25 Moments That Define Studio Wayne McGregor

Wayne McGregor CBE’s extraordinary creative practice extends around the globe from his East London studio

By Studio Wayne McGregor

Living Archive: An AI Performance Experiment (2019-07-12) by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

Studio Wayne McGregor forms the nucleus for all of the polymath’s endeavours – a vital hub for the diverse network of artists, dancers, designers, technologists, scientists and educators that he works alongside to investigate the true potential of the thinking human body in motion. And the home of his multi-award winning, contemporary dance outfit: Company Wayne McGregor.      

Studio Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

In 2017, the Studio moved into its expansive and elegant headquarters in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Conceived in partnership with WeNotI, the state-of-the-art space is designed to enhance creativity, and contains three, capacious movement studios as well as further areas devoted to ideating and making.        

On any given day, the Studio resounds with dynamic activity as rotating, interdisciplinary collaborators come together to develop awe-inspiring future artistic, social and technological ventures. All the while, McGregor’s multiple teams produce the Company’s packed performance schedule and re-staging calendar, deliver its learning and engagement programmes, manage internal spaces and their rentals as in-house and visiting dancers and choreographers create, rehearse and train.      

Xeno 1 Xeno 2 Xeno 3 by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#1 1992: The Beginning

As a promising young choreographer, McGregor establishes Random Dance – the independent company that will evolve into the multifaceted enterprise that is Studio Wayne McGregor. Since then, its 60+ cast members have performed over 30 of his works in more than 50 countries. McGregor’s oeuvre now boasts 160+ pieces of dance, which have been enjoyed live by over a million people.      

The Millennarium (1997-09-26) by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#2 1997: Technological Innovation

Fascinated by computer technology since childhood, McGregor continually seeks to harness its burgeoning capabilities to manipulate both on-stage presentation and audience experience. For 53 Bytes in a Movement, an early live broadband link enables simultaneous, interactive live and digital performances in Berlin and Canada. That same year, McGregor and digital video artist, Ravi Deprees present Neurotransmission, which features the melding of real and virtual performance, video and graphic design. McGregor then premieres cutting-edge work, The Millennarium, a fusion of flesh and digital bodies, virtual space and computer-generated graphics.  

SOMA (2011-03-04)Studio Wayne McGregor

#3 1999: Education is key

Long-committed to the sharing of knowledge and resources, and having previously worked as a community dance animateur, McGregor sets up the Studio’s trail-blazing, integrated education and outreach wing with present day Director of Learning and Engagement, Jasmine Wilson. To date, over 100,000 people have participated in Studio Wayne McGregor’s engagement initiatives.  

Nemesis (2002-01-25) by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

Another long-standing member of Wayne’s team is Odette Hughes, who started as a dancer in 1997, and was subsequently Rehearsal Director for the company many years, before becoming Associate Director. She is integral to all that Company Wayne McGregor does.  

AtaXia by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#4 2000: So is research

McGregor embarks on an ongoing series of inquiries into creativity and physical thinking with researchers from the fields of cognitive and social science.  This drive to uncover revelatory knowledge about the thinking human body will see him act as Research Fellow at Cambridge University’s Department of Experimental Psychology and Innovator in Residence for the University of California, San Diego.      

Entity (2008-04-10) by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

Via these placements, McGregor forges long-standing connections with the latter institute’s Professor David Kirsh (Cognitive Sciences), and Professor Philip Barnard of the former’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit.        

#5 2001: Enter Sadler’s Wells

After impressing audiences with thrilling early works such as 2000’s Aeon, which merged physical, digital and 3-D virtual space, Company Wayne McGregor becomes the lauded London institution’s debut Company in Residence. Not long after, the Company premieres Ataxia – inspired by the eponymous neurological condition and nourished by research conducted with ex-choreographer and researcher, Scott deLahunta – at Sadler’s Wells to rave reviews. 

#6 2005: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

McGregor serves as Movement Director on the fourth film adaptation of J.K.Rowling’s book series. Wishing to be inclusive of children who lack access to dance and drama, he opts for a cast of talented novices. McGregor will go on to direct motion for additional, technologically inventive Hollywood blockbusters, including: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and The Legend of Tarzan.

One of the sequences Wayne McGregor choreographed in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the entrance of the Beauxbatons and the Durmstrangs at Hogwarts.

Chroma (2006-11-17) by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#7 2006: Chroma

The Royal Ballet commissions McGregor to choreograph for their illustrious company. The result: Chroma, a groundbreaking contemporary ballet set to a propulsive score by The White Stripes as rearranged by composer, Joby Talbot. 

