Wayne McGregor (b. 1970)

Entity (2008)

Wayne McGregor was born in Stockport in 1970 and studied dance at University College, Bretton Hall and at the José Limon School in New York. In 1992 he founded his own company Wayne McGregor | Random Dance and in the same year was appointed choreographer-in-residence at The Place, London.

Wayne McGregor | Random Dance was one of many small-scale British companies emerging in the 1990’s but two features made McGregor’s work stand out. The first was the unique quality of his vocabulary. This had its origins in McGregor’s own long, lean and supple physique and in his body’s ability to register movement with peculiar sharpness and speed; at one extreme McGregor’s dancing was a jangle of tiny fractured angles, at the other it was a whirl of seemingly boneless fluidity.

The second outstanding feature of the work was its embrace of new technology. McGregor started playing with computers when he was seven and it was natural for him to incorporate the cyber world into his own choreography. Collaborating with state-of-the art designers he experimented with projecting computer generated images onto the stage. In Sulphur 16 (1998) dancers were dwarfed by the presence of a shimmering virtual giant and danced with a company of digital figures who wove and shimmered among them like visitants from another age. In Aeon (2000) digitally created landscapes transported the dancers to what seemed like other dimensions and other worlds. McGregor has also used technology to alter the conditions under which his work is viewed. 53 Bytes (1997) was created for simultaneous performance by two sets of dancers in Berlin and Canada and it was watched by audiences in both countries by live satellite link. In 2000 McGregor aimed for an even more global public by transmitting a live performance of his Trilogy Installation over the internet – envisioning yet more directions in which dance might be transformed by technology.

McGregor has always been as curious about the technology of the dancing body as he has been about machines. For example, the stimulus for AtaXia (created for Wayne McGregor | Random Dance in 2004) was provided by the Experimental Psychology department at Cambridge where McGregor, appointed Research fellow, was engaged in a study of body brain interaction. Dancers are the most expert co-ordinators of body-brain states yet here McGregor became fascinated by the energy and beauty of neurological dysfunction. For Amu (2005), McGregor continued his association with science by working with heart imaging specialists, alongside a typically prolific set of artistic collaborators, to question both the physical functions and symbolic resonances of the human heart. For Entity, (2008), McGregor began his enquiry into the creation of an autonomous choreographic agent, a project that is currently in pilot mode. For Dyad 1909 (2009), McGregor embarked on a study of creative cognition, with his entire creation process video-recorded and mapped by a team of Cognition scientists and students at the University of California, San Diego, USA. For FAR, (2010), McGregor fused cutting edge design (rAndom International) with choreography mined from a radical cognitive research process.

In 2006, Wayne McGregor was appointed the Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet, the first modern dance maker to be given that post in the companyʼs history. A string of productions, including Qualia (2003), and Engram (2005), were followed by the 2006 smash hit Chroma. Next came Nimbus (2007), a newly curated festival for the Royal Opera House - Deloitte Ignite, Infra (2008) and then, historically, a joint collaboration between the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera companies – the Baroque double bill of Acis and Galatea and Dido and Aeneas, which McGregor conceived, directed and choreographed. Most recently, Wayne McGregor premiered Limen, furthering his collaborations with outstanding visual artists (architect John Pawson for Chroma, artist Julian Opie for Infra) in the choice of Japanese artist Tatsuo Mijyajima as Set Designer.

Outside the ‘pure’ fields of dance McGregor has directed opera for La Scala, Milan and choreographed movement for movies, plays, musicals and art galleries including site specific installations at the Hayward Gallery, Canary Wharf and the Pompidou Centre, movement for The National Theatre’s A Little Night Music and English National Opera’s Salome, movement for the Warner Bros. movie Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire and choreography for the opening ceremony of the 2009 World Swimming Championships in Rome. His creations for other dance companies have included work for Paris Opera Ballet, La Scala, NDT1, Stuttgart Ballet, English National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, New York City Ballet and the Australian Ballet, with upcoming 2011-2013 commissions including new work for Paris Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet (a new Rite Of Spring) and Wayne McGregor | Random Dance.

McGregorʼs experiments have earned him a string of nominations and awards. Most recently he was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire), in the New Year Honours List of January 2011. Awards for his works include 3 Critics Circle Award (Amu, Chroma, Infra), a South Bank Show Award for Entity and Infra (2009), a Benois De La Danse for Infra (2009), a Movimentos Award for Entity (2009), an International Theatre Institute Award for Excellence in Dance (2009), an Arts Foundation Fellowship in 1998, two Time Out Awards for Outstanding Achievement, in 2001 and 2003, and a Laurence Olivier Award (2007).

In December 2009, Wayne McGregor was the subject of a South Bank Show; he also features in Fred Wiseman’s feature-length movie documentary about the Paris Opera Ballet, La Danse and is the subject of Arte TV’s documentary Wayne McGregor – Going Somewhere by Catherine Maximoff.