everett, 16, is accomplished in both piano playing and understanding the needs of singers and dancers.
   The number called Journey into Space, choreographed by Vicky Bladwin, was another triumph with a whacky central dancer, Red Evans.

   This number rocked and writhed and I loved it! Lauren Thomas performed Solitary Journey, a reference, I think, to her imminent departure from Tiverton to London and a new stage school.
   It was an accomplished contemporary dance solo. Also on her way to London and stage school is Sammie Firbanks, another Willow Tree student.
   Irene choreographed several delightful ballets; the one that truly captured my imagination on this occasion was Journey to Witch Mountain.
   To exhilarating music and smoking dry ice, the older students leapt and flew on and off stage creating a tornado of menace. Natalie King shone, not only in this number, but during the evening.
   I must also mention talented students Abi Richardson, Martha Dinsdale, Millie Chamberlain and Lydia Fitton who were always focused.
   With a rousing finale fulfilling a Journey Back to the Seventies choreographed by Ami Hill and Vicky Baldwin plus vocal tutor Heidi Manton, another year's work at Willow Tree was brought to a high-spirited close.

By Amanda Knott