Listen to this article
Wayne McGregor, 44, is a multi-award-winning choreographer. He is artistic director of Wayne McGregor | Random Dance and resident choreographer of the Royal Ballet. He was created CBE in 2011 for services to dance.
What was your earliest ambition?
To be a barrister. There was a Granada TV series called Crown Court when I was growing up in the 1970s and I was obsessed with it.
Public or state school? University or straight into work?
Stockport School, an all-boys state school. Then Bretton Hall College at the University of Leeds.
Who was your mentor?
US choreographer Merce Cunningham. He always pushed himself to do something different. He’s more of a hero than a mentor: a mentor that didn’t know he was one.
How physically fit are you?
Pretty fit but you can never be fit enough. The great thing about dance is that it trains the body and exercises the brain too.
Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
Both matter but you also need opportunity and champions. It’s 80 per cent psychology; it’s about your interactions with people.
Have you ever taken an IQ test?
I haven’t. I’m always a bit cautious about standardised testing.
How politically committed are you?
Artists are inherently political – they believe the arts can be an engine for change. There’s all this policy about Stem subjects; we want to put the arts in to make Steam subjects.
Do you consider your carbon footprint?
I do and we have a carbon footprint policy within the company and take it very seriously but, of course, I’m on an aeroplane all of the time. I’ve got a few more forests to plant.
Do you have more than one home?
I do. I live in London but we’ve got a beautiful retreat on the island of Lamu in Kenya – it’s totally sustainable, all solar, and we catch our own water.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
An Agnes Martin painting.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
Modernist furniture, especially chairs. And long vacations.
In what place are you happiest?
When I’m with the people I love. I’m really happy when I’m in the studio, or walking our whippet on Dartmoor, or swimming in the Indian Ocean.
What ambitions do you still have?
I don’t have a linear path I’d like to go on, I just want to make sure my receptors are open.
What drives you on?
I’m curious, impatient, determined.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Forming Random Dance in 1992 and keeping it going all these years. And becoming the Royal Ballet’s resident choreographer in 2006.
What has been your greatest disappointment?
I do get disappointed but I don’t have great disappointments because I’m always looking forward.
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?
He’d be thrilled that I’d followed my dreams and not been afraid to fail. But I think he’d probably want to do everything differently.
If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?
It might be liberating. It’s good to be in a place that’s the unknown, a place where you’re a bit lost.
Do you believe in assisted suicide?
I absolutely do. Everyone should have the right to a dignified ending.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
I don’t. We’re all energy held together for a time, till it disappears.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
Wayne McGregor | Random Dance is working with City University on the ‘Living Archive’ project to build a digital archive of unique materials produced during McGregor’s career; creativeworkslondon.org.uk
Photographs: The Guardian; Getty; Dreamstime
Get alerts on Royal Ballet UK when a new story is published