Wayne McGregor has a new home, and he intends to share it. In March, the British choreographer and his company moved into Studio Wayne McGregor, a new, state-of-the-art venue in London. They have since announced two ambitious initiatives: FreeSpace, a program gifting studio time to other artists, and PEER, a mentorship program for final-year dance students and recent graduates.
Studio Wayne McGregor was one of the organizations selected to move into the repurposed Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; its other tenants include tech companies, local universities and an innovation hub. "Connectivity was very important to us, as well as the human capital," says McGregor. "We'll have access to diverse thinkers." The facilities include three large studios and a series of smaller collaborative spaces, as well as cross-training facilities and open areas throughout the building that double as gallery space.
The innovative FreeSpace and PEER programs were born out of McGregor's desire to share the facilities with the wider dance community at a difficult time in the UK, with repeated government funding cuts. "It's easy to talk about the issues facing the dance sector, but I thought we had to do something," McGregor says, citing the cost ("around £2,000 per week," or over $2,500) of renting a studio in London.
As part of FreeSpace, 5,000 hours of studio time will be gifted to 25 artists over one year. In exchange, for each week spent in the Studio they are asked to devote one day to outreach projects. Candoco Dance Company and Didy Veldman are part of the first cohort selected by McGregor, who curates FreeSpace directly rather than through an application process. "I select the companies based on work I've been interested in, and the entrepreneurial vision of the director," he explains.
PEER, meanwhile, is a little different from standard apprentice schemes. A yearlong program for final-year dance students and recent graduates, it isn't based on "dancing ability," says McGregor, but is instead tailored to budding choreographers or future leaders. "The business of making choreography is about many things besides talent. A lot of it is presentation, or having time with professional dancers," he says.
With that in mind, McGregor has devised a program combining company class with his dancers, creative labs, mentoring and professional development sessions. PEER participants (there are currently six) must be UK-based and are selected through application and interview.
For McGregor, it is a step on the way to turning the "raw space" of the new Studio into an open hub for dancers and artists: "We want to have an engaged artistic community."