As a child, Lindsay Fussell used to stage theater productions in her grandmother’s basement. Family and friends were all charged admission to witness her solo performances.
Lindsay Fussell teaches her students, Hadley Griffith, Andryia Mawoko, Ella Hawkins and Kennedy Doan, a new dance with a sailor theme during dance class at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre in Chattanooga. Fussell finds costumes to match choreography she creates for her students.Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Later, her mother would drive her to Chattanooga from Trenton, Ga., for dance classes. When the late Nancy Lane Wright brought her dance school to Chattanooga in the early 1970s, Fussell said her life changed.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” Fussell said. “I used to practice writing my name real messy so that when I became famous, I’d have a messy signature.”
Today, Fussell teaches just about every type of dance except ballet. She figures that she has taught thousands of local dancers over the years. She’s also choreographed dozens of plays, starred in more than a few and she had a part in the off-Broadway production of “That Other Woman’s Child,” written by fellow Chattanoogans George S. Clinton and Sherry Landrum.
“That was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream,” Fussell said.
She’s also choreographed a new dance segment for the Grande Illumination for the last several years and last year helped create a flash-mob dance at the Tennessee Aquarium plaza that was put on Youtube last year.
Q: What all do you have going right now?
A: I’m working on the choreography for “Little Women” and “Hairspray” and “Rent” is coming up next month at the [Chattanooga] Theatre Centre. I teach at Theatre Centre — children to adults — and the Center for Creative Arts and at Chattanooga State in their Professional Actors Training Program. I just returned from the Southeastern Theater Conference and saw some great things there.
* Hometown: Trenton, Ga.
* Education: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
* Children: Holly and Susanna
* Vocation: Dance teacher/choreographer, Jazz Pluss Productions.
* Book: Ken Follett’s “The Pillars of the Earth.”
* Musical: “Memphis.”
* Movies: “127 Hours” and “The King’s Speech.”
* TV: “Modern Family,” “Law & Order,” “V,” “Bones.”
* Song: “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” (“I just learned a dance routine to it.”).
* Performers: Bebe Neuwirth, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert.
Q: What did you learn there that you didn’t know?
A: I saw some new tips for vocal auditions. Some great choreography and some TV acting tips.
Q: Have you been doing much acting yourself?
A: I shot the lead in a short film that Pat Buckley wrote [“Sunlight Dancing”], and I do the annual ‘Nutcracker Christmas Carol” at Chattanooga State. I did “The Graduate” at the Theatre Centre a few years ago.
Q: How do you keep all of this straight?
A: Notebooks. I keep copious notes in notebooks.
Q: You choreograph so many things, how do you keep from repeating yourself?
A: Well, the music kind of speaks to you, but some things, like if you are doing a ’60s musical, you are gonna repeat yourself. There are some stock moves that you would use and then just create some different steps around them.
Q: Do you ever get stuck creatively?
A: Sure, but then I can get feedback from the cast or students. I might put in 16 bars of improvisation or put on a piece of music and I will watch them looking for something that will trigger an idea.
Q: How would you rate the state of dance and theater in Chattanooga right now?
A: I think it is booming and the only bad part about a booming theater scene is that it is hard to get to everything. I think Nancy Wright was the impetus for that change.
Q: What is something about you that most people might not know?
A: I was a majorette in high school and college.
Q: Is there any type of dance that you don’t teach?
A: I don’t teach ballet. I do tap, jazz, swing, salsa, theater dance, hip-hop and creative movement.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...