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Random Possibilities

Q: Your work is clearly inspired by many different elements: development of your choreographic language, innovative and integrated design, variety of music, and scientific research to name but a few. Is there a common starting point/vision that you hold for all the work you make, or do different issues drive different projects?

Wayne McGregor: I always start a work with something that interests me, something that sparks my imagination. That could be drawn from any aspect of living, anything that questions the nature of being a human being. Whatever the stimulus though, it needs to fully engage my curiosity and take me somewhere.

Q: With a new project, what comes first - the idea or the music?

WM: It really depends. I do not have a traditional view of music and dance in the classical sense. In other words, I don’t often hear a piece of music and think that I need to make a piece to that. Usually the musical idea for a new work emerges from the research of a particular idea. Music suggests itself in that respect and it may be introduced very late in the rehearsal process. Music is part of the total ‘dialogue’ in a work and as such it intervenes at various stages and in multi-faceted ways.

Q: How do you source music that will best address your needs?
WM: Music is a big part of my life. I love listening to a broad range of music and I am very interested in experimenting with an eclectic range of composers and musicians. This fascination has inspired collaborations with Scanner to the orchestra of the Gamelan, Michael Gordon to Plaid and Zoviet France to Handel. I always have my ear to the ground, as it were, and try constantly to unearth new music possibilities and collaborations. What has been invaluable over the past few years in this respect has been the nurturing of a relationship with music publishers. You can discuss an idea, a concept in detail with them and they work with you to find something that may be musically appropriate: composers, recordings, performers etc. This approach has helped me excavate musical possibilities that have not only suited the concept but indeed been vital in the development and direction of the work itself. Here, you have a sounding board, a massive resource centre, a place to access music in an informed and exciting way. At the same time, in my experience the publishers have not ‘pushed’ their stable of composers onto an idea, they have simply given me potential options. Many times a composer or work suggested for one idea has emerged years later for something else. It’s all part of the dialogue, a vital creative relationship.

Q: For Amu you collaborated with John Tavener, who created his first ever work for dance for Random. Tavener's work occupies a spiritual and narrative world that could be described as antipathetic to your scientific and abstract one. What challenges did it present for you and your company?
WM: It is a very special experience to be able to work with a living composer on a new work. You begin together, go on a massive journey and come out the other side with a work that could never have been made in isolation. The collaboration dictates the very fabric and nature of the end result. This was very much the experience I had with John. The scale, concept and the ambition of the project was initially daunting but the creative journey kept everything in perspective. It was a very open, intimate and powerful collaboration and one in which I learnt a lot about music and myself. And to be honest our work together really surprised me. It didn’t at all take the route I had expected and that was truly exhilarating.

Q: In 2006, you worked with Joby Talbot at the Royal Ballet. What attracted you to his work? Was Joby involved in helping make the eventual decision about what music was used?

WM: Hovercraft is an example of a piece of music I heard that I knew immediately I had to choreograph to. This is very unusual for me. The only problem being it was just under five minutes long and I wanted to work with it for a twenty-five minute piece for the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden! Discussing this with Joby led me not only to hear a great deal more of his thrilling work, but to be fully immersed in the range and quality of his other collaborations. One of these was a project with The White Stripes. So together we created a vibrant musical world for the new work that has Hovercraft as the climax with a range of shorter chamber pieces by Joby alongside some of his orchestral realisations of pieces by The White Stripes. It’s a strange combination for orchestra but one that is totally convincing.

Q: What is your idea of a dream collaboration?

WM: Collaboration for me is very much about learning, about letting go, undoing, about approaching the unknown. A dream collaboration?

NOT KNOWING in a group!

Wayne McGregor founded Random Dance in 1992. Recent commissions for other dance companies include the Royal Ballet, NDT1 and Stuttgart Ballet, with future works for Paris Opera Ballet and San Francisco Ballet; whilst opera/theatre/film credits include his opera directorial debut for La Scala’s Dido and Aeneas, The Woman in White and Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.

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