Posted on 11 March 2020 By Behind Ballet Editorial Team

Wayne McGregor's choreography doesn't only stretch the limbs to their limit: it's also a challenge to the mind. On the eve of our Volt program, which features his works Chroma and Dyad 1929, our dancers past and present tell us what it's like to get your head around this "extraterrestrial" movement.

Former Principal Artist Daniel Gaudiello

Wayne McGregor’s work is cutting-edge, it’s new – the world was waiting for someone to get ballet and turn it on its head. What sets Wayne apart from many other choreographers is the intensity of his choreography. What he asks of you sometimes feels so impossible, so extra-terrestrial! It’s refreshing. [His choreography] hit us like a cannonball. He doesn’t take breaks – no drink breaks, no talking about it. You really just have to pick it up and do it or he’ll move on to the next person. That’s how he works, his brain’s so quick, he expects quick brains out of his dancers as well. He moves faster than any choreographer I’ve ever worked with. I would come out of rehearsals wet, wasted, but really happy.

Daniel in Dyad 1929. Photography Branco Gaica

Principal Artist Brett Chynoweth

Wayne’s works are really athletic and really powerful. There's a lot of over-stretching and pushing and physicality. It's tiring, for the brain as well! Wayne's works really push the limits for dancers, especially [when performed by] classical ballet companies; it gives you the opportunity to use the technique you’ve been developing as a foundation and push that in in interesting directions. It’s classical dancers, classical bodies, being pushed into a really modern territory.

Brett and Lana Jones in Dyad 1929. Photography Branco Gaica

Senior Artist Dana Stephensen

Each time we come back to Dyad 1929 it reminds of how alive the studio was with energy, new thoughts, new patterns, new ways of moving, and all at relentless breakneck speed! Pushing our bodies and our brains and perceptions on moving into totally new galaxies. It will always be one of the most exciting times of my career! Wayne is so much 'in' his physicality himself – seeing that on someone and then transposing that onto your own body actually requires a lot of thought. It’s a very dynamic style of movement, and that means it can range from smooth to sharp to quick to slow, but the transitions between all of that have to be seamless. Rubber bands: that’s what I think of when I walk in the studio; trying to get that elasticity in your body.

Dana rehearsing Dyad 1929. Photography Teagen Glennane

Former Senior Artist Juliet Burnett

Wayne was asking us to explore our mental and physical capacity to the extreme and challenging our cognitive skills at the same time. It was an epiphany of sorts for me. I had discovered, in those weeks we worked with Wayne, muscles I had never been in tune with. I pushed my body to fill negative space like a broad brush painting oil on canvas – or a fine needlepoint etching – or the breath of an acrylic spray-can on a wall. This was the result of challenging my thought process, stepping back and asking my body questions and eking out really surprising answers. I guess you could say I was disturbing my body. This, I thought after one rehearsal, is what art is about.

More from Juliet

Juliet and Kevin Jackson in Chroma. Photography Jess Bialek