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Michael trained in dance and theatre at Dartington College and in 1992 was awarded a bursary by the Arts Council to attend dance lighting workshops with Jennifer Tipton in New York.
Over the last 20 years Michael has worked exclusively in dance, particularly with choreographer Russell Maliphant, and established a reputation as a “choreographer of light”. Their collaborations have won international critical acclaim and many awards: Sheer won a Time Out Award for Outstanding Collaboration, Choice won a South Bank Show Dance Award, PUSH, with Sylvie Guillem, won four major awards including the Olivier for Best New Dance Production and AfterLight won two Critics Circle awards.
Michael and Russell also collaborated on Broken Fall, commissioned by Ballet Boyz, which also featured Sylvie Guillem and won the 2004 Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production. Fallen, their most recent work for Ballet Boyz, won the 2014 Critics Circle Award for Best Modern Choreography. In 2007, Michael and Russell’s work was the subject of Ballet Boyz’s Channel 4 documentary Light and Dance and The Daily Telegraph hailed their collaboration as “possibly the most important creative partnership in modern British dance”. Eonnagata, Michael’s collaboration with Sylvie Guillem, Robert Lepage and Russell Maliphant, for which Michael won the 2009 Knight of Illumination Award for Dance, opened at Sadler’s Wells and, along with AfterLight, led to Michael being nominated for a second Knight of Illumination Award and for the 2010 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance.
Michael has worked over many years with the choreographer Akram Khan, including on his full length solo DESH, winner of the 2012 Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production, the 2012 TMA Outstanding Achievement in Dance Award and, in 2014, a Bessie award in New York. He lit TOROBAKA, Akram’s duet with flamenco virtuoso Israel Galvan and most recently UNTIL THE LIONS Akram’s Mahabarata inspired highly acclaimed trio. He has also worked with the dancers and choreographers Laurie Booth, Jonathan Burrows, Liam Scarlett, Jonathan Goddard and Javier de Frutos and with ballet companies in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Norway and the US, as well as in the UK.
In 2009, Michael became an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells, the first non-choreographer to do so. In 2010, his contribution to dance was recognised with his entry into the Oxford Dictionary of Dance, where he joins Jean Rosenthal, Jennifer Tipton and John B Read as only the fourth lighting designer to be given an entry. Michael was nominated for the 2012 Theatre Managers Association award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance for his “brilliant contribution to lighting for dance; in particular for DESH, Torsion and The Rodin Project”. In 2014 Michael received the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance.