Lexy Panetta

Duration: 22:24

Audio transcript – Lexy Panetta

In this episode, we chatted with Lexy Panetta, tutor for the 2023 NSW Public Schools Senior Dance Ensemble. The hosts, Bethany and Mikayla, are both students of the NSW Public School Senior Dance Ensemble. 

Lexy is a Sydney-based dancer, choreographer and educator with a strong interest in choreographic research, writing, film and education.  She has completed a Bachelor of Arts, Dance and Education, an Honours Degree in Dance Studies, and most recently completed her Masters in Philosophy, higher degree research in Creative Practice. She has performed and choreographed live works and film projects across Australia and overseas and has worked in the dance sector for organisations such as Ausdance, Sydney Dance Company and the Department of Education. Lexy is the Learning Associate for Sydney Dance Company and currently works as an academic at the Australian College of Physical Education, lecturing in their Education and Dance degrees.

This is a chance to learn more about Lexy’s experience in the industry and what it’s like working with the NSW Public Schools Dance Ensemble. Thanks for tuning in to this episode.

Lexy Panetta
Lexy Panetta – dance tutor
Bethany Rodriguez
Bethany Rodriguez – host
Mikayla Thomas
Mikayla Thomas – host
Back to:

JOANNE KING: The dance team at the Arts Unit of the NSW Department of Education have produced this podcast as part of the 'Listen @ The Arts Unit' series. This podcast is produced on Gadigal and Cadigal land of the Eora nation. We pay our respect to the Traditional Custodians of the land with further acknowledgment of the many lands this podcast will be listened to across Australia.

Aboriginal and Torres strait islander art, storytelling, music and dance, along with the people, hold the memories of Australia's traditions, culture and hopes. Let us also acknowledge any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and people in our presence today who guide us with their wisdom.

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ANNOUNCER: Listen @ The Arts Unit.

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JOANNE KING: My name is Joanne King, and I am the dance performance officer at the Arts Unit for the NSW Department of Education. This episode, the hosts, Bethany and Mikayla spoke with NSW Public Schools Senior Dance Ensemble tutor, Lexy Panetta.

Lexy is a Sydney-based dancer, choreographer and educator with a strong interest in choreographic research, writing, film and education. She has completed a bachelor of arts dance and education, an honours degree in dance studies, and most recently completed her master's in philosophy, higher-degree research in creative practice.

Lexy has performed and choreographed live works and film projects across Australia and overseas and has worked in the dance sector for organisations such as Ausdance, Sydney Dance Company, and the Department of Education. Lexy is the learning associate for Sydney Dance Company and currently works as an academic for the Australian College of Physical Education, lecturing in their education and dance degrees. This is a chance to learn more about Lexy's experience in the industry and what it's like working with the NSW Public Schools Dance Ensemble. Thanks for tuning in to this episode.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: This is Bethany from J J Cahill Memorial High School.

MIKAYLA THOMAS: And this is Mikayla Thomas from Engadine High School.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: So our first question for you is, what is your favourite food?

LEXY PANETTA: Well, that's really easy for me. My favourite food is definitely 100% pasta.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: What is your favourite dance genre?

LEXY PANETTA: I would have to say contemporary, I think, because it definitely lends from a lot of different other styles and other backgrounds of dance that make it entirely unique to the dancer. So I love being able to dance contemporary and teach contemporary styles the most.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: Would you say you grew up doing contemporary?

LEXY PANETTA: Not necessarily. I grew up learning a lot of different dance styles, but I would have to say that when I started to be interested in dance and take it seriously, I definitely put my focus and attention into contemporary practice.

MIKAYLA THOMAS: Besides dancing, what would be your dream job?

LEXY PANETTA: Oh, I often think with all of the roles that I'm doing in the dance industry and dance space, I feel like I have a lot of my dream jobs, but it's hard to take my brain out of dance. But I think if I were to pick something, I think I'd like to work with film and work in the film industry or with animals. I love animals.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: We all love our animals. If you could describe yourself in 3 words, what would those 3 words be?

LEXY PANETTA: Oh, definitely silly, advantageous, sometimes to my detriment, and short, tiny.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: Aren't we both 5' 3"?

LEXY PANETTA: Yeah, yeah, I might be even under 5' 3". I'm not too sure. I avoid it.