With a minimal set by architectural designer, John Pawson CBE, and dexterous lighting design by Lucy Carter – McGregor’s close collaborator since 1994 – the phenomenal piece cemented his reputation as an exceptional dance maker with an affinity for affective staging.     

Machina (2012-07-14) by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#8 2006: Resident Choreographer for The Royal Ballet

Shortly after, McGregor is revealed as The Royal Ballet’s new Resident Choreographer, the first ever to stem from a contemporary dance background – and a position he still holds. As well gaining access to world class, Royal Opera House artisans, the post allows him to grow nascent relationships with dancers such as sensational, Principal Dancer, Edward Watson MBE. 

Mix The Body (2017-10-16) by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#9 2008: Youth Dance Champion for the UK

McGregor accepts a role as the nation’s inaugural Youth Dance Champion. Years later, he will be instrumental in shaping the London Curriculum’s dance module, and create the interactive, public-facing Mix the Body app with the British Council. He was awarded a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for services to dance in 2011.      

Infra by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#10 2008: Infra

The Royal Ballet premieres McGregor’s mind-blowing, abstract ballet, Infra, which features a mesmerising video installation by influential, British artist Julian Opie. The standout piece is set to a haunting score by forward-thinking composer, Max Richter, and wins the Critics’ Circle Classical Choreography prize and the South Bank Show Award. 

UNDANCE (2011-12-01) by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

In the same year, dancer Jessica Wright joins Company Wayne McGregor. She is the longest serving Company member, leaving 11 years later in 2019. She remains an integral part of the Studio, directing the Company’s restaging works around the world.  

Outlier by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#11 2010: Outlier

McGregor creates his first work for an American dance company following an invitation from the New York City Ballet to join the bill of their Architecture of Dance Festival. The striking contemporary work is informed by the choreographer’s fondness for the minimalist and purposeful Bauhaus school.    

AfteRite by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

More recently, McGregor returned to the city to reinterpret The Rite of Spring as AfteRite for the American Ballet Theatre, featuring dance superstars Misty Copeland and Alessandra Ferri. 

#12 2011: Radiohead’s ‘Lotus Flower’

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke is choreographed by McGregor, culminating in a viral hit music video that makes the most of the iconic musician’s physical signature, and has been viewed by almost 60 million people.

Big Dance 2012 (2012-07-14) by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#13 2012: The Big Dance

In July 2012, McGregor and his dancers (alongside five additional ‘London Dance’ hubs), worked with a cast of over 1000 amateur dancers of varying ages, backgrounds and styles to create Big Dance– a joyous, public performance in London’s Trafalgar Square ahead of the 2012 Olympics. 

Wayne McGregor TED TalkStudio Wayne McGregor

#14 2012: TEDTalk

McGregor unpacks his artistic practice on stage at TEDGlobal as depicted by real-time, live choreography. The video affirms his profound understanding of the human body as a thinking entity and solidifies his status as a singular, thought-leader. 

New Scientist Live: The Science of Dance by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

He is invited to be a Cultural Fellow at King’s College, and a guest speaker at New Scientist Live.       

Thinking with the Body exhibition by Studio Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#15 2013: Wellcome Collection: Thinking with the Body

The Wellcome Collection exhibits the cumulative results of McGregor, deLaHunta and additional research partners’ interdisciplinary explorations of embodied cognition, biomechanics, creativity and artificial intelligence. 

Becoming: Thinking with the Body exhibition by Studio Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

The intriguing show featured interactive choreographic software in the guise of a virtual 3-D dancer. Additional space was allocated to exploration of choreographic thinking tools, developed by McGregor and partners in the scientific and social science spheres. The related reaching resource, Mind + Movement was published in tandem with the exhibition. 

Gareth Pugh S/S 15 (2014-09-04) by Gareth PughStudio Wayne McGregor

#16 2014: Gareth Pugh, NYFW SS15

McGregor ensures his dancers’ costumes are impactful by engaging top talents such as Moritz Junge, Acne Studios, Aitor Throup and Shirin Guild. For Carbon Life (The Royal Ballet, 2012), he partnered with experimental designer, Gareth Pugh, who then invited the choreographer to direct movement for his S/S15 presentation at New York Fashion Week. 

Alea Sands (2015-11-26) by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

The duo teamed up again on Alea Sands (Paris Opera Ballet, 2015); 2016’s Brit Awards opening ceremony; Pugh’s SS18 London Fashion Week show, and a film for AnOther magazine.    

Tree of Codes by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#17 2015: Woolf Works and Tree of Codes (Literature)

McGregor is famed for infusing his performances with scientific and technological material. In 2015, a pair of astonishing new pieces – Tree of Codes, created on his company with dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet and instigated by an enigmatic text by Jonathan Safran Foer...

