Maddy Lee, a Bird College graduate, Upper Circle contributor and professional dance and singing tutor, took the time to chat with Upper Circle about her new business venture: The Space.
A business born over lockdown, Maddy made the most of her step brother’s personal training studio in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire to teach socially distanced one-to-one dance and singing lessons to people of all ages in the local community. No matter their ability, people have thoroughly enjoyed expressing their creativity into song and dance with Maddy’s guidance and teaching. Maddy also provides online tuition, so no matter where you live, you can enjoy professional, one-to-one singing and dancing lessons from the comfort of your own living room!
I had a proper chin-wag with the lovely Maddy, discussing all things theatre, lockdown and of course, The Space…
Hello Maddy! Tell us a bit about yourself and how The Space evolved over lockdown.
I’m someone who can’t sit still, and when lockdown hit I had to move back home with my family. However, my step brother has a studio space down the road that he uses for personal training sessions, and there were plenty of little rooms in the building that weren’t being used, so I thought – right, I need to do something! I can set up one-to-one singing and dancing lessons, I know exactly what I’m doing, and this is a brilliant way to keep things ticking over.
Some of the people I teach just want to do something that will make them happy, and I really believe that singing and dancing does that – you don’t need to be really serious about it! Although I’m more than happy to train people who are more serious about developing their skills, right now I think it’s crucial to do something that brings you joy.
I started advertising in my local village, and do a lot of online classes too – I’m aware that I live in a very specific area, so for those who live elsewhere, you can opt for one-to-one teaching online instead! It’s a brilliant opportunity to keep up your training while everything has stopped and studios are closed, but it’s also a great way to have a bit of joy brought to your life!
That sounds like so much fun! What style of dancing and singing do you teach?
A bit of everything really! When it comes to dance, I’m trained in Jazz, musical theatre, contemporary, commercial, tap and ballet – I’m ISTD trained if anyone wants to continue their ballet grades, and I know tap grades too! I also love freestyle work – working on new routines is really fun. With singing, I’m fully trained in the Estill model. I also do LAMDA exam training with some of my younger students.
The pandemic has been really tough for a lot of people. How has The Space helped you and others?
Everyone who has come for a taster lesson so far has continued attending lessons, which is amazing. It really proves that when you motivate yourself to attend, you feel positive. For example, I have a woman who comes to me for singing lessons, and sometimes she’ll email me beforehand saying that she’s not feeling up to it that day, but I’ll always say, “come on, you can do it!”, and we’ll have a little sing-song together, and by the end she’ll be beaming, and feel so much better for it. It’s all about motivation – getting yourself moving in the first place, and I feel like The Space has really helped motivate people at this time.
Right now, we’re all really missing theatre and live performance terribly. What does theatre mean to you?
It’s life. It’s sanity. I’ve had so many meltdowns about not being in a space where you feel like you can interact in that way, where you feel like you have that sense of belonging. I’ve tried to do a lot of streaming – there’s been lots of stuff from The National Theatre, which has been brilliant. But it’s so hard not being in the room, and feeling the energy from the actors. Theatre also raises a lot of issues that don’t get discussed otherwise, which is so important. Having said that – I also enjoy a really cheesy musical!
What do you think the theatre industry will look like post-pandemic?
I worry that Fringe theatre might not have enough funding, which is scary. Of course, I love what bigger theatres like The National and The Old Vic do, but you need both. You need a variety of voices. But if I’m going to be more optimistic, I hope people will value theatre and each other’s company more.
I think there’s going to be a lot of pandemic themed plays – a lot of people have had time to write plays during lockdown! I’m actually one of them – I have written a play about female genital cutting, set in a dystopian world where every girl gets cut. I had a script reading over Zoom a couple of weeks ago, which was amazing. I’d love to take it to a Fringe venue next year.
You mentioned that you’ve been streaming some theatre productions – what has been your favourite show you’ve seen in lockdown?
Ooh, that’s tough! I think it was probably The National Theatre’s Twelfth Night with Tamsin Greig – that was brilliant!
If you are interested in booking singing or dancing lessons online with Maddy, you can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org