Working with Wayne

Rebecca Marshall, Executive Producer, talks to Sian Kendall about her working relationship with Wayne McGregor at Random Dance

September, 2003

Image of Wayne McGregor by Bill Cooper

Rebecca moved to London from
San Francisco where she worked as a dancer and Arts Administrator with ODC/San Francisco and LINES Contemporary Ballet since 1995. Prior to that Rebecca lived and danced in Boston, Massachusetts with Prometheus Dance Company. She grew up in Africa and Europe, moving to the United States to attend university, where she studied dance and economics.

SK: When did you begin working together?

RM: I joined Random in October 1999. I had just moved here from the USA and was completely new to the UK dance scene. I'd never heard of Random or Wayne McGregor. Two management members of the team had just left and the company had recently found out that they had been switched to fixed-term funding, so it was a particular crossroads in the company’s history.

Did you bring an American model of practice to Random?

My feeling about working within a dance company is that there is no real model. It's such an individual job that you have to work the way the individuals are working. We are an artistic director led company, and the company exists to fulfil Wayne's creative plan; it reflects his ideals and his way of working. It is, however, refreshing to work here as there is hardly any government support for the arts in America. You never feel that what you are doing is being acknowledged.

How has your relationship with Wayne changed over the years?

You get to know somebody, so I now know how he's going to react to things. But he has a very open personality, so it was easy to get to know him because he'll tell you right out what he wants, what he likes and what he doesn't like. Our relationship has developed, but I've always felt very comfortable working and communicating with him.

What do you put the successful growth at Random down to?

Primarily I think it's to do with the work and Wayne's energy. He drives the company and inspires everybody that works here. I think the reason it happened when it happened is to do with time. The company was about eight years old when I joined it and it takes that long for a choreographer to really find his feet. In 1997, Wayne started working with technology and it has grown from there. You only get your funding after you've paid your dues, and I think we have received successive increases in funding because we continually have a high turnover of work compared to the amount of funding that we receive.

As Executive Producer, what skills do you need?

One is to listen to the myriad of ideas from Wayne and other people, and filter through them to decide which we want to do and which we can do. We have such a huge number of projects coming through our office that to be able to identify the ones that are going to be successful is a vital part of my job, as is pushing those projects forward to ensure they get to the next stage. I also manage the logistical side of things, to make sure that everything is running smoothly so that everyone is taken care of. It's really keeping an umbrella over the company.

What do you need from Wayne in order to do your job?

I value most his complete trust and appreciation of me, and his understanding of who I am and what I do. The times that I have any sort of problems are when Wayne is out of the office because we need to talk, connect and communicate, and if he is away for a month it makes that more difficult. This is something that we are very aware of; one of the reasons I go on tour with the company is because I can hang out with Wayne and talk about what's going on. Apart from that, we very much seem to see eye-to-eye or if we don't then we tend to know where the other person is coming from.

What effect does a strong artistic director/manager relationship have on the dancers?

I hope it's beneficial, although they might sometimes feel like we're ganging up on them. In the last year we have been looking at the practice of our dancers and their working environment - making sure it is clear who they come to with what and how problems are dealt with. Wayne has a closer relationship with the dancers but there are certain things that happen which are difficult for him to deal with directly because his first priority is always the work and sometimes that can get in the way of individual relationships. Although my priority is the company, part of that is ensuring that the dancers are happy and healthy. Not that that is not important to Wayne, but his first priority is the work. By having slightly different focuses, together we are able to do something that is right for everybody.

What tips do you have for building a successful relationship such as yours?

So much of it boils down to personalities and it just so happens that Wayne and I work very well together. I love my job and am here for that reason. If you are in my position in a company you need to have a good relationship with the artistic director, otherwise it becomes disheartening and difficult because you are banging your head against a wall the whole time. There are some things, however, that are very important to get from an artistic director such as respect, appreciation and understanding. Sometimes artistic directors don't realise how important it is that you feel valued and that your work is valued. I feel very valued and I am sure that has a lot to do with our success.

This article first appeared in Dance UK News.

To find out more about Dance UK visit www.danceuk.org


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