Woolf Works (2015-05-11) by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

... and Woolf Works, made for The Royal Ballet and inspired by a trio of novels from the seminal author’s canon – underline his connection to thought-provoking literature. 

Obsidian Tear (2016-05-28) by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

Uzma Hameed, the dramaturg for the outstanding latter piece would go on to work with McGregor on Obsidian Tear and Multiverse (both for The Royal Ballet, 2016) and Autobiography (Company Wayne McGregor, 2017).    

Tree of Codes by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#18 2015: Woolf Works and Tree of Codes (Collaborators)

For each work, McGregor forges astute alliances with artists, designers and musicians. Notably, the visual concept for Tree of Codes was devised by art world luminary, Olafur Eliasson; the music, by Jamie XX. 

Woolf Works (2015-05-11) by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

While for Woolf Works, which later won the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production, the choreographer commissioned a score by Max Richter, and atmospheric film from artist, Ravi Deprees. 

#19 2016: The Chemical Brothers ‘Wide Open’

In the 1990s, McGregor utilised a fledgling iteration of motion capture technology for simultaneous, remote performances in Berlin and Canada. Two decades later, he choreographs a technological breakthrough of a music video featuring a dancer turning into a 3D printed structure for enterprising, electronic duo, The Chemical Brothers.

Studio Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#20 2017: Studio Wayne McGregor

Studio Wayne McGregor settles into its stunning, new home in east London’s Here East complex. Fittingly, the voluminous space features captivating visual art pieces by Tatsuo Miyajima, who designed the set for McGregor’s Limen (The Royal Ballet, 2009), and Haroon Mirza, who crafted a bespoke lighting system for Alea Sands

Plus Minus Human by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#21 2017: +/- Human: AI + drones

The Roundhouse plays host to a technological artistic feat in the guise of +/- Human, which sees Company Wayne McGregor and members of the Royal Ballet dancing with drones. 

The compelling piece was made with contemporary art collective, Random International, to deftly showcase the algorithmic evolution of McGregor’s interactive choreographic software and highlight the human body as an organic interface.    

Autobiography by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#22 2017: Autobiography x DNA, medicine, genetics

Company Wayne McGregor premieres the staggeringly ambitious Autobiography, In preparation, McGregor had his genome sequenced, parlaying his code into data to be manipulated by an algorithm borne of a partnership with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. 

Autobiography by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

Having choreographed a personal life library of 23 ‘volumes’, the order of their performance, dynamic and casting was then guided by artificial intelligence created by software architect Nick Rothwell.   

#23 2018: FreeSpace

In celebration of its 25th anniversary, Studio Wayne McGregor kicks off a campaign to support its FreeSpace programme with the intention of sharing their creation-friendly space. In year one, over 50 choreographic artists are granted free access to rehearsal rooms in exchange for a commitment to using their skillsets to engage with schools and local communities. Studio Wayne McGregor aims to gift 15000 hours of FreeSpace by 2020 – as it stands, they’ve succeeded in donating nearly 11000 hours.

Wayne McGregor and FreeSpace artists discuss the FreeSpace programme and how it has impacted artists' creativity and the wider community. Video by Emma Crouch  

QuestLab Network by Studio Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#24 2018: QuestLab Network

The Studio welcomes the primary intake of ten artists into its Questlab Network – a development programme focusing on intersections between dance and technology, funded by Arts Council England. Participants are provided with access to the Studio’s incredible pool of researchers, technologists and commercial associates to assist them in realising progressive performance and engagement projects.

Living Archive by Google Arts and Culture Lab, Studio Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

#25 2019: Living Archive

The Google Arts & Culture Lab partners with Studio Wayne McGregor to invent a pioneering, artificially intelligent choreographic tool trained upon the choreographer’s video archive. 

Living Archive by Google Arts and Culture Lab, Studio Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

In collaboration with McGregor, Damien Henry, Head of Innovation at the Lab, devises algorithms capable of predicting sequences of future movement and responding in real-time to live video input. 

Living Archive: An AI Performance Experiment (2019-07-12) by Wayne McGregorStudio Wayne McGregor

McGregor uses the technology to make Living Archive: An AI Performance Experiment, set to music by feted composer, Thomas Adès. 

Living Archive: An AI tool for choreography

Credits: Story

'25 Moments that have defined Studio Wayne McGregor'  text written by Suze Olbrich.

Images of Living Archive experiment, courtesy of Google Arts & Culture.  

Images of Company Wayne McGregor performing Living Archive: An AI Performance Experiment, captured at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion by Cheryl Mann. Used by permission of the LA Phil.  

Credits: All media
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