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‘Choreography is like drawing with your body’

British choreographer Wayne McGregor on his first India tour and being a Radiohead fan

Wayne McGregor (left). Photo: Ravi Deepres
Wayne McGregor (left). Photo: Ravi Deepres

The scope of London-based choreographer Wayne McGregor’s work ranges from exploring the connection between movement and brain science to creating the physicality of the death eaters in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire.

When we meet at the Taj Vivanta in Mumbai’s Cuffe Parade, ahead of his performance at the National Centre for the Performing Arts this week, the first thing he does is point to my T-shirt: “Radiohead fan?" For McGregor has choreographed a music video (Lotus Flower) for them and other bands such as Chemical Brothers (Wide Open). “I am a fan of these people. They are curious to start something new, so we do something together," he says nonchalantly, sounding very unlike one of the stars of modern dance.

He is the first person without training in ballet to be appointed resident-choreographer of The Royal Ballet. He got interested in dance by listening to disco and watching John Travolta movies.

McGregor is on his first India tour with FAR, created in 2010. Performed by 10 dancers from Company Wayne McGregor, it features a meticulously constructed set with 3,200 LED lights and original soundtracks. And like his other work, FAR, based on the book Flesh In The Age Of Reason, is about ideas. McGregor worked with cognitive neuroscientists for this piece, an exploration of creativity.

“We always say creativity, dance, these are instinctive. But dance in some way is an expression of habits; when we make new pieces, we subvert those habits and change the way you think about the world. FAR is about investigating that," he says. McGregor’s three-city India tour has been organized by the British Council. A work commissioned by it earlier saw him collaborating with Bengaluru-based dance company Attakkalari to create a “digital dance" app called Mix The Body, which enables users to create their own dance by drawing on the screen. “Choreography is like drawing with your body," he says.

When we think of choreography in movies, we tend to think of musical-style song and dance. In the movies he has worked in, McGregor has been a “movement director", a lesser-known department of modern-day film-making. In Goblet Of Fire, for instance, he would ensure that Hagrid romancing Olympe Maxime—performed by a body double, a male basketball player on stilts, in that particular scene—looks right on screen. For Obscurus, a formless dark force in Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, whose sequel he has just finished working in, he created the dance movements and reanimated them. McGregor explains what the job entails. “These films need someone who is an expert in bodies. The job is to prepare actors, especially weird characters or monsters. I do prep workshops for months before the shoot, work with the actors during it. It’s an intimate process and it’s brilliant."

FAR will be performed in Mumbai on 1 December, 7.30 pm at National Centre for the Performing Arts, in Bengaluru on 6 December, 7.30pm, at Chowdiah Memorial Hall and in Delhi on 13-14 December, 7pm, at the Kamani Auditorium. For more details, visit

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