MIKAYLA THOMAS: When you're not dancing, what do you enjoy doing the most?

LEXY PANETTA: Oh, I love the outdoors, and I love-- I grew up in the bush, so I love kind of taking some time to be immersed in some nature. I love going for long walks in the bush when I have the time to plan it.

But I also just love sitting around and reading whenever I have time to just relax and chill. That's what I find is most peaceful, just getting a book and relaxing with it. Otherwise, that's kind of rare. I do spend a lot of my time involving my brain in research, so kind of thinking of other ways of looking at dance and keeping busy with my brain that way.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: So you're a teacher at the Arts Unit, correct?


BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: Yes, so what made you want to join the Arts Unit?

LEXY PANETTA: Well, I went to a public school, and I learnt majority of my incredible dance knowledge from school and learning from my teachers and the public school system. And I guess I have such a strong admiration for all educators who dedicate their time and their knowledge in dance practice for co-curricular activities.

So when I was younger and in school, the school that I went to collaborated a lot with the Arts Unit, so I had a lot of knowledge of the programs through that way. And then when I went to university, I was studying education and also dance practice, so it felt like a natural progression for me to work with dancers in the education scene in Sydney and NSW and also to try and offer what my practices are to those young, tenacious students.

MIKAYLA THOMAS: That sounds so incredible. And what would you say is the highlight of your career, Lexy?

LEXY PANETTA: My career highlight-- oh goodness. I think there's a lot of different highlights for me that stand out and keep me moving forward and keep me passionate for dance. One would definitely be my studies that I've done at university. They've been a massive highlight. They've opened up my mind and my practices to a lot of different things.

Writing a big thesis, a big dissertation, was a highlight, albeit it was extremely stressful, and the projects are still turning in my mind. But I really love committing and devoting my time and attention to the practice.

And I'd have to say, also, I have a wonderful opportunity in my other roles where I get to travel a lot for dance, and that is such a wonderful experience because I get to outreach with other amazing dancers or other communities who want to know more about artistic practice and movement. And I get to share. So that's a massive highlight I get to commit to every year and have the opportunity to travel around dancing.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: On the subject of travel, what places have you travelled before?

LEXY PANETTA: Well, that's a really good question. I have travelled in Australia to every state and territory for dancing on my regional tours and national tours for the Sydney Dance Company. Then in my own world, in my own industry practice, I've travelled a little bit around NSW for dancing as an independent choreographer.

But more specifically, I moved to Germany when I was finishing my first university degree to dance and to practise my movement skills and my filmic contributions over there, and that was a lot of fun. I spent some time living in Berlin, making and choreographing work, and collaborating with fantastic artists. But I have travelled a lot around Europe for holidays, and that's been often really fun. But particularly, dancing in London, Paris, and Berlin have been highlights as well.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: If you could live anywhere, where would you live? That's probably a very hard question because--

LEXY PANETTA: Not at all.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: Oh, excellent, excellent. Tell.

LEXY PANETTA: I feel like there's a part of me somewhere that lives in Paris subconsciously.


LEXY PANETTA: I'm always thinking about it.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: It's beautiful.

LEXY PANETTA: It's such a beautiful city. Every time I've been there, I often feel like I could live there so easily and just integrate into their wonderful city, and hopefully, maybe that might happen one day.

MIKAYLA THOMAS: So what other occupations do you do other than the Arts Unit?

LEXY PANETTA: Well, I have worked for the Arts Unit for quite some time. I've been a dance tutor for the Arts Unit for 9 years now, and whilst doing that, I have had other roles that overlap with the practice.

Currently, I work as a teaching artist for the Sydney Dance Company, and I've done that for quite some years now. And that job involves working in education and with the company to teach repertoire and creative practice and methodology from the company around Australia and around NSW. So that is one of my roles that I've been doing for the last 6 or 7 years.

And then on top of that, I also work for the Sydney Dance Company as a contemporary dance teacher, and more specifically, I work as a learning associate. So I work very closely with their pre-professional year company and look at all of their accredited courses and making resources for them and creating other opportunities as well.

I also work as an academic at the Australian College of Physical Education, teaching in both the dance faculty and the education faculty. So that role requires me to create courses for a university level and teach students from first year up until fourth year for students studying dance practice, dance education. So that's how I also spend my time working as well.

