April 2, 2014

Virginia Woolf’s life and works to become a ballet


Woolf Works will take Woolf from the page to the stage

Woolf Works will take Woolf from the page to the stage

The Royal Opera House, London’s leading venue for opera and ballet, has announced that a ballet based on the life and works of Virginia Woolf will be the centrepiece of its 2014/2015 programme.

Woolf Works will use Woolf’s life and her novels Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves to “break the rules” of narrative ballet, and it sounds like it’s going to be pretty special. Wayne McGregor, the ballet’s choreographer, spoke about how Woolf breaks and experiments with form in these novels, which has allowed him to do the same in dance, telling the BBC:

Her writing lends itself to the breaking of rules, in terms of how words are organised, or thoughts are organised. I thought that was a perfect filter to create something new.

The idea comes across as a more creative version of a biopic, where Woolf’s life and career will be explored in a way that tells one story while also inventing new ones. I also like the fact that McGregor has chosen some of Woolf’s most experimental works, that each try out different techniques.  How a novelist might approach perspective, time, narrative and character are all investigated and examined, and what Woolf attempts isn’t always easy for the reader.

But each of the novels also lends a key ingredient for a ballet: Orlando provides the bombast and theatrical settings, The Waves gives rhythm and Mrs Dalloway offers a manageable time frame and a “reality” which might be interrupted or startled. McGregor commented:

We’re going to be able to find a way of mashing up, splicing and going back-and-forward through periods of time in a way that will hopefully be really evocative, and a different way of experiencing ballet.


Zeljka Marosevic is the managing director of Melville House UK.