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Ballet Essentials: Woolf Works

Our quick guide to Wayne McGregor's first full-length ballet for The Royal Ballet, inspired by the writings of Virginia Woolf.

By Rachel Thomas (Former Content Producer (Ballet))

12 November 2016 at 4.40pm | 5 Comments

Dancing with Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf was an English writer and modernist icon whose works defied the narrative conventions of her time, and continue to provoke powerful responses today. Deeply engaged with a wide range of art forms, Woolf was particularly fascinated by dance and absorbed its language into her creative process. Her writings, imbued with movement and feeing, have in turn inspired Wayne McGregor in the creation of Woolf Works about her life and work.

Multiple perspectives

Woolf’s shifting, non-linear writings conflate multiple perspectives, feelings and moments into new, abstract narratives. In keeping with this collaging of ideas, Woolf Works draws on three of Woolf’s best loved novels – Mrs Dalloway, Orlando, and The Waves – as well as her own life and experiences. The result is a ballet that re-creates Woolf’s heightened world, as dramaturg Uzma Hameed explains: ‘More than anything, we wanted watching the ballet to feel like reading Woolf – to convey the luminosity, sonorousness and poignancy of her world, the absolute modernity of her vision.’

New music

For Woolf Works, McGregor commissioned a new score from the acclaimed British composer Max Richter. Richter is one of McGregor’s longstanding collaborators: together they’ve worked on the ballets Infra and Kairos, and on Richter’s chamber opera Sum. For Woolf Works, Richter combines orchestral forces with electronics to create a score that shifts between mesmerizing, perpetually unfolding musical material and thrilling surround sound.

Creative collaborations

McGregor is celebrated for his collaborative works that go far beyond established ballet conventions – and Woolf Works once again demonstrates his deep engagement with other art forms. In addition to Richter and dramaturg Hameed, McGregor’s creative team for the ballet includes dynamic set designs from architectural studios Ciguë and We Not I, lighting design by Lucy Carter, film designs by Ravi Deepres, sound design by Chris Ekers, costume designs by Moritz Junge and make-up by Kabuki.

Royal Ballet past and present

Woolf Works was McGregor’s first full-length work for the Royal Opera House main stage. Its premiere in 2015 received rapturous acclaim and four- and five-star reviews across the board. This, its first revival, is part of continuing celebrations to mark McGregor’s tenth anniversary as Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet. The two casts star former Royal Ballet Principal Alessandra Ferri, who created the role, and former Principal Mara Galeazzi, making her role debut.

Woolf Works runs 21 January–14 February 2017. Tickets are still available.

The production is given with generous philanthropic support from David Hancock, Randa Khoury, Linda and Philip Harley, Victoria Robey, The Woolf Works Production Syndicate and an anonymous donor.

This article has 5 comments

  1. wilnelia responded on 27 April 2015 at 12:47pm Reply

    Will we get to see any rehearsal footage??? That would be so exciting!

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 27 April 2015 at 12:51pm

      Keep your eye on these pages, Wilnelia!

      Thanks

      Chris
      ROH Content Producer

    • wilnelia responded on 28 April 2015 at 9:22am

      Great! Looking forward to it. :)

  2. Annabella responded on 29 April 2015 at 5:25pm Reply

    Can´t wait to take a look at the two casts in rehearsal!!! Hope we get to watch a little of each one.

  3. Alex responded on 7 May 2015 at 4:56pm Reply

    Yes please, can we get to see something with the other cast too! It's great to see a variety of dancers featured, not always the same ones.

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