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Animated Edition - Issues 1996 - 2001
Running on empty
Animated, Summer 1998. Choreographer and performer Rosemary Lee has barely had time to draw breath from a prolific but inspirational creative period spanning almost three years. Animated catches up with her as she embarks on an Arts Council research project designed to deepen and challenge her as an artist and creator
Lee's itinerary is indicative of the current generation of choreographer - performers who span the spectrum of the industry illustrating a diversity of interest and commitment to a staggering variety of sectors. Between 1996 and 1998 she has revived three solos - Exhale, Galliard and Heart Home, made five new pieces - Silver, Treading the Night Plain for Ricochet, Five Songs for Lillian Baylis over 60s group, 3 Studies in Courtship for Transitions and Litany for third year students from Middlesex University, directed and toured Charged, made a new film greenman, directed a large two week event for children at the Festival Hall Gigantic Tickles, taught, and for the rest of the time... been a Mum.

"I have no complaints, it was a very fruitful and challenging time. By the end of last year however, I felt very depleted creatively and wondered where the next piece would come from - I was running on empty. Working as an independent choreographer and having a family essentially means that I have little time to feed myself creatively - to expand my knowledge, to further my work. What free time I have is for my family, what working time I have is spent choreographing and directing. Taking workshops, dancing with friends, seeing other work, looking after my body, is out the window... I was concentrating solely on output. It was time to redress the balance therefore input must be a priority for 1998 if my work is to flourish and evolve. I wanted a chance to take stock, replenish and reflect.

"I decided to say no to all choreographing unless a film opportunity came up. Whilst I realise this is a position I am very fortunate to be in - having less income has become a vicious circle as I have less money for child care and to participate in workshops. It is scary to say no - to have nothing to work on as concretely as usual.

"Strangely enough, opportunities that have arisen so far match my research interests - a gallery talk at the Hayward on Anish Kapoor - which made me face my own choreographic medium in a fresh way, I learnt a great deal from team teaching on a course concerned with performance, and have lobbied more for issues I hold dear within the wider dance world. So, I have faced new challenges and have begun to rediscover and affirm what I believe in and care about - what is at the root of my work.

"Next week I begin part of a research and development project funded in part by the Arts Council of England entitled 1 to 1. I have invited five artists whom I admire, respect and trust - Mary Niblett, Graeme Miller, Gary Carter, Simon Whithead and Sue MacLennan, to work on a one to one basis with me for two, two day periods during the first half of the year. Following that experience, four of the artists will continue to work with me for a week each to develop the initial ideas that emerge leading to four pieces being shown informally to an invited audience in March 1999.

"We will combine discussion and practical work with each artist directing me in any way they select. As I have worked with them all in the past in various ways, now is a chance to change working patterns for a time. They will be able to see subtle directions that will deepen and challenge me as a performer and dancer. It also means that a more sophisticated critical debate can ensue; enabling me to understand the way my work is seen by them I cannot fall into known territory so easily and I will feel secure in my explorations.

"What interests me and the invited artists is the unusual mix of autobiography and biography inherent in 1 to 1. Hopefully it will also offer a chance to tap more of the potential of the partnership. I relish the opportunity to relinquish the responsibility of directing in order to free up creativity and explore the different ways of approaching the directorial and collaborative roles in an un-pressured setting. I am looking forward to the process. But, it is also with great trepidation as I realise the challenge and pressure I will feel as a soloist, facing my weaknesses, my rustiness, my body and, having to come up with material. Having the tables turned in this way can only be helpful in the long run when I return to choreographing."

Rosemary Lee, Independent Choreographer. Contact +44 (0)20 8889 7221.

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Animated: Issues 1996 - 2001