Performing DNA: Dancer James Pett on Wayne McGregor’s ‘Autobiography’

Photo by Richard Davies



Growing up in Scotland, James Pett was a gymnast who turned to dance at the comparatively late age of 17 years old. He studied contemporary dance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London. Five years ago a dream came true when Pett was hired by one of the most important choreographers in contemporary dance, Wayne McGregor.

Company Wayne McGregor’s latest work “Autobiography” is being performed at the Berliner Festspiele for Tanz im August. The piece is based on Wayne McGregor’s genetic makeup. An algorithm based on McGregor’s DNA instructs the dancers which dance sequence comes next, meaning that each performance is different from the last. Pett says: “I think that he wanted to make a piece that was very personalized to him, but he was also very interested in this idea of a piece that was never the same.”

Tanz im August runs until Sept. 2. Check out our coverage of the international contemporary dance festival on our event page, and find out how you could win a pair of tickets to The Big Dance Company’s performance of 17c on Sunday, Aug. 26.

Photos by Andrej Uspenski, Dajana Lothert, and Richard Davies.