Virgina Woolf—the Ballet?

March 31, 2014

When I read this morning that Wayne McGregor was planning to create a full-length ballet based on not just one Virgina Woolf novel, but three Virginia Woolf novels, my first thought was: That’s insane. My second was: That’s so insane, it just might be brilliant.


Royal Ballet artistic director Kevin O’Hare announced McGregor’s plans yesterday as part of the Royal Opera House 2014–2015 season lineup. The ballet will be set to a commissioned score by Max Richter (whose cinematic music has recently become like candy to choreographers) and it will be based on Woolf’s iconic Mrs. Dalloway as well as her lighter parody Orlando and the experimental The Waves. As if that weren’t enough, it will feature none other than Alessandra Ferri.


Admittedly, McGregor’s last literary experiment with Audrey Niffenegger for Raven Girl was not exactly a success. But there might be something genius about the idea of translating Woolf for the dance stage. Her stream-of-consiousness sentences dance off the page, evoking more moods and feelings than linear plotlines. These three works McGregor has chosen often feel more like long prose poems than novels and dig into an array of rich psychological themes. While I can’t imagine Woolf herself would have enjoyed seeing her work in pointe shoes, if McGregor is able to use the most compelling qualities of these three novels as jumping-off points, his ballet could have just the kind of complexity and mystery that makes a masterpiece.


P.S. Hofesh Schecter will be also choreographing on the company! What a season.