I thought it would be easier to split this review into seperate posts. So this is the first one ! This first post is a review on the talk by Wayne McGregor (Wayne McGregor / Random Dance and The Royal Ballet). Personally I found the talks from him and Rachel Peppin (Former principle dancer for the Birmingham Royal Ballet) perhaps the most interesting as they were personal accounts of their engagement with dance medicine and science as dance professionals.
Wayne is clearly very intelligent and absolutely passionate about what he does. Ever carefully selected word he spoke was said with real authority and demonstrated his wealth of experience and wisdom. As a speaker he was engaging, humorous and you literally had to keep your full attention on him as he spoke pretty fast!
I was very impressed with Wayne’s approach to working with dancers. The focus of his talk was on what is expected from a dancer. His expectation was that dancers have to be ready to work with a good approach and attitude – a “can do” attitude. His creative process demands the dancers to be responsive to his instructions and that requires a “healthy state of mind and body”.If a dancer is not properly taking care of themselves, this can affect the development of the piece. He wants his dancers to walk into the studio prepared and ready to work with him.
What was great to hear was that when his dancers get injured, he works around this and adapts to their current capabilities. This is a great attitude as many dancers continue on through injury as they worry they won’t get paid or they are letting the choreographer/company down. This perhaps is a good time to point out that many artistic directors or choreographers do not have a good appreciation of how injury can affect a dancer and therefore their injury/sick policies and attitudes drive dancers to physical and often mental breakdown. Wayne McGregor is really a role model for these people and I hope that they hear this message in some way!
Wayne looks for dancers who have excellent cognitive and creative capabilities, not just physical. However, flexibility with strength and control is essential in performing his movement vocabulary. He also looks for individual style and signature, ability to distinguish movement between bones and muscles and developed proprioception in motion through time.
It was good to hear that Wayne ensures that his dancers get breaks in schedules, training plans and regular screenings. However Wayne also believes it is down to the dancer to take responsibility for their own bodies and communicate their boundaries to choreographers. He appreciates this is not always easy, however if you don’t you will only get worse and then be injured for a longer period of time.
I felt that Wayne had a great approach and attitude to what he expects from dancers and how he provides “open communication” with dancers. This has many advantages but most importantly for me, a safe environment for dancers to be honest about their physical limitations and feel properly supported both physically and emotionally.