There’s a natural warmth that radiates from Jodie Lee, even though she’s not feeling too good. It’s that time of year and of course, some of us just get caught out. However, as we meet this Sunday afternoon to shoot our front cover, you definitely wouldn’t be able to tell, and that’s not because of the bronzer. No, Jodie Lee is a true professional. The show must go on and all that jazz…
Jodie has always been known as a triple threat performer; I’ve known that from my own performing arts days. With a new show coming up and exciting goings-on happening next year, Jodie explains why she loves performing so much and how her long history with the profession started, despite hiding under her Nan’s chair to start with.
“My nan took me to my first dance class when I was 3 years old. I actually hid under my Nan’s chair for the first couple of lessons but I soon got involved and my love grew from there. My parents slowly introduced me to more classes as I got older until I had at least 2- 3 hours of classes a day! I took classes in all genres of dance, drama and also had singing lessons. I loved performing. It is where I weirdly felt most myself. I loved playing different characters, mastering new steps.”
But committing to your passions doesn’t always come easy, especially when you’re young. It takes dedication to stick with what you love. “By the time I was a teen I had 2-3 hours of training a day” Jodie continues. “I did struggle with this at times as at that age, you do want to be going round to friends’ houses, to birthday parties or get togethers. I would be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with this a few times but on the other hand, my dancing, singing and acting classes gave me another group of close friends with the same interests and passions.”
But thankfully she had a great support network of family and friends to cheer her on. Jodie knew she didn’t want to stay in Jersey and study A Levels, and boldly, decided she’d rather train in the UK and focus on her performing. She spent 3 years at Bird College in Sidcup, Kent, honing her craft, though it might not have been that way at all if she hadn’t stuck to what she believed in. However, Jodie and her parents knew it was the right thing for her.
“A few of my teachers tried to convince my parents that this was the wrong thing to do at my age (at just 16) but my parents supported my wishes to try and further my training” Jodie adds.
It must have been a difficult decision to come to – and at such a young age, to pursue a passion in a very fickle, up and down industry, as opposed to A levels. But through the encouragement of friends going to watch Jodie at gigs and with her loved ones around her, she knew she’d always be able to get by.
And in the recent years, Jodie’s husband Mark would fly out to visit whilst she was performing in various places in Italy, or in Menorca when she was working out there. Travelling as a performer brought many new experiences. Instead of staying in London, Jodie became part of the community she worked with on board ships or with her fellow tour castmates. However, she has fond memories of being part of our local productions in Jersey, including being part of JADC and the Green Room Club, as well as her dance and drama schools.
Focusing on local arts now she teaches and works in Jersey, I wonder how she feels about dance, music and drama being taught in schools and whether we let children nowadays explore with performance enough. Why is it so important to keep these subjects going?
“I truly believe that the arts should be accessible to all and be taught in schools. Children should be able to experience and express themselves through art every day. Whether it be art, drawing, music, dance or drama. So much pressure is put on children now to reach standards in Maths and English that they are not getting the chance to show how talented they are or could be in many other areas.”
It’s clear that to Jodie, teaching the arts is as important as actually performing herself, having set up Jodie Lee Performing Arts Academy in 2014. Her passion for keeping an eye on local talent and encouraging other young artists to pursue their dreams and goals is obvious when she discusses their potential. But there are obstacles in their way… “Students of mine have qualified for large dance competitions such as the Dance World Cup and this year’s World Dance Challenge,” she explains “and these are amazing opportunities to represent Jersey on a world stage but we have not been able to source any financial help or funding. The children and parents have worked so hard over the years to fundraise through different events to help cover costs of travel and entrance fees, but there have been a couple of occasions when very talented youngsters cannot attend due to the financial cost, which is such a shame.”
It is such a shame, and clearly more needs to be done to shed light on these young performers and the struggling arts opportunities. However, Jodie’s moto of ‘Believe & Achieve’ is exactly what she tells her students, and she will not be deterred from inspiring them to work hard and reach their goals.
