|Rosemary Lee has been choreographing, performing and directing for thirty years. Her work is characterized by a special quality of taking care, of listening to others and paying attention, that is unique to Rosemary's way of working and offers a model for community life. Since graduating from the Laban Centre, she has worked in a range of contexts, constituencies and media, and she continues to work with performers of all ages and experiences. Her work includes films for broadcast television, interactive installations and commissioned works for dance companies in theatre settings. While indulging her ideal of working in participatory settings, Rosemary continues to produce work of the highest artistic quality.
Rosemary's interest in site-specific work for large mixed-age casts has led her to make works in sites such as the ruined Haughmond Abbey, Shrewsbury (Haughmond Dances, 1990), Fort Dunlop Tyre Depot (Ascending Fields, 1992), the Festival Hall Ballroom (her work Stranded won a Time Out/Dance Umbrella London Performance Award in 1991), and The Banqueting Hall at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich (The Banquet Dances, 1999). Rosemary returned to this form when Greenwich Dance invited her and then Dance Umbrella commissioned her to create Common Dance (2009) for the vast upper hall of their building. Common Dance involves 50 dancers of all ages, and a large youth choir – Finchley Children's Music Group – singing choral works composed by Terry Mann with the libretto collated and edited by Rosemary. Dance Umbrella later commissioned her to create Square Dances (2011), a work that involved almost 200 dancers of all ages, moving to the accompaniment of bells of different sizes, in four London squares between which the audience could walk. In 2012, she developed one section of this work – Melt Down – for 35 men and performed it at Dance Umbrella 2012 at Central St Martins in London, and in Rio de Janeiro as part of the Panorama Festival. Both moving and inspirational, these works continue to touch participants and audience members long after their first performance.
In contrast to her large-cast works that can include community casts of 250 people, Rosemary makes solos for herself and for others, including The Galliard for Gill Clarke and Silver for Simon Whitehead. Both featured in Charged, an evening of solos with the Balanescu Quartet that toured in 1997. In 1999, she commissioned five makers from different fields to create solos for her in One to One, most notably Language Lesson by Graeme Miller and Time Lapses by Sue MacLennan.
Rosemary has collaborated with filmmaker Peter Anderson on several works including four films for broadcasting: boy, greenman (ACE/BBC2), Infanta (BBC2) (all produced by MJW) and Dancing Nation, a documentary for the Foundation for Community Dance about the power of dance to transform people's lives. She collaborated with Peter on an evening of work combining projection and live work, including the solo Brink and a large-scale intergenerational work Passage which premiered at the South Bank in 2001 and toured nationally. In 2003 she made Snow with award-winning filmmaker David Hinton (ACE/BBC/NPS). This work was entirely created from found archive footage.
Rosemary's interest in new contexts and sites for her work and her commitment to reaching new audiences has led her to develop interactive installation works. Apart from the Road (2001) featuring 9-10 year olds, was created in collaboration with film and installation maker Nic Sandiland and poet Chrissie Gittens for Barking Library. It then toured to Whitechapel and Hammersmith libraries in 2003-2004. Rosemary and Nic's large scale, interactive video installation Remote Dancing premiered at the Royal Festival Hall, the South Bank Centre (2004), and toured nationally and in Europe, including countries like the Netherlands, France, and Slovenia.
Rosemary has been commissioned to make work by dance companies and performers. These include Treading the Night Plain (1997-98) for Ricochet Dance Company and 3 Studies in Courtship (1998) for Transitions Dance Company, Studies 123 and 4 (2001) for Joviar Longo and Beached (2002) which was commissioned by a trio of dancers – Ch4pter – from Liverpool, and was subsequently revived and toured in the northwest in 2005-6. She directed Night Plane (2006) for aerialist and actress Matilda Leyser's solo tryptych Line Point Plane (2008) that toured nationally. Her most recent commission from a dance company Echo Echo in Northern Ireland is a City of Culture project. It has enabled her to bring together her interest in film and installation, site-specific work and participation. Without (2013) is a seven-screen video installation shot on location from the city walls in Derry/Londonderry, involving almost 400 local people participating and volunteering in the piece.
Through her work at ResCen, Rosemary developed a unique way of reflecting on her work through a collaborative partnership with writer Niki Pollard. Together they developed an on-going dialogue between choreographer and observer in which new thinking about the creative process of the artist is stimulated and questioned through open exchange between the creator and observer. They co-authored several written works including 'How to Hoard: writing field notes of rehearsals', a paper first presented at the Dance and Performance Ethnography Forum, De Montfort University (2004), 'Delving and Doubled Seeing on a Choreographer's Practice', Digital Creativity Vol. 15, Number 2, 2003, and Beached: a commonplace book (London: ResCen Publications, 2006).
This way of reflecting on and articulating process led to the Suchness of Heni and Eddie, a hybrid performance/lecture demonstration in which Rosemary talks to the audience as the performance takes place. It has toured all the major UK institutions offering undergraduate and postgraduate Dance degrees, as well as festivals such as Nottdance06. She published an interactive DVD the Suchness of Heni and Eddie with PARIP, University of Bristol and ResCen. Rosemary has recently created a ResCen double DVD On Taking Care exploring the making of Common Dance and her on-going themes and concerns. This was launched at a symposium she curated entitled again On Taking Care (2012) at Queen Mary, University of London, involving artists presenting work and expert speakers from the areas of health, social services and human geography.
Current projects include working with collaborator artist Simon Whitehead on creating a performance in a large urban tree. In addition, as Artist in Residence for Milton Keynes International Festival 2014, Rosemary will create a large scale work for the cathedral of trees in the city.
Rosemary guest teaches and lectures internationally. She has been the recipient of a Bonnie Bird Choreographic Award, two Digital Awards, and a Time Out Dance Umbrella Performance Award. Most recently she has been awarded a Fellowship from SEDance, the Bonnie Bird Choreographic Award for research, a Jerwood Choregraphic Award, and an honorary doctorate from Roehampton University. She is an Artsadmin and a Workplace artist.