Choreographer Wayne McGregor created Obsidian Tear in 2016, set to a pair of pieces by Esa-Pekka Salonen: his symphonic poem Nyx (2011) and the violin solo Lachen verlernt (2002). The world of Obsidian Tear is inspired by Nyx, the premiere of which Mr. McGregor heard in Paris in 2011, conducted by Mr. Salonen. Composed for large orchestra, Nyx is named for the Greek goddess of night. Mr. Salonen writes: “Nyx is a shadowy figure in Greek mythology … we have no sense of her character or personality. … I’m not trying to describe this mythical goddess in any precise way musically. However, the almost constant flickering and rapid changing of textures and moods as well as a certain elusive character of many musical gestures may well be related to the subject.” Of the second piece in Obsidian Tear, Mr. Salonen writes: “The title Lachen verlernt (Laughing Unlearnt) is a quotation from the ninth movement of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, Gebet an Pierrot (Prayer to Pierrot). The narrator declares that she has unlearnt the skill of laughing and begs Pierrot, the ‘Horse-doctor to the soul,’ to give it back to her. I felt that this is a very moving metaphor of a performer: a serious clown trying to help the audience to connect with emotions they have lost, or believe they have lost.” Obsidian Tear, which is named for the volcanic rock that sometimes appears as small ovals known as obsidian tears (or Apache tears, based on a Native American legend), is a co-production between The Royal Ballet and Boston Ballet, and was premiered in May 2016 at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Wayne McGregor CBE is a multi-award-winning British choreographer and director. He is artistic director of Studio Wayne McGregor, the creative engine of his life-long choreographic enquiry into thinking through and with the body. Studio Wayne McGregor encompasses his extensive creative collaborations across dance, film, music, visual art, technology, and science; Company Wayne McGregor, his own touring company of dancers; and highly specialized learning and research programs. Studio Wayne McGregor opened its own creative arts space at Here East on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London in 2017. Wayne McGregor is also resident choreographer at The Royal Ballet, where his productions are acclaimed for their daring reconfiguring of classical language. He is professor of choreography at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and has an honorary doctor of science degree from Plymouth University and an honorary doctor of letters degree from University of Leeds. He has an honorary fellowship of the British Science Association, and he is serving on the jury for the RIBA International Prize 2018. Wayne McGregor is regularly commissioned by and has works in the repertories of the most important ballet companies around the world, including Paris Opéra Ballet, New York City Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet. He has choreographed for theater, opera, film (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Legend of Tarzan, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Sing), music videos (Radiohead, Thom Yorke, The Chemical Brothers), fashion (Gareth Pugh London Fashion Week 2017, New York Fashion Week 2014), campaigns (Selfridges), television (Brit Awards 2015, 2016), and site-specific performances (Big Dance Trafalgar Square 2012). Wayne McGregor’s work has earned him four Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards, two Time Out Awards, two South Bank Show Awards, two Olivier Awards, a prix Benois de la Danse, and two Golden Mask Awards. In 2011 Mr. McGregor was awarded a CBE for Services to Dance.