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'Full of imagination and pain and beauty': Exploring human relationships through dance in Woolf Works

Wayne McGregor, Max Richter and Alessandra Ferri reveal the literary and human inspirations behind Woolf Works.

By Rose Slavin (Former Assistant Content Producer)

9 February 2017 at 12.05pm | 3 Comments

Wayne McGregor has created many works for The Royal Ballet in his ten years as Resident Choreographer – in this film he explains why he wanted to create a ballet inspired by English writer Virginia Woolf, and why he chose the form of a triptych.

‘She loved dance and music. She wanted to write as if she were writing music and choreographing dance’, explains McGregor. ‘I thought it would be a wonderful thing to try and reinterpret that and to translate [her] novels into something for the stage.’

‘Nobody writes quite like Woolf. Everything you see is vivid, heightened and full of colour and feeling,’ says dramaturg Uzma Hameed, who helped McGregor bring her work to the stage. Set to music by Max Richter, each act draws on one of Woolf's best-loved novels – Mrs DallowayOrlando and The Waves – as well as extracts of her autobiographical writings.

'Mrs Dalloway is a beautiful story about people, about human relationships', says McGregor. 'It's a woven, textured story which is full of imagination and pain and beauty. Orlando is this romp through 300 years of history, and as Woolf was super-interested in science fiction, in astronomy and things "other", it really suited my alien aesthetic. The third piece, The Waves, is partly her letters and biography colliding with this phenomenal story about growing older, and letting go.'

McGregor says trusting dancers to interpret his movement for themselves is what keeps his choreography so energized. ‘I love offering something to an amazing dancer and [seeing them] give me something back that I could never have done on my own. That’s why casting is really important.’

Italian dancer and Guest Artist of The Royal Ballet Alessandra Ferri also reveals how she much she enjoyed getting into the character of Mrs Dalloway:

'Mrs Dalloway was my age, a woman in her 50s, but in her memory, she was a teenager. And so am I – we all have our life inside of us.’

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Woolf Works was performed at the Royal Opera House as part of the 2016/17 Season.

The production is staged with generous philanthropic support from The Tsukanov Family Foundation.

This film was first broadcast as part of the live cinema broadcast of Woolf Works on 8 February 2017. Find an encore screening of Woolf Works near you.

This article has 3 comments

  1. Philip Glover responded on 26 January 2018 at 7:59am Reply

    This was a fabulous ballet. Is there any news of a DVD release?

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 26 January 2018 at 10:49am

      Hi Philip,

      I'm afraid there are no plans currently to release this on DVD or Blu-Ray

      Best wishes,


  2. Inspirational and very moving. It describes the creative process perfectly. It brings Virginia Woolf to life.

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