Square Dances was commissioned by Dance Umbrella in association with Rosemary Lee Projects and Artsadmin, supported by the Place and Arts Council England, and sponsored by Bloomberg.
Created for four squares in central London, the pieces could be viewed in any order by walking from square to square. Each square had its own distinctive cast – one hundred women in Gordon Square, ten children in Woburn, thirty five men in Brunswick and twenty third-year students from London Contemporary Dance School in Queen. Each work was performed six times a day over one weekend.
Each work was accompanied by unique bells, ranging from hand-held bells, a huge church bell struck with a mallet to Automata Musica No 1, and a winding wooden barrelled machine to play pitched bells created by Terry Mann.
Rosemary posed for herself the challenge of creating works that left no trace, with the performers seeming to appear out of and disappearing into the surrounding city. Each work had to compliment the others but exist in its own right and be completely specific to its own square, noting its history, landscape, light and mood. Rosemary wanted to create fleeting dances that could be etched in peoples' memories, epic and intimate in equal measure. She hoped to alter how the square and its flora and fauna were perceived and experienced by the viewer, during and after the dance, highlighting nature amidst the urban environment.
Greenwich Dance initially invited Rosemary to create a large scale participatory project for their expansive Upper Hall, she was then commissioned by Dance Umbrella with additional support through ACE and Artsadmin. Initially responding to the site whose expanse of wooden floor and proportions reminded her of common land, she chose to inhabit the space with 50 performers all ages, exploiting the unusual exits and entrances and the balcony, orientating her performance so it was directly above the dancing space. She sought to create a symbolic common ground in which age, race and gender divisions are less relevant and where what we share in common, as well as our diversity is embraced.
Rosemary commissioned Terry Mann to create a choral score in three parts with ambient soundscapes created to begin the work and separate the choral movements. She invited Finchley Childrens' Music Group to sing the works, a group of 50 young people from 8-19 years, who sang from the balcony over the heads of the dancers to the audience beyond. The libretto was edited by myself with support from Terry Mann and collated from excerpts of poetry and prose from various cultures and centuries. Rosemary and Terry were awarded the first John Drummond Award for the commission.
Common Dance represented a return to site-specific large-scale participatory work, her first since 1999. Her initial exploration began with indigenous dance and music forms and their relationship finding ways to subvert the basic structures of folk dance and music; combining informality and formality, coupled with socio- political change (such as the right to gather) and consideration of identity and culture. As the work progressed, Rosemary explored methodologies to create the work with such a diverse group, how to: unify the group as a close ensemble but highlight individual differences of each performer, find a shared symbolism and movement language, find a shared performance quality or vulnerability and strength, share the themes of the work that began to emerge as the revealing the nature of our existence and passing as the unifying commonality between us all.
An exhibition covering the making of the work and writing of the libretto was on display in the foyer. A seminar on the making of the work, also investigating the themes such as traditional folk forms and contemporary forms, and experience of the participants was supported by ResCen and took place one afternoon before the matinee.
The final cast was made up of 48 dancers and 51 choir members from Finchley Children's Music Group. A core team of eight professional dancers– -Ben Ash, Henrietta Hale, Lizzy LeQuesne, Thomas Goodwin, apprentices Antigone Avdi, Alex Helmsley, Tara Rutter and Robbie Synge. The team of 40 non-professional dancers ranged from an 8-year old school girl dancing with her mother, to an 84-year old ballroom dancer, and included a mother and her teenage son; street-dancing twins; a dance anthropologist; a GP; a head teacher; a 19-year old dance student who first worked with Rosemary on Passage in 2001 aged eleven; and a woman in her forties who last danced with Rosemary in her first large scale work which strongly influenced Common Dance – New Springs from Old Winters.
In 2010 a full-length video of Common Dance, filmed and edited by Ros Chesher with additional support from Rosemary Lee was screened at Greenwich Dance as part of the Dance Umbrella festival.
On Taking Care
Rosemary Lee and Professor Martin Welton at Queen Mary University of London and Nicky Childs at Artsadmin in association with SE Dance curated and co-ordinated the event.
On Taking Care double DVD
In 2001 Ch4pter, a group of three experienced dance artists based in the North West, commissioned Rosemary to work with them. Ch4pter are committed to undertaking work that will challenge them whilst allowing the artists they work with to have the freedom to explore and develop their own work.
Rosemary wanted to investigate how working in a distinctive landscape would affect the work being made. She also wanted to challenge the dancers as performers and herself as a choreographer. She worked with characterisation, hidden narratives, extensive improvisation, complex spatial patterns and movement phrases, as well as continuing to draw on the landscape and weather of coastal East Anglia. Beached began life under the expansive windswept skies of East Anglia with a residency at Snape Maltings in 2001.
Research was supported by DanceEast and created with funding from Dance Northwest. It was revived in 2004 and toured to London and the North West.
Choreographed by Rosemary Lee with the dancers
|the Suchness of Heni and Eddie
an inside out performance
This hybrid performance/lecture-dem un-picked and exposed the layers of exploration within the creative process. Intimacies, subtleties and fruitful accidents were revealed as the audience witnessed the dancers’ thought processes and physical challenges and heard the choreographer’s struggles and discoveries. Simultaneously an intimate duet unfolded before their eyes.
the Suchness of Heni and Eddie explored a new form of presentation that is both educational in its broadest sense and a performance at the same time. It was designed to be presented in more intimate settings such as studio spaces. It toured to the main UK Higher Education institutions offering dance at postgraduate level as well to various dance agencies and festivals, including NottDance06. It was first shown at the ResCen conference Nightwalking (2002) and was then developed and toured in 2006-2007. The development of the Suchness of Heni and Eddie was supported by ACE and ResCen.
Choreographed by Rosemary Lee with the dancers
A video installation where the interaction of the viewer and on-screen dancer becomes an intimate pas de deux.
The viewer enters a corridor to find a virtual dancing partner waiting in anticipation at the far end. As they begin to explore the consequences of subtle and extreme changes of motion, the viewer effectively ‘scratches’ the dance video back and forth, faster and slower. The longer they stay the more they discover as new sections of dance and new contexts are revealed. They can meet up to six virtual dancing partners of all ages.
Rosemary continually investigates new contexts for her work and mew media. In Remote Dancing she and Nic Sandiland investigate ways to involve an audience intimately as participating partner and choreographer. Remote Dancing premiered at the Festival Hall, the South Bank in 2004 and has toured internationally and nationally over the last three years. It is often accompanied by another of their installations, Stereo Dances and Rosemary’s four films for broadcast made with filmmakers Peter Anderson and David Hinton. The sound for the installation and three of the films is composed by Graeme Miller.
Devised and created by Rosemary Lee and Nic Sandiland
Originally created through the Arts Council of England’s Capture series and further developed with a commission by RFH Education, South Bank Centre London with additional support from ResCen.