Wayne McGregor

Presentation address by Professor Vivien Jones


Wayne McGregor is one of our most innovative and exciting choreographers.  ‘I’m interested,’ he has said, ‘in interrogating … the process of making a dance.’  His dance-making is based in ground-breaking creative collaborations.  He works with musicians and with lighting and stage designers, with artists and film-makers, and with literature; but he also draws inspiration from science, particularly neuroscience.  In 2004, for example, he held a Research Fellowship in Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge; he has worked with the Natural History Museum; and in 2014 with the Wellcome Trust, developing an interactive digital software tool, ‘Becoming’, which supports dance-making in the studio. 


Born in Stockport, Wayne McGregor studied dance at Bretton Hall, affiliated to this university, and then at the José Limon School in New York.  In 1992 he was appointed choreographer-in-residence at The Place and founded his own company, Wayne McGregor|Random Dance, the first group to be invited to become a Resident Company at Sadler's Wells; in 2006, he became a resident choreographer at the Royal Ballet; and he is Professor of Choreography at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire.  Winner of numerous awards, including a South Bank Show award, in 2011 he was awarded a CBE for services to dance.

McGregor is a prolific creator.  He has choreographed fifteen new dances for the Royal Ballet; his work has been commissioned by leading companies across the world; and it features in the repertoire of many more, including the Bolshoi and Nederlands Dans Theatre.  But he also engages with a wide variety of audiences: at London Fashion Week, for example; at the 2015 Brit Awards, where he choreographed Paloma Faith's performance; as the movement director for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; or as the creator in 2012 of 'Big Dance Trafalgar Square', a performance of 1000 participants. 

McGregor’s distinctive choreographic style is characterised by a dynamic and sinuous precision.  Increasingly, he combines contemporary with classical vocabulary in pieces for the Royal Ballet such as the stunning full-length ballet Woolf Works, based on the life and work of Virginia Woolf.  The resulting influence on dance and dancers is profound.  Darcey Bussell recently noted, for example, that under McGregor’s influence male principal dancer Edward Watson ‘has become one of the most radically different dancers the Royal Ballet has ever seen’. 

McGregor continues to innovate and surprise.  Last summer Tree of Codes, made with artist Olafur Eliasson, composer Jamie xx, and an onstage mirror wowed audiences at the Manchester International Festival, immersing them in an intense kinesthetic experience.  And critics commenting on McGregor’s latest work for the Royal Ballet, Obsidian Tear, described ‘a captivating and challenging new language’.  This autumn, the Royal Opera House will celebrate his partnership with the Royal Ballet by devoting a whole programme to his work, including two of his acknowledged classic pieces, Chroma and Carbon Life, as well as yet another new creation to a commissioned score by Steve Reich – a truly exciting prospect.

Chancellor, I am honoured and delighted to present to you, for the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, Wayne McGregor.