Lisa Scott-Lee set up Dubai Performing Arts Academy to help kids learn new skills, not to become famous. We ask her what’s on offer.
What is Dubai Performing Arts Academy?
It is a dream come true. My husband Johnny and I have been in the performing arts industry for many years – both in pop groups, plus my husband has been in the West End. I’ve done a lot of TV and radio with my pop group Steps.
We’ve been living in Dubai for a few years and we wanted to raise the profile of performing arts here in Dubai. Coming from London, where there are so many fantastic academies, we are spoilt for choice. We notice that there wasn’t really a performing arts academy here that focused on singing, dancing and acting as a combination.
We launched in September 2014. We have been blown away by the support of everyone in Dubai and in the industry, both here and abroad. We are putting smiles on faces, which is what is it all about.
What was the most difficult thing when setting it up?
We were very lucky. We are in conjunction with Fitness First, which really helped. Their backing meant a lot to us, they loved our idea and wanted us to house our Academy in their clubs. We had a fantastic launch, and within the first week we had over 100 students.
Our first class was set up in The Lakes. We started with one class and are growing and growing — we now cater for ages three up to 18. We have a three-hour workshop on a Saturday at our Meadows venue for all ages. Students have an hour of dance, an hour of drama and an hour of singing. It sounds like a lot but we have different studios so rotate around as well as three specialised teachers.
What do the parents say about these classes?
Last year, I spent so much time every night taking my children to various activities, which were all different times at different venues — I was travelling all over Dubai! So this was the idea for our Saturday classes. One drop off, one pick up, one venue.
What do you do about shy children?
There are families who have children who are very shy — we want to help them come out of themselves a bit and build their confidence. Confidence is a skill that stays with you for life. Public speaking, interview techniques, being able to hold yourself correctly and project your voice are all very important at an early age.
Did you find it hard to make the transition from performer to teacher?
To be honest it was a very natural transition. I am still very much a performer at heart. We are very supportive of our teachers, who all love to perform as well. We think it makes us better teachers in the classroom if we are performing outside as well. I am still touring with Steps and Johnny does a lot of creative directing here in Dubai for big events. We still do all the aspects of the industry that we enjoy.
I grew up watching Fame on the telly — I wanted to eat, breathe and sleep the arts. I have been dancing since the age of three. Every night of the week I would learn a different form of dance. Growing up, I did sacrifice a lot of playing with my friends. But I was focused, I knew what I wanted to do. I didn’t have pushy parents, I just knew what I wanted to do. I was lucky that from an early age I had a goal and a focus in life.
Do the children at your Academy perform Steps songs?
Johnny and I had a bit of battle about this! I was hoping they would all want to learn Tragedy, and he was like, no! The students often come to me after a weekend and say, we were watching Steps at the weekend, we watched you in concert. It is flattering, and if I can help children become interested in the performing arts, then I’m doing my job right.
How do you spot real talent?
I don’t think it is hard to spot it. Real talent shines, it is there waiting to be nurtured. Performing is not about being famous. What’s more important is that you are successful and you are good at something. For me, fame does come with the job, but that shouldn’t be the driving force for anybody. It certainly wasn’t my driving force. I just wanted to perform. It was for the love of being on stage, entertaining people. That’s when I am at my happiest.
We are definitely not here to make people famous. We are here for children to enjoy the arts and really learn all the skills. My children Jaden and Star Lily, (aged five and seven) come to classes every Saturday. They absolutely love it. We would never push them, if they didn’t want to go, that’s fine. But I am secretly pleased that they love it!
Dubai Performing Arts Academy, Fitness First, various locations, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.dubaiperformingarts.com (04 424 5195).