Release Your Inner Unicorns People! … Mia Michaels is looking out for you!
Choreographic super star Mia Michaels is hoping to see Aussie talent release their inner ‘unicorns’ at her workshops in Melbourne and Sydney this month.
For the first time EVER!, modern choreographic wonder – Miss Mia Michaels – is holding talent and mentoring workshops in Australia. Catering for dance-enthusiasts from 8yrs to adults, Mia is here to share her inspirations with every dancer.
Chris Duncan, Director of DanceLife, had the pleasure of speaking with Mia Michaels about her Australian tour and her future career plans.
Q: Welcome to Australia Mia. It’s a an honour to be speaking with you. What has brought you to Australia?
Mia: I met Clint Salter (Raise The Barre Productions) in October 2015 and we’ve been friends ever since. He has been my consultant on developing my Global Master Series website and mentorship program. We called it ‘Mia Michaels Live’ and I said… ‘We should put this on its feet and bring it to Australia … I’ve never been there‘! And now I’m here!
Q: You have Melbourne workshops this weekend?
Mia: Yes. Our first workshops are on Sunday 5th February. I’ve done some press today and tomorrow I have rehearsal with Michael Dameski (Winner of SYTYCD Australia 2014) where I will be teaching him all the routines for the workshops, and then Sunday is the event!
Q: So Michael is your assistant this tour – how did you both meet?
Mia: I had heard about Michael through friends and peers and also we have the same agency (McDonald Selznick Associates) and our worlds just organically came together. We didn’t even try to make it happen… it just happened! When I looked him up I thought ‘Oh Wow! He’s amazing!’ … and so he was going to be in Australia so I was like ‘let’s do this.’ I think he’s a brilliant artist.
Q: You’ve worked with an incredible A-List of celebrities; tell us about some of the highlights and quirky experiences you’ve had across your career …
Mia: Actually, Tom Cruise* was one of my favourites! His work ethic is by far the most intense I’ve ever actually had the privilege to collaborate with. He’s all about being ‘optimal’ in every moment of his life and if you’re NOT, you’re in trouble! He will slice and dice you!!
He wants people who are at that optimal level that really work and focus; which I love because I’m the same way. I don’t like people that are kind of ‘half-assing’ it or just going through the movement … I like people that are a million percent committed, focussed and work their hardest.
I’d rather have someone who’s less talented that has so much passion and drive and work ethic than someone that is brilliant and lazy… you know what I mean?
So, Tom and I shared the same kind of work ethic quality and that’s why we had an amazing collaboration and it just kind of confirmed how I work. I was like ‘YES! … there are other people in the world that are as crazy as I am!’
It’s because we are both so passionate about our craft and being the best we can. So it was so it was an inspiration to work with him!
(* Tom Cruise featured as Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages (2014) a musical-comedy drama set to rock music of the 1980s.)
Q: Did he have any kind of dance background to draw from or did you have to inspire him completely?
Mia: It was so cool because I learned so much from him … Oh my god! … Creating the character Stacee Jaxx was all about the details of the character’s movement and history. We would spend hours dissecting the character and why he moved a certain way and then we would get into it with movement so it’s very detailed … we would rehearse 6 hours a day … he was very detailed from his fingernail to his rib … literally it was all about the character ‘Stacee Jaxx’ !! We created this weird rib cage and this weird ‘swaggy’ walk… it was all about how he moved.
By creating his character together, I knew how he would dance. Tom wasn’t a dancer per se but because he was so committed … the first day we shot it was the number Def Leppard’s ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ and it was like we were dying. The first take is basically what you see on film … it was the first day of shooting! It was incredible, I mean that’s why he’s Tom Cruise! He literally walks in as a non-dancer and kicks the shit out of it! And we’re all like ‘WOW’. He’s just so inspiring.
Q: You teach workshops internationally… what was it that attracted you to coming to Australia in the first place to work with our beautiful dancers out here?
