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.
Why did you choose the photographer you worked with?
I know Gavin, I like him and he’s a brilliant photographer.
I hate having my photo taken (I’m not very photogenic so usually I look like some rubbery-faced squinty-eyed oddity) so it was important to work with someone that I get on with and feel relaxed with.
How did you come across him/her?
I first met Gavin socially several years ago through Javier de Frutos who Gavin had been taking production and publicity shots for.
What was it that you wanted to express about yourself? Why this photo/this composition?
I wanted the portrait to have atmosphere and texture which are very important concerns in my work. It also had to have very good lighting and a mixture of light and shade which again are extremely important in my work. That work is about creating theatrical dance worlds that stimulate the imagination so I wanted the portrait to have a theatrical and imaginary quality to it.
I wanted it to have a personal reference to my work which wasn’t about me being in my work environment, but about the moment when I take a quick break from that environment to nip outside for a sneaky cigarette.
I didn’t want to be actually smoking in the portrait so it’s a bit furtive, hidden, and I’m just seen in a smoky atmosphere.
This particular photo had just the right quantity and distribution of smoke, texture, atmosphere and light and shade. I didn’t look too rubbery-faced, nor like a version of the Elephant Man which some of the more densely smoky and obscuring shots did!