How Radiohead caught rock's ballet bug – and went viral

Thom Yorke's dance begins in silhouette before building to a convulsive climax. The latest Radiohead video, "Lotus Flower", has amassed more than 3.5 million YouTube hits since being uploaded on Friday. It looks like the nervous jitters of a madman. It is, in fact, the delicately choreographed work of one of modern dance's greatest talents.

The video, from The King of Limbs, the much-hyped Radiohead album released on Friday, was choreographed by Wayne McGregor. McGregor might not mean a lot to mainstream rock fans, but dance aficionados know him well, whether from his collaboration with The White Stripes for the Royal Ballet's 2006 production Chroma or teaching schoolchildren moves for a Harry Potter film.

Always distinctive – and often unnerving – McGregor's steps in "Lotus Flower" proved ripe for parody. YouTube wags have set Yorke's fits to the tune of Beyoncé's "Single Ladies", an upload whose own hits have now reached six figures. "The video is very typical of Wayne's work, very dysfunctional, it portrays someone who is slightly uneasy in their own skin," said Sadler's Wells artistic director Alistair Spalding, a long-time collaborator of McGregor's. "I would probably recognise it as Wayne's work even if I already hadn't known who had done it. It's a very interesting line to have taken, to use his moves on Thom Yorke himself rather than employ dancers."

McGregor, currently rehearsing with the Paris Opera Ballet, is no stranger to "crossover" choreography, having worked on a huge range of musicals, plays, ballet, modern companies and films. "I get bored very easily," he said. "So I always find challenges to keep myself awake."

McGregor's predilection for the mainstream mirrors a recent trend: in November, the New York City Ballet celebrated its 10th anniversary with choreographer Justin Peck working with perennially trendy singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens. From Rihanna walking en pointe in the 2007 video of her hit track "Umbrella" to Kanye West's single "Runaway", released last October, featuring writhing dancers in tutus, high-profile acts are queueing up to indulge. In 2009, Lady Gaga collaborated with the Bolshoi Ballet for a performance piece at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. MGMT's video, "It's Working", sees ballerinas descend from the heavens to stand upon a dancer's shoulders, while British synth-pop duo Hurts employed ballerinas to twirl through "Better Than Love".

"It simply means classical and contemporary dance are becoming more mainstream," said Venezuelan choreographer Javier de Frutos, who has collaborated with the Pet Shop Boys on The Most Incredible Thing, a full-length dance work opening next month at Sadler's Wells. "The trend very solidly started with Kylie who worked with choreographer Rafael Bonachela two tours ago. That was a bold move which really paid off.

"It all goes in cycles. Everyone's shows seemed to have the same choreographer and looked generic and someone had to break the mould. And then there is a way of doing dance which makes it exciting for pop musicians to work. It's more a theatre of ideas than a generic show. It's a 21st-century method."

Directors have now whittled the method to perfection. "Since the advent of MTV directors have needed to develop a visual language as well as an aural one," Spalding said. "What's interesting at the moment are the genuinely interesting collaborations between pop and dance which are making it to the stage. It's like any contemporary artists working alongside each other: they will tend to work with their friends. It's like when Diaghilev would commission Stravinsky. Maybe today he would think about Radiohead."



Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
The party's over: Paul Higgins and Stella Gonet in 'Hope' at the Royal Court

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special

Broadcaster unveils Christmas schedule

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital