Wayne McGregor is one of the most prominent contemporary choreographers of today. He will make his Munich debut in 2018 at Bayerisches Staatsballett’s annual Ballet Festival Week.
Some of Wayne McGregor’s first works were performed in techno clubs. Though today he lives by the motto “no drugs, no parties, no alcohol,” he still looks the part of the “ballet rock star,” as a critic once described him. It is very possible that Wayne is the only world-famous choreographer whose work uniform consists of sneakers and a hooded jumper.
Born in 1970 in Stockport, a city just outside of Manchester, Wayne has been fascinated with dance since boyhood — partially thanks to John Travolta’s appearance in “Saturday Night Fever.” After completing studies in choreography and semiotics, he opted to work in contemporary dance rather than pursue a career in classical ballet. At just 22 years of age, Wayne founded his own dance group called Random Dance, which would later become Studio Wayne McGregor. “The legacy of classical ballet and the history of classical ballet is really important,” says the choreographer. “But there’s nothing more enlivening and refreshing than having dancers work in real time with a choreographer.”
A man of many talents, Wayne McGregor carries the official title Commander of the Order of the British Empire, is a professor of choreography at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and a research partner at the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge University. In 2006, Wayne became the first representative of contemporary dance to be appointed resident choreographer of the Royal Ballet in London. A stage that had long celebrated classical ballet almost exclusively suddenly became home to “Woolf Works,” a set of performances inspired by the writings of Virginia Woolf set to a score by Max Richter.
Wayne certainly has an affinity for electronic music, which isn’t surprising given his rave-tinted connections. He has worked on videos for Radiohead and The Chemical Brothers, and collaborated with John Hopkins, The White Stripes, and Jamie XX. Anything that captures the zeitgeist likely interests the 47 year old, from fine arts (a collaboration with Olafur Eliasson), fashion (choreography for a Gareth Pugh fashion show), and film (choreography for “Harry Potter”) to anthropology, technology, and new media. Wayne was one of the first choreographers to showcase his work online, and he has recently incorporated both drones and his own scientifically decoded genetic material into hispractice.
2018 marks Wayne’s first appearance in Munich. The next edition of “Ballettfestwoche” (the annual Ballet Festival Week) will open with “Portrait McGregor,” a three-part evening performance. At rehearsals, the choreographer seems in good spirits and delights in his collaboration with the dancers, whom he refers to as “co-authors.” The performance will take place at the Bayerisches Staatsballett, part of the renowned Bayerische Staatsoper. The dance company was founded in 1988 by the late dancer Konstanze Vernon. In 2016, Igor Zelensky became ballet director. Today, the Bayerisches Staatsballett is considered one of Europe’s leading ballet companies.
Two parts of “Portrait McGregor” have already been performed elsewhere: “Borderlands,” 2013, in San Francisco and “Kairos,” 2014, in Zurich. The latter incorporates Max Richter’s new interpretation of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” Now Wayne is creating the third part specifically for the Bayerische Staatsoper. Director Igor Zelensky is enthusiastic about the piece, saying, “Wayne McGregor is one of the most important choreographers today in the world. It is a great opportunity for the dancers to work with choreographers live and to create something with their own bodies.”From the independent scene to the main stage, and after countless collaborations with the who’s who of contemporary culture, the seemingly inexhaustible Wayne stays fit by following a vegan diet and walking his two whippets — and dancing, of course, though not professionally, simply on his own at home. In an interview, the 47 year old once admitted that the only time he feels his age is “when filling in one of those online forms and it takes longer and longer to scroll back to the 1970s.”
Bayerisches Staatsballett’s Ballet Festival Week is on from April 14 to 22, 2018. You can find more information about the program on the Bayerische Staatsoper staatsoper.de