Despite its explicit allusion to Virginia Woolf, British choreographer Wayne McGregor’s modern ballet Woolf Works has not interested Woolf and modern scholars. Zeroing in on the final act (“Tuesday”) of McGregor’s Woolf Works, this article offers a revisionary reading of death, dance, and debilitation in The Waves by harnessing McGregor’s concurrent classical and avant-garde energies. Whereas interpretations of The Waves habitually lapse into the hackneyed invocation of its lyricism, I draw on its undercurrent and argue that both “Tuesday” and The Waves stage a break with this surface fluidity and the benign rhythm of the mundane. If McGregor’s “Tuesday” celebrates sinking with its antigravitational movements, The Waves condemns its characters, who are reluctant to relax their muscularity of control into a compulsive desire to stay afloat. As McGregor’s “Tuesday” suggests, there is an expedient labor in sinking, which Woolf configures as a movement toward truth. I thus read the inertness of sinking not as a failure to dance to what Lewis calls the “central rhythm” but an opposite energy that counters the military veneration of control and its mechanical adhesion to order in classical aesthetics.

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