THE atmosphere in Tiverton's New Hall was sizzling with excitement for The Willow Tree Centre of Dance and Performing Arts' end-of-year showcase.
It was a joy to be there and see how this group of young dancers, singers and actors are developing year by year in massive leaps and bounds.
The opening number went straight to the heart of the matter - to entertain while showing off the technique and talent of younger performers. Every student has the chance to shine – and they do.
Millie Gubby, in pink sequins, Ben Fitton, and Esther Norton all shone in a brilliant version of Pirates of the Caribbean along with a group of tiny mermaids whose charming shell headbands showed how much care and design expertise is committed to the production of each number. David Baldwin and Finlay Broadhead were transformed, with wonderful choreography by Vicky Baldwin, into fierce sabre-wielding pirates.
Woven throughout the performance, were moving scenes from the musical Billy Elliot, touchingly directed by Vicky. Katy Baker, as Billy's dance teacher, and her Billy were entirely captivating. Ami Hill, a former Willow Tree student and now back as a teacher, choreographed an outstanding senior tap number. It was breathtaking in the way it built to an exhilarating climax.
The first half finished with a remarkable display of senior singing talent in a number from Shrek. Six beautiful Princess Fiona lookalikes, sang with extraordinary confidence led by Holly Baker, who also caught my eye in Umbrella, a street jazz number.
In the second half, Chloe Rose Jones proved an exceptional talent, as did Millie Shaw in a touching duet with Billy. In among the ballet, the jazz and the vibrant tappers, was an unexpected peep into the world of historical dance. The finale from the musical Matilda brought the company together – on scooters, on a swing, whirling conkers and all in vibrant blue school smocks. It was a sensational finale. Irene Holland, the founder of Willow Tree, should be congratulated – but as she points out, an evening like this is not achieved without the hard work, support and talent of a wonderful team of choreographers, lighting and costume designers and technical staff - in addition to the utterly committed performers.