The Tap Dancer
Like all performers, Lee Payne’s working life was suspended in March 2020 by the Covid-19 pandemic. The abrupt cessation of performances was jarring. Lee has been a tap dancer for 40 years, inspired himself by artists including Peg Leg Bates, Jimmy Slyde, Gregory Hines , Chuck Green and many more.
“A lot of my work is to make people happy, to make people smile, hopefully inspiring someone, whether it’s through music or tap dancing, it’s to inspire them to be creative. When you are creative, it brings out the best part in people I reckon.
When you start doing what you want to do with your life creatively, then you can be happy – but what do I know – I’m just an artist!”
Lee misses the preparation and build up to live performances in the theatre, “whether I’ve put the show together or if I’m just part of it, the camaraderie you get from a group of people coming together to put a show on is amazing.”
To choreograph, train and perform a complex tap dancing piece live on stage, is what Lee has dedicated his life to. “The role of theatre is about triggering emotions, whether they’re happy or sad. To perform and make people smile, to make people happy so that they walk away feeling better, is what it’s all about for me.”
Lee hopes that his creativity inspires others, including his daughters. “Creativity is crucial for the children of the next generation, because if we neglect to give them the opportunity to be creative, we’ll be stuck in the same place, not knowing where the potential of human creativity lies.”
To walk into a theatre triggers many emotions for Lee, “I walk into a theatre and feel so much love for my art form. Every time I step onto an empty stage, it reminds me why I love doing what I do – which is tap dance!”
The impact of the lockdowns during the Coronavirus pandemic has been tough on performers like Lee. “This last year has been hard. Some people don’t see tap dancing as a real job. The amount of training I do – I train very hard to do what I do.”
The pandemic saw venues across the country close their doors in an effort to help prevent the spread of the disease. Artists weren’t listed as ‘essential workers,’ but for Lee, when the Entertainment Industry – recognised as one of the UK’s biggest revenue providers – received limited financial support during lockdown, it was tough. “To say that the Arts Industry is not viable at this time – is upsetting. We are viable.
Creative people, videographers, photographers, sound artists, performers, or artists – for you it might just be a hobby, but for one person it’s what they live for, what they dedicate themselves to – it is their livelihood.”
Lee is looking forward to getting his shoes back on and performing to live audiences again. “To be able to make people smile again will be amazing, to put new pieces together to make some new magic as it were, that’s what we try to do, make some magic for every performance.”
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