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Preparing for Your Dance GCSE 

About Wayne McGregor


For the AQA Dance GCSE exam you need to be able to demonstrate that you can critique and appraise works of dance from different styles and cultural backgrounds. Coursework deadline is soon, but the exam itself isn’t until June. Many professional works of dance have been focused on during your learning, but we’re going to have a refresher on Wayne McGregor.


We caught up with associates of Company Wayne McGregor when we were at MOVE IT 2018 to gain some choreographic insight. Infra is McGregor’s professional work chosen by the exam board for you to explore. You’ve watched the films, you’ve seen the performances, you basically know everything there is to know about McGregor. Keep reading just to be sure. 


Top Facts About Wayne McGregor

  • He wanted to be John Travolta. He loved disco dancing.
  • He started off as a ballroom dancer and was encouraged by his teacher to choreograph his own routines.
  • Up to the age of 17, he’d only done tap, ballroom, theatre and disco dancing.
  • He went to Bretton Hall College of Education in Yorkshire and got his Choreography & Dance degree.
  • He worked as a dance animator - what we call today a “community dance artist”. McGregor organised tea dances and had a passion for bringing dance into the community at Random Dance Company.
  • He joined the Royal Ballet 10 years ago as a resident choreographer. Infra is now 10 years old! Fact: he’s the only choreographer not to come from the Royal Ballet School.
  • McGregor has learnt ballet vocabulary along the way whilst working with Royal Ballet.
  • He always works with a similar team of collaborators across his performances. Here’s who collab’ed on Infra.

Costumes: Morritz Junge (worked on Chroma & Infra)

Music: Max Richter. McGregor speaks to the composers 1 year to 18 months before piece. He likes to help compose new pieces of music for productions.

Lighting: Infra lighting by Lucy Carter. She’s been his lighting designer for every piece since 1995

Design: Julian Opie.

  • McGregor has an interesting choreography style. 

  • McGregor feels passionately inspired by T.S Eliot’s The Wasteland and The London Bombings.
  • All of McGregor’s dancers learn both “male” and “female” choreography.
  • He had his DNA encoded and used patterns from it to create choreography.
  • His multiple productions within the same time period often have a throughline between them.
  • “Mind & Movement” is a piece of research by McGregor with 10 years of research on his own cognitive thinking. Reading this - or at least parts of it - will give you great insight to understanding his choreography.
  • McGregor is inspired by people’s moods, good or bad, when they come into the studio. One of the most interesting things about a dancer to McGregor is their “physical signature”. He’s fascinated by people’s body imprint and physicality of their body. This then effects the type of role a dancer will play, like the difference between playing fluid Eric or jerky Edward.
  • Not all Royal Ballet dancers want to work with McGregor because they prefer replicating more classical works.


What is “Structuring”?

McGregor choreographs his pieces freely over a number of weeks. The last 3 weeks is when the show really comes together, pulling together moves across the whole choreography period, including the first week called the “creation period”!


How does McGregor choreograph?

Showing - McGregor demonstrates the moves himself. He’s pretty lanky and has no classical ballet training, so it can be quite mesmerising (and strange) to watch!

Making - He describes the moves to dancers with emotive vocab.

Tasking - He gives dancers a task to create a piece of choreography by themselves and asks them to bring back their moves to him. He then works on these moves to create choreography.


What is “Sonification”?

Wayne makes noises during rehearsals to represent a movement or quality that he wants the dancers to replicate through motion. For example, he might make a sound that sounds like a stretchy, tacky dance move.


Jasmin, McGregor’s associate, says:

“He uses the body as an architectural object”.


Intention, Approach & Content

All these are aspects of how McGregor’s choreographic process works. The intention is the stimulus and starting point for McGregor, like a dancer or a painting. But these three processes are cyclical and attached to each other. Looking back at the intention can show how the intention and approach coexist. Sometimes choreographic content doesn’t even relate back to the intention for McGregor! For your GCSE, it’s all about how you interpret aspects of Infra. For example, if you can justify your reasons for why you think Section 7 is actually the climax of the piece rather than Section 4, then that’s the key! The Chief Examiner says you just must be able to justify your answers.


Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for creative purposes only and is not supplied as a GCSE guide. Most of this information is from Jasmin, an associate of McGregor who was a speaker at MOVE IT 2018. Please listen to and follow the guidance of your dance teacher for this exam. 

Feature image by Pete on Flickr Creative Commons with a Public Domain Mark. 


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