I do also do a lot of independent gigs here and there and around. It just all depends on my schedule.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: What would you say is your favourite part of your job? Because you seem so busy going to all these places teaching all these young-- all ages. What would you say is your favourite part of it?

LEXY PANETTA: Oh, there's a lot of beautiful benefits that come with all these fantastic roles. I'd have to say the connection and engaging with different people of all ages, as you say, Bethany, engaging with different students or learners who just come with their own experience and their own willingness to learn. I love sharing my practices and whatever knowledge I can offer to anyone who's interested. So that kind of engagement and learning about others and putting that into practice is really important for contemporary dance, so I love being able to share that.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: What advice would you give to some young dancers that are trying to get into the dance industry?

LEXY PANETTA: Well, I think it is really important to put your feelers out there, so try and try and get a grasp of all the different things that are possible and sign up to as many opportunities as you can because you don't really know what you love until you try it. So it's important for you to make sure that you are investing the time and the effort and your energy into a variety of different things, so you can work out what fits you. And then it's only through understanding those practices that you can then take that into your own career trajectory and evolve it into your own practice as you emerge into the dance world.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: So going back to Sydney Dance Company, what is it like collaborating with the professionals there?

LEXY PANETTA: Well, there's so many different incredible people to collaborate with, and in their open programs, their vocational programs as well, so the dancers learning in the pre-professional year, Years 1 and 2, and also the fabulous company. It's really inspiring to be a part of all that activity throughout, and watching how things happen in the studio before they get elevated and taken into the performance scene is really exciting.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: So before we heard that your favourite dance genre was contemporary, do you think you specialise in this style in your choreography or other styles?

LEXY PANETTA: I think I most certainly do. I tend to-- even when I try to separate myself from it, I kind of wind back there because, for me, contemporary style feels most natural to my body, and that's how I like to express my movement. So I really love finding fluidity and catching momentum through activity and actions in dancing. So even though I love jazz-- one of my favourite choreographic styles used to be Fosse jazz, but then that kind of got overtaken by contemporary.

But yeah, I definitely say that is my favourite and what I like to focus on the most, even though I do love other styles, and I also love classical ballet, too. It's just not as fun to choreograph in my mind because it seems a little bit prescriptive at times, but contemporary allows me to be a bit more free.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: In the Arts Unit, what have you enjoyed most working with the ensembles?

LEXY PANETTA: I would have to say our weekly rehearsals are really fun. I love getting to know the students each and every year, and sometimes, as tutors, we get the privilege of seeing some students evolve throughout their whole schooling with the Arts Unit. They might be a part of the program from primary all the way up to Year 12.

And then often, it's likely that they come into PPY in Sydney Dance Company, and I get to see them there and watch them evolve, which is so lovely. But I do think the connection to the students and fostering their creative growth is the most rewarding part of teaching for the Arts Unit, and also, having a fun place to toss about ideas creatively and try movement styles on the dancers and work and choreograph stuff together is really fun and very rewarding.

MIKAYLA THOMAS: It's so beautiful. It's like you get to see them grow up--

LEXY PANETTA: Yeah, absolutely.

MIKAYLA THOMAS: --and parent them in that way. It's beautiful.

LEXY PANETTA: Yeah, it does feel really nice to watch them evolve and see how they start and then where they end.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: And would you say you're an introvert or an extrovert?

LEXY PANETTA: I think I can be a bit of both. It depends on how much coffee I've had and how much energy I've got, but when I feel really energised, I think I can be an extrovert because I get a lot of energy from other people's energy as well. But then again, when I'm relaxing, I could be quite introverted as well.

MIKAYLA THOMAS: You obviously have this amazing career of all these different options. Do you have any long-term achievements or goals?

LEXY PANETTA: I think it's really important to continue to have a goal. Even though you achieve other things perhaps in your career, it's a really good way to keep your mind open to the possibilities of learning, so I definitely have many goals that I'm still striving towards, some of which are sometimes like dreams and some of which might seem a bit more attainable.

But at the moment, I'm striving towards completing a philosophy doctorate in creative practice and wanting to continue my writing and research. That's kind of my biggest goal at the moment that's on the horizon, and when that's finished, I'll find a new one.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: It's like you're like a doctor dancer. You know what I mean? You have all these amazing things. It's so cool.

