She’s choreographed for Broadway’s Finding Neverland, The New York Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, So You Think You Can Dance, Cirque du Soleil, and for performing artists such as Ricky Martin, Madonna, Gloria Estefan, Prince and Celine Dion. She’s taught internationally at some of the world’s most prestigious dance institutions and conventions. And with a memoir, movement-wear line and global master class and mentorship series on the way, it’s clear that Mia Michaels is taking the world by storm. And this summer, you can have the opportunity to study with and perform a piece by Michaels as part of the Joffrey Ballet School Summer Intensive. Dance Informa catches up with the Emmy Award-winning choreographer, who recently returned from a teaching engagement in Australia, about her upcoming Mia Michaels Experience at the Joffrey Ballet School.
You’ve taught at the Joffrey Ballet School in the past. How did you get connected with the Joffrey Ballet School?
“Christopher D’Addario, the executive director of the Joffrey Ballet School, had reached out to me years ago, and I taught in Los Angeles for their summer intensive. Then I had been busy with Finding Neverland and Radio City. Fortunately, Christopher reached out to me once again to teach a new program this summer, the Mia Michaels Experience, at the Joffrey School.”
What is unique about the program and its students?
“The Joffrey School is an institution, and there’s a seriousness that I find refreshing coming from the commercial world. I know that when I teach at the Joffrey School I’ll be working with kids who are so focused, determined and have a great work ethic. That dovetails with how I work. I’m not just there to have fun; I’m there to work and to help take the technique and artistry of these kids to another level. The Joffrey School fosters those goals and, in doing so, I believe a lot can get accomplished in the two weeks I’m there.”
What are the challenges and strengths of working with young dancers who have trained so intensely in ballet?
“My base is classical ballet. But then I take it into a ‘Mia world!’ I believe that technique can sometimes be both a blessing and a curse. I try to, in a sense, break down some of that technique in my students. You certainly need a technical foundation, but you also need to know when to throw it away in order to explore and express movement in your own way. Your technique will never leave you; it’s sort of like riding a bike. Finding a balance between technique and freedom is key for a great artist.”
How have your more recent choreographic experiences (such as Broadway and the New York Spectacular) inspired and affected your teaching and style?
“I believe that every experience changes you in a sense because you gain more knowledge, information and experience. I directed the Rockettes in the New York Spectacular, and I find that when I create work nowadays, I see the bigger picture from a director’s point of view rather than approaching the work just as a choreographer. As far as movement, I’m constantly digging for something new — new feeling, new texture, new focus and new movement. I get bored very easily, so I’m always looking to explore something different. And working with the Joffrey kids, who are so technically trained in ballet, is exciting because it forces me to move in a direction I haven’t been in awhile. We’re all growing and exploring together what is possible and what we haven’t yet tapped into.”
What do you hope dancers will take away from attending and performing in the Mia Michaels Experience?
“I use dance as a vehicle — as a language. And I’m so passionate about teaching, inspiring and motivating students, and I hope that these kids will leave not only as better artists, better athletes and better technicians but also as better people in how they look at life and themselves. More than anything, I hope that the dancers’ relationship with themselves is strengthened. In the dance world — and especially in the ballet world — you’re constantly in a mirror criticizing your flaws and striving to be better. Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose sight of your soul and personality and to become more of a technician than an artist. But I believe in getting past all that and looking at the source of who you are. I try to pull that out of my students so they dance from that place of uniqueness. More than falling in love with their craft or their artistry, I hope the dancers learn to fall in love with themselves.”
The Mia Michaels Experience will take place at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City, August 7-18. Visit www.summer.joffreyballetschool.com to sign up for the Mia Michaels Experience. For more information about Mia Michaels and her upcoming memoir, movement-wear line and master class series, visit www.miamichaels.com.
To win 1 of 50 scholarships to a Joffrey Ballet School summer program, click here.
By Mary Callahan of Dance Informa.