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  • Listen: ‘Ballet is a form which is always looking for new adventures’ – Wayne McGregor on working with The Royal Ballet

Listen: ‘Ballet is a form which is always looking for new adventures’ – Wayne McGregor on working with The Royal Ballet

The Company’s Resident Choreographer talks about the modern dancer and confounding expectations.

By Rachel Beaumont (Product Manager)

10 June 2016 at 2.37pm | 4 Comments

‘What’s amazing about ballet and the language of ballet is that it’s in constant change’, says Wayne McGregor, Resident Choreographer at The Royal Ballet. ‘There’s a sense in which these bodies today are different from the bodies 50 years ago. They’re eating better, they have a better understanding of the biomechanics of the body, they’re faster, they can turn more, they can jump higher. That’s what excites me about working with a ballet company – it’s the potential to work with a lexicon that is known and pushing that to make an alphabet that is unknown, and those two working together and hopefully inspiring an audience.’

McGregor celebrates ten years as Resident Choreographer in autumn 2016, and that long relationship with the dancers is a crucial element in his works for the Company. ‘We’re very lucky here at The Royal Ballet in that all of the dancers are incredible. They have to have incredible technique, an amazing kind of emotional capacity – they have to be able to really invest in the material. These works that we are making are about those dancers and what their facility and ability is, and us finding a marriage to be able to extend classical ballet. Ballet is not a fixed form – ballet is a form which is always looking for new horizons and new adventures.’

When creating a work McGregor enjoys mixing together dancers he has worked with many times and dancers he is new to. ‘We have over a hundred dancers here who each have an incredible individuality. When I’m thinking about casting a piece I’m always thinking about what is special about that dancer and how that might work with another dancer, and what’s going to give me something really interesting – either a tension between them or a sympathy between them that’s going to create some real magic, this alchemy.’

‘I think part of my job as Resident Choreographer here at The Royal Ballet is to shake things up a little bit’, McGregor explains. ‘I try to find collaborations or ideas or work that in some way is unexpected and hopefully refreshing to the audience. You want the work to touch people in some kind of way, and it might be emotionally, but it also might be in a way that is quite confrontational.’

For McGregor, ‘The purpose of art is to provoke debate, it’s to stimulate imagination, it’s to promote thinking. It’s not about just coming and having a nice evening and enjoying something. Enjoyment might be a part of it but it’s not the only part of it. Ultimately you want the audience to leave the auditorium with images in their head and a sense of moving in their bodies that carries them through life. And that’s a really wonderful gift if you can share that with an audience.’

The interview uses music from Esa-Pekka Salonen’s symphonic poem Nyx, used by McGregor in his ballet Obsidian Tear for The Royal Ballet.

The mixed programme celebrating McGregor’s ten years as Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet runs 10–19 November 2016. Tickets go on general sale on 19 July 2016.

This article has 4 comments

  1. realmente muita tecnologia junto com a capacidade humana ,fazendo nosso mundo ir pra um outro mundo diferente ,ou na morado dos deuses ,onde nosso Balé tem a capacidade de fazer isto ,parabéns tudo muito lindo ,obrigado

  2. Nick responded on 12 June 2016 at 9:26am Reply

    Really interesting, thank you - and please do carry on like this! I love the insights and videos posted by ROH; they really compliment the live experience and it's nice to get to 'know' those in and responsible for the works I come to see. Thank you.

  3. Mary Oswell responded on 27 June 2016 at 4:53am Reply

    Fascinating article - I wonder if there is similar improvement in the capabilities of musicians and vocal artists over the same timescale? Probably not...
    Incidentally, the English language's ambiguity has left me wondering: Obsidian Tear - does that mean tear from weeping? Or tear as in cracked? It would be hard to tear obsidian, I know, but still!

    • Rachel Beaumont (Product Manager) responded on 27 June 2016 at 9:37am

      Hi Mary,

      Thanks for your comment, and glad you enjoyed the article. The ambiguity in the title of Obsidian Tear is not accidental; quoting from the programme note by the ballet's dramaturg Uzma Hameed:
      [McGregor] suggests that the meanings of the two words 'tear' (as in weeping) and 'tear' (as in ripping) feel related in the context of Salonen's score. 'It expresses the extremity of what happens inside the body when we feel intense emotional suffering, the sensation of something tearing and releasing fluid.'

      All best,

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