LEXY PANETTA: Thank you, Bethany.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: What are some of your top tips for dancers?

LEXY PANETTA: I think respect yourself and respect the incredible practitioners who have got something to offer you. Turn up and invest yourself fully before dismissing anything. I know often, when you're learning something new, it can feel really foreign or it can feel really overwhelming, or you might not like things at first. But from my own experience, I think the more I sink myself into things, the more I get out of it. So that comes into commitment and effort.

Just putting yourself into a practice fully so that you can get the most out of it is a really excellent piece of advice I would give to young dancers, and also to not be so hard on yourselves. I know in dance, it's really easy. We work in front of a mirror all the time. We work in front of and around incredible dancers.

Always give yourself some credit. You deserve it. You're an individual in the space. You deserve to be there, and don't forget that you can claim that space. That space is there for you.

So if you really love dancing and you really want to make a career out of it, the best advice I can give is to honour yourself and honour what you learn and keep striving. You'll keep improving and growing if you remain open to the learning.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: That's some beautiful advice. I really like that.

MIKAYLA THOMAS: What are some of the challenges you face when choreographing new pieces?

LEXY PANETTA: There's always evident challenges, and I know in dance we're kind of used to seeing the final product. And it's so perfect, and it's on stage. And it's got costumes and fancy lights.

But the actual choreographic process can often be really challenging and also really adventurous and fun. I have a variety of different choreographic methods that I like to play with in the studio. I love improvisation. So I often come into the studio with a bit of a collection of ideas that I want to explore, but the exploration takes place when I start moving.

But that's only one way to work. A lot of different choreographers have a bunch of different ways and approaches that they take forth in their practices, but for me, improvisation is definitely my driving force because it helps me be more inspired by what I am doing. And how my body is cultivating and stretching and rolling and finding new ways to connect to ideas through movement is really important for me.

But I also like scoring. So scoring is kind of like music notation. I like writing down different creative writings and clippings that help me connect the improvisation into an intention, and that's often the way I tend to work. But there's always cut and paste. There's always delete this part and try again because the choreographic process is definitely a process, which means it takes some time and a lot of different ways and approaches to get it right.

MIKAYLA THOMAS: So we just started our piece with you in the Arts Unit. Would you say you included this idea of improvisation and intent in our piece?

LEXY PANETTA: Absolutely. I certainly have. I started with an idea that I had read in a text, and then I kind of deep-dove into some research about that idea, which is a pretty common practice for me in my choreographic method. I like to start with an idea and then pull it apart, find different elements of it that I want to explore.

And then I tend to kind of use words as a way to start that process off. As you guys know, we've used some words like 'velocity', 'physics', 'dynamic forces'. We've used a lot of different words that I've shared with you.

And then they're just a stepping stone point to allow me to create some other scores that we might use for improvisation. So each time I'm in the studio or preparing to teach you guys new pieces of choreography, I'm usually letting those words be the influence behind what I'm doing with my body, and then I'll do a lot of repetition through improvisation in order to find what flows really well.

And that's how I like to choreograph so that things have a logical flow and a logical sequence in the body so that they don't look distorted unless I'm trying to challenge that directly. So improvisation has been a massive contributor to all of the choreographies that I've made over the years with the Arts Unit and in my other independent practices as well.

MIKAYLA THOMAS: I think what I've loved most about being in the Arts Unit with you is the I like the intent of the dance because I think, a lot of the time, you don't really get that at the dance studio. So it's really nice how we can come here and work with you in that way.

LEXY PANETTA: I'm so pleased that you're enjoying the process. It's really lovely to share these weird and wonderful things that I like to conjure up and share with you and get your responses to. It's really great to be in a collaborative classroom where you guys are also feeding into the process with me. That's the most rewarding part of choreographing for you guys as well.

BETHANY RODRIGUEZ: It's been such a great opportunity for you being our teacher and having you here today and answering these questions, and we thank you.


LEXY PANETTA: Thank you so much for having me. It's been lovely to chat.

JOANNE KING: Thanks for tuning in to 'Listen @ The Arts Unit', our series introducing the 2023 NSW Public Schools Dance Ensemble tutors.

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ANNOUNCER: For more information on our programs, explore our website at artsunit.nsw.edu.au.

Background music licensed by Envato Elements. Copyright, State of NSW (Department of Education), 2023.

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