Working with Wayne
Rebecca Marshall, Executive
Producer, talks to Sian Kendall about her working
relationship with Wayne McGregor at Random Dance
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
SK: When did you begin
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
Please join the discussion in our forum.