Fellowship recipient and local artist Lee Pemberton knows that dance is a living art form which has the unique characteristic of passing knowledge on generationally through corporeality. Dance knowledge being passed down from teacher to student, choreographer to dancer and performer to audience, resonate through our bodies in a visceral way. In a nutshell, this helps explain the program of professional development Lee has devised for herself during an eighteen-month program for her Create NSW Regional Artist Fellowship.

Lee’s Fellowship titled ‘Heritage, Lineage and Future’, is based in the Bega Valley region and has many strands of enquiry including the history of place with mentorship support provided by Towamba historian Prof. Mark McKenna and creativity and performance with Kiah resident Dr. Don Asker. Lee is also researching the lives of dancers from the region who have careers working with famous choreographers on stages in Australia and Europe.

Her Fellowship is a program which is feeding a love of choreographic process by tapping into the corporeal knowledge that dancers inherit from the choreographers that they have worked with. Known mostly in the valley as fLiNG Physical Theatre’s founding Artistic Director, but little known for her work as an independent dancer in a number of experimental choreographies in Bega, Sydney and Canberra.

Lee Pemberton on rocks at Tathra Beach. Images: Paul Hopper

Over a fifteen year period creating and directing fLiNG in Bega Lee fostered and inspired a number of young people to pursue a career in performance, creating a small but talented pool of emerging artists from Bega, who are fleecing the theatres and independent venues in Melbourne, Sydney and further abroad. It is a resource which Lee is planning to explore by bringing young dancers back to work with her in newly formed ideas and choreographic methods.

Lee’s Fellowship includes the creation of performance vignettes with four emerging dancers which will test, flex and refresh her approach to dance making in the region. Siobhan McKenna is a young emerging dancer currently working with Lee, she attended Eden High School and graduated from Melbourne University’s Victorian College of the Arts with a Bachelor of Arts Degree majoring in Dance in 2016. Siobhan’s recent choreographic work ‘Utterance’ has been awarded best dance for the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2017 as well as the Temperance Hall Award. Lee has spent three days in a studio with Siobhan for the Fellowship to begin a performance for Siobhan inspired and informed by a testimony at the trial of a young woman living in Bega in the 1870s. Lee hopes the work will resonate with the past and present.

Another solo work Lee is creating is with Leif Helland. He also graduated from the VCA and has danced professionally with choreographer Anouk van Dijck at Chunky Move and recently in Natalie Cursio’s work ‘Loop’. Lee began her inquiry with Leif improvising in tea tree forest and rocks on the Tathra cliffs motivated by the experience told by Mark McKenna in his recently published book ‘On the Edge’. It describes the journey of seventeen men who surviving a shipwreck of the Sydney Cove at Preservation Island walk the eastern coast to Sydney in 1775.

Leif Helland improvising in tea tree. Image: Paul Hopper

Lee is also researching the professional life of local dance teacher Colleen Meessmann who began her career at age seventeen in London’s Royal Ballet school ending up in Germany performing in Tanztheater Wuppertal under the direction of Pina Bausch. Colleen and Lee are creating a solo in the style of ‘Pina’ with one of Australia’s most talented dancers and childhood resident of Bermagui, Delia Silvan.

Another rich source of talent, knowledge and experience resides in Kiah in the bodies of well known Australian dancers and academics Don Asker and his extraordinary muse and partner, dancer Jane Mortiss. They are helping Lee by up-dating her choreographic craft and critical thinking. Performative ideas and sketches are supported by the brilliant sound compositions of David Hewitt with whom Lee also has the opportunity and time to collaborate and experiment with.

Eleven months into her program Lee feels the broad scope, expertise and depth of the project have made her see dance through a different lens and is excited to be working in the studio again.