Wayne's World

Katy Evans speaks to international choreographer Wayne McGregor just prior to a heart-felt performance of his most recent work at Snape Maltings in Suffolk.

Katy Evans speaks to international choreographer Wayne McGregor just prior to a heart-felt performance of his most recent work at Snape Maltings in Suffolk.

Almost everything in choreographer Wayne's McGregor's world is amazing. Talking from Amsterdam, where he just spent four week collaborating with the Netherlands Dance Theatre, the 36-year-old (who sounds younger than his years) uses the 'a' word to describe almost everything - from dancers to costumes, sets to studios.

His latest work, Amu, which means 'from the heart' in Arabic, will be performed this weekend at Snape Maltings in Suffolk, no doubt to a packed house.

“The costumes are amazing. They were designed by Shelley Fox (an international designer) and are made up of different 'skins', inspired by data from heart scans.”

In fact, Wayne and his company all had heart scans done by way of inspiration and research.

“I went to see open heart surgery and we had scans - it was amazing. To see your own heart is quite shocking,” says Wayne.

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The music for Amu was composed by Sir John Tavener, who suffers from Marfan's syndrome - a rare medical condition which affects the heart. He began a piece of music in 2002 based on a Sufi poem, which tells the tale of a tragic love story, and this was developed into the score for Amu.

“There is a heart beat running through the music. There are five sections and the beat gets faster and faster in each.

“I usually work with much more hardcore music but this is beautiful. There are lots of rhythmic passages and soaring melodies, which is what Tavener is famous for,” explains Wayne.

As is the case with most of Random Dance's work, Amu will also be a multimedia experience including a projected film-based on work by Turner Prize-nominated artist Shirazeh Houshiary.

Amu was rehearsed for five weeks in Wayne's new purpose-built studio on the island of Lamu off the coast of Kenya, the name of which inspired the piece (Lamu/Amu, meaning 'of the heart' in Arabic).

“We rehearsed there for five weeks which was great as afterwards you get to go and swim in the Indian Ocean.

“I have a house in London but I wanted to build a studio abroad. I considered Thailand and Malaysia but when I got to Lamu, it just seemed perfect.

“You have to fly to the island then get picked up by a dhow (sailing boat). I love it because you have beaches like in the Seychelles but it's also a world heritage site rich in religion, architecture and Swahili culture so it's not boring. Neither is it a major tourist destination, which I like.

“There are amazing colours and a sense of space and freedom.”

The studio, which is surrounded by mangroves and close to a coral reef, is also going to act as a dancers retreat centre, housing up to 30 people at a time. Wayne says the first visiting group (other than the Random dance troupe) will be there in September.

Born in 1970 in Stockport, Wayne studied dance at University College, Bretton Hall, and at the José Limon School in New York. He founded Random Dance in 1992 and in the same year was appointed choreographer-in-residence at The Place, London.

Having been resident at Sadlers Well in London since 2002, it was recently announced that Random Dance will also be the first associate company of the new Dance House in Ipswich (run by DanceEast), due for completion in 2008.

“It's so important to have the Dance House in Ipswich so international dancers can come to the region, putting a cultural stamp on East Anglia,” says Wayne, who has worked with DanceEast since his company's inception.

Another recent project was working on the latest Harry Potter movie.

“We had about 200 kids from East London, training them not only to dance but how to move around. It was about physical behaviours as well as dance,” explains Wayne.

One of the nicest comments he received came indirectly from young actress Emma Watson, who played Hermione.

“She said recently in an interview that her favourite part to filming was leaning to dance.”

Last month, Random toured Australia performing at the Adelaide Festival and then as part of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in front of a crowd of around 7000.

“It was amazing. It was part of a huge cultural festival and we were the only dance element,” says Wayne.

And after Amu at Snape, Wayne will be off to Milan where he is directing his first opera, Dido and Aeneas.

It sounds like an idyllic lifestyle, jetting about from continent to continent, but does living out of a suitcase take its toll?

“It can be tough working solidly for weeks at a time but it goes in chunks, as I have about 4-5 weeks off in between sometimes to relax and do nothing. I work in cities most of the time with wall to wall buildings to it's great to now be able to escape to Lamu.

“I never knew, when I started as a child, that you could make a career out of dance. I never imagined dance would get me involved with a Hollywood movie either. I'm lucky in that over the past 14 years I've travelled the world and been to about 60-70 countries.”

All sounds pretty amazing to me.

Amu, by Random Dance, Sir John Tavener and the Southbank Sinfonia, is at Snape Maltings concert hall on Saturday April 29 at 8pm, For info and to book tickets, call 01728 687110.

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