Mia: I’ve never been here and I’ve lost a lot of friends to Australia because they come here and they never come back! So clearly it’s an amazing place! I’ve really connected with them because of their passion and their work ethic and usually they’re really ‘in it’ and I love that! I always knew that I wanted to come to Australia and I feel like something has been drawing me here for a while now and I wanted to come here and I’m just so excited about doing ‘Mia Michaels Live’ in Sydney and Melbourne.
I’m also doing this motivational ‘thing’ … an event that’s for all people, not just dancers, where it’s like an inspirational and motivational evening and then I get them on their feet and basically creating a love letter to themselves through movement. So I’m really excited about that! I’m exploring motivational speaking in the ‘Mia Michaels way’ using movement.
Q: Wow that’s really new! Tell us more.
Mia: It is new and I’m excited about it … it’s definitely calling me. I love the dance world… it’s my home and it’s where I’ve been my whole life… but I feel there’s a part of me that’s excited about inspiring not just the dance world but everyone.
I also have a book coming out this year, it’s called ‘The Unicorn In A World Of Donkeys’ and it is an inspirational empowerment book. It makes you want to be the best version of yourself, not conform and stand true in your authenticity.
Plus, I have a fitness-movement clothing line coming out this year catering for sizes 6 to 26. As you know I’m a ‘plus girl’ and there’s nothing out there!! I always find myself in men’s’ clothing working out and I resent that. So, I decided I’d create an amazing fitness movement line for all shapes and sizes for women!
Then I have the global ‘Master Series’ and the Mentorship program, which is going to be coming out in March/April this year.
Q: Is there any chance that you could be on the lookout for talent for your new TV series while you’re out here in Australia conducting your workshops?
Mia: Absolutely! I have some television stuff in the works and I’m here meeting with some execs for some possible television stuff. Whether it’s in America, Australia, the UK or elsewhere …. I’m always looking for great talent! … Not just for TV shows, but for stage shows …Just good dancers … ’cause now I’m doing theatre as well, and whenever I see someone amazing … I call them my ‘UNICORNS! … I get their information and I make sure I push them and happily put them into the world of dance and theatre.
I believe in opening doors for people who deserve it and who have worked hard. I believe we all cross paths for a reason, so when I come across a ‘unicorn’ I definitely want to push and knock doors open for them and their career!
Q: The world seems to consistently fall in love with your work, which has won multiple awards, so what inspires you to create choreographic magic?
Mia: It comes from real life. Whether they’re my own friends or family… Also music makes me dream … When I hear a certain piece of music, all of a sudden I just go into another zone and I just start creating.
I’m a ‘world builder’ so my process is more about creating the ‘world’ and then figuring out what it looks like, what it tastes like, what it smells like and then you decide .. ‘well who are the players in this world?’ and then you go ‘what are they trying to say’ and THEN the choreography is the last thing that I do so it’s very different to what most choreographers do.
I think most choreographers go at it from the steps first … I feel like sometimes I paint with the human body so it becomes almost like a moving picture … you know what I mean?
Q: So it’s 3 or 4 dimensional for you … rather than 1 dimensional like other choreographers might work from?
Mia: I guess so … I have painted and I have sung, but the thing that definitely keeps me focussed is the ‘world building’ … the directing, the bigger picture of the creativity. With the NYC Radio City Rockettes I produced the music, did the choreography and video-mapping, re-created their entire world … I reinvented the brand of the Rockettes, all of it! I really enjoyed doing the ‘whole picture.’ It adds another layer to being a choreographer. If you just do the steps it feels like it’s too thin… but directing, creating the world, the smell, the sound, the visual, the audio and the everything … it’s fun to do it all.
Q: What advice do you want to share with our Aussie dancers?
Mia: For me it’s all about INSPIRATION right now. I just want each and every dancer to walk away as different… and what that means is … whether it’s a moment or something I’ve said that has shifted their way of thinking about themselves, not only as a human but as an artist. Also, I hope I push their bodies to move in a way that they never thought possible … to break down some barriers to allow themselves to be more vulnerable … to be more free, to be less judgemental, to be fearless, to be unapologetic … all these things I hope I can really pass on to Australian dancers to give them their wings so that they can really, really FLY when ‘mama’ Mia is gone!