“The motto that I always tell my students is ‘Believe & Achieve’. If you believe you can do it and want it bad enough, then keep working hard towards that goal and you will achieve your dreams. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t give anyone false hope in believing the arts are an easy option because it really isn’t. It takes lots of hard work and determination. I am always honest with my students and admit there were times I wish I had worked harder and not been so eager at times to finish my training and start performing! Like any craft or skill, it’s what you put in to it. You can’t expect to train 1 hour a week and be the best you can be.”
As Jodie explains, this is really important when it comes to the turbulent world of show business.
“The ‘Believe’ part of this motto is really important as there are so many knock backs in this industry, making it quite easy for people to give up because they stop believing in themselves. Sometimes you can be the most talented person in the room but the casting director is looking for a 5 ft 7 brunette and you are 5ft 5 and blonde. It is just the way it is and you need to be determined enough to carry on.”
Jodie has done a bit of everything when it comes to performing – a real triple threat. And not only can she sing, act and dance on any stage, but there have been challenges to her shows that would have thrown any performer off their game. Literally! From doing a seven minute can-can routine, to dancing on a moving stage (as if dancing on a normal stage isn’t hard enough), she has a lot of funny stories to tell when it comes to working on cruise ships.
“I remember one particular bumpy night where I was just about to dance a lift with one of the male dancers. In this lift you go into a handstand onto his knee and propel yourself up and over his shoulder, to end up behind his back in what is called the crucifix lift (you are straight, with your arms extended to the side and he holds you up above his head under your arms.) Well on this night, as we performed this move the ship went over a wave and as I was going over his shoulder the ship dipped. So it felt like the stage floor rose up, because rather than being in the air I hit the floor with a thud!”
But Jodie knows the secret to a successful show isn’t always smooth. The bumps in the road can happen anywhere and it’s important to ‘get on with the show’ as the saying goes. This happened to Jodie just this last summer with a most recent mishap being at the Merton Hotel. A dancer down, Jodie and the cast had to switch a few things around last minute…
“I forgot to double check our music before handing my laptop over the tech man. The show started fine but as the girls prepared to go on for an Irish dance number, the French scene music started to play! I had somehow put the music in the wrong order and so our Singer had to start singing in the wrong costume whilst I ran out to the sound desk to try and figure out a plan!”
Ah, show business. Anything can happen.
This season, we’re all hoping for smooth sailing with the new show Jodie is starring in, alongside an incredible cast, in the Aladdin Pantomime at the Radisson Blu Hotel – so that’s another busy performing season coming up and Jodie is extremely excited. “I first got contacted by Mendes Management via my school to provide a show team of local young dancers to perform in the show. At our first meeting we got talking and they asked me to send over my show reel. I was then offered the part of the Princess and I was really chuffed. The show is being held at the Radisson Blu from December 19th - 23rd and there’s 9 shows in total. The cast is made up of professionally trained actors including Dale Meeks, an ex-Emmerdale actor, as well as two teams of 8 dancers (who are performing alternating shows) from my school, the Jodie Lee Performing Arts Academy.”
It’s another great show for Jodie to add to her ever growing list, though does point out a quick favourite. “One show that will always be special to me is ‘Joseph and the Technicoloured Dream Coat’ that I did with the JADC when I was around 11 years old. I was cast as the part of the Narrator and it was my first ever lead role! I absolutely loved it! This show definitely made my love for performing on stage grow. At the JADC show awards that year I won the trophy for ‘Best Newcomer’.”
Clearly, they could see her potential and what a star in the making she was…
And Jodie also now looks to the future. “Since being back in Jersey I set up JLee Productions with one of my best friends, who is also a trained dancer. We have produced summer season shows at The Merton Hotel for 5 years now and also provide entertainment for lots of public and private events. We are planning our first ever large-scale production show at the Jersey Opera House in February 15 2020, called ‘Bond in Concert’, celebrating over 50 years of James Bond in the build up to the brand new movie being released. The show will involve a 15 piece band, professional singers and dancers!”
Home grown talent doesn’t come much more obvious than this. A go-getter, inspirational worker and a kind heart, it sounds like Jodie has always abided in her own motto. Having done so much in her life already, from teaching youngsters who could one day be future stars, to performing in a variety of shows, to producing them for large scale events, she really can say she has believed and achieved.