UP CLOSE: Lena Dee Oliver, organiser of dance and fitness classes in Street

  Posted: 25.06.21 at 12:20 by Tim Lethaby

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Street Nub News aims to be supportive to every element of the community from business and shops to people and charities, and clubs and sports organisations.

Everyone is finding it tough at the moment and is desperate to get back to normal.

We are profiling some of these local businesses and groups regularly over coming weeks in a feature called UP CLOSE IN STREET in the hope that we can be a supportive springboard for their full return to business as usual.

Today we talk to Lena Dee Oliver, who runs Lena Dee Dance organising classes in Street and Barton St David, who talks about the difficulties the coronavirus crisis has caused for her classes and how she is getting them back up and running again.

During an in-depth Q and A session, she also talks about what she would change to improve the centre of Street and which movie star she would like to play her in a movie about her life.


Have you always lived in the Street area and, if not, what were the key considerations about moving here?

I grew up on the outskirts of London but my husband's family history in Somerset goes back a fair way, so we often found ourselves heading here for holidays.

We were married in Street in 2005 and always planned on moving out to the country when the time was right. Five years ago when on holiday in Somerton we decided it was the right time and promptly put our house on the market and moved into a rental here so we could get to know the area while looking for a house to buy.

It was clear that there was so much more of a community in Street and the local villages to where we had been living up by Heathrow airport, and we felt welcomed very quickly.

As a family we enjoy being able to mix the peace and space of living in a village with coming into the busier towns for restaurants and shops as well as being not too far from larger cities or the coast. An ideal location!

Tell us a bit about your personal business background Lena and how you ended up running your dance, fitness and Pilates classes for the over-60s?

I come from a dance, choreography and arts events background and have always been involved in performing in one way or another.

After the birth of my daughter and then reaching my 40s, I realised my body couldn't do everything as well as it used to and it needed some TLC so I concentrated my training on ways to restore my body but also future proof it as I got older. I looked at ways to combine my dance training with the rehabilitative benefits of Pilates and create creative classes that would keep people active as they got older too.

I believe it is very much a case of use it or lose it and it has been wonderful to see so many people in their 60s through to late 80s come along to class, willing to try something new and learn ways to keep their bodies and minds active, flexible, strong and most importantly maintain their independence. For me, exercise and fitness should be enjoyable and not a chore so I always aim to keep my classes fun and use an eclectic mix of music that appeals to all ages.

What do you like about Street? How are you involved in the local community?

Street manages to balance having a vibrant shopping centre with branded shops alongside supporting independent retailers.

I've always loved popping in to Clarks Village and trying out one of the new food stands but also seeing what is new on the High Street. Two of my classes are based in Crispin Hall and I try to work alongside the team there and the Community Hall to reach out to their community and make my classes inclusive to as many people as I can.

The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on many businesses and organisations - what are your plans?

As someone whose work was based in the fitness, arts and events industries, everything basically stopped for me last March.

After a few months off work and dealing with a stream of emotionally challenging events in my personal life, it was a relief to be able to return to teaching outdoor classes earlier this year and enjoy meeting up with class participants in the fresh air, where we could all keep our distance, feel safe and get back to looking after our health again. My fear is that so many people, especially older generations, have been unable to have access to these social and physical wellbeing classes that help keep so many other ill health conditions at bay.

My indoor classes reopened in May and I have initially been keeping class numbers small to give people reassurance that it is safe to come back indoors to exercise and with the increasing number of people having the vaccine, we can all hopefully return to some new normality by the end of the year.

What other businesses do you like and use in Street?

Cirque de Silk, run by the wonderful Phoebe, is a fantastic company offering aerial silks and hoop classes for children and adults in Crispin Hall.

My daughter fell in love with the classes a few years ago and we are so happy that classes have restarted. Street Shakes has been a life-saver over the past year with having an excuse to stretch our legs from home-schooling and pop out for a lovely milkshake.

I've become a bit addicted to Runway and bought several of their amazingly comfy trousers for teaching my fitness classes. We've also just discovered The Geeky Gamer and popped in to buy some Marvel merchandise.

As a family we have always tried to support local businesses and it is so wonderful to see new businesses starting up despite the restrictions of the past year.

The lockdown has been very difficult for many people - how do you think that Street as a village has coped?

Street has managed to still be a hive of activity throughout the past year with many restaurants, cafes, churches and other services offering deliveries and support to many locals and maintaining a real sense of community.

The Community Centre and Crispin Hall Team have bent over backwards to provide food and support for those who have needed it and come up with many ways to stay connected to the community. A great example of positivity in such challenging times.

If there was one thing in the village you would change, what would it be?

As I am sure a lot of local people would agree, bring back a supermarket so locals can walk to the shops to buy their groceries. Ideally one stocking local produce as we have such a wealth of local producers.

If you had one message for local residents, what would it be?

Be supportive of your community. Coming out of lockdown will be hard for many people as we have grown accustomed to a certain way of being and some may find it more difficult than others to integrate or feel safe out in public again. Look out for your neighbours and support those who may still feel vulnerable.

If you could choose one famous person to play you in a movie about your life, who would it be and why?

Drew Barrymore. I've been told on occasions that I look like her and I feel our personalities and sense of humour are pretty aligned.

Go to the Lena Dee Dance website:

Check out the Lena Dee Dance website here.


Check out some of our previous Up Close profiles:

Tom Moon, owner of Urban Yard

Mark Wheeler, owner of the Geeky Gamer

Rev Ana Lawrence, rector of Street with Walton and Compton Dundon

Katy Quinn, principal of Strode College

Paul Reddick, head teacher of Crispin School

Would you like to be the subject of an UP CLOSE profile or do you know someone who we should feature? Contact [email protected]

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