Exclusive Interview with Michael-John Harper
As one of the finest contemporary dancers of our time, Michael-John Harper works across both dance and fashion industries. Michael-John was a member of Company Wayne McGregor and has been featured in fashion magazines such as Numero Homme, GQ Style, Dazed and I.D. For Mode & Motion’s first exclusive interview we ask Michael-John about his most recent collaborations in fashion.
Firstly could you talk about your experience walking for Stefano Pilati’s Ermenegildo Zegna Fall/Winter 16/17 show at Milan Mens Fashion Week?
Never in my life did I think such an opportunity and experience would happen to me. It was incredibly surreal and felt quite magical. Stefano Pilati has a warmth and joyous spirit that one feels permeating through a room and the care, passion, knowledge and attentiveness that he has for his craft, is deeply inspirational. He is the personification of the words "chic" and “elegant". It was an honour to be apart of such a beautiful vision realised, and I am forever grateful.
Just weeks ago you danced with beauty and magic at Edward Buchan’s Sansorvino 6 highly awaited Fall/Winter 2016/17 show during Milan Fashion Week. How did you get involved in this particular collaboration?
I was first introduced to Edward Buchanan through a dear friend. He then kindly asked if I would be apart of his presentation a month or so after.
It was a very new and refreshing way to work with dance and movement in a fashion presentation and felt incredibly effectual. What was your favourite part of the event?
Seeing the amount of love and good vibrations that were being exchanged amongst the team throughout the whole process was exciting. These vibrations were later distilled through to the public who all ended up with smiles across their faces and a little bit more of a pep in their step. The models, as well, had so much fun; so much so that one was even moved to tears. To see Mr. Buchanans' mother by his side as well was pretty special.
Joyous, grooving movements flowed through the space (a converted dance hall) were you given any particular instructions or choreographic ideas to follow?
When Mr. Buchanan first got in touch about the presentation, the first stimulant he sent was a compilation video consisting of clips of dancers in the 70's doing "The Hustle" to Van McCoys' famous track by the same name, "The Hustle". The energy, dynamics and general good loving atmosphere in the video was important for Mr. Buchanan to be distilled through the presentation, physically, rather than doing "The Hustle" to it's technical exactness. Looking at elements of "The Hustle" and using them in a way to make sure that the models felt comfortable and confident in their dancing with Stephen and I, and not forced. It was the Sansovino version of "The Hustle".
Do you have any personal highlights of working with Edward Buchanan?
Mr. Buchanan has a patient, calm and smooth demeanour. He was a wonder to be around and his gratitude and dedication to those around him was an example of love and trust. Seeing all of the knit work up close as well, actually mind boggling.
Was it your first time working the legendary Stephen Galloway? How was it to work with such a creative force?
It was my first time working with Mr. Galloway. He warms a room up as soon as he enters it. Smooth, charming and a brilliant communicator, he understands the pulse of a room and works with it in a way that influences all the different energies that are present to come together and feed each other in a nourishing way. It is not easy at all to be able to see and understand environments in such a manner. To have witnessed and experienced that was one of many gifts that this experience provided.
You recently moved to Berlin to pursue independent freelance ambitions, what is next for you as an artist?
Berlin has been inspiring in ways that I never expected. Letting go, honouring patience, truth, and trusting in the fabrics of my history, have been just some of many different grounds I have found myself walking along. Grounds within which the time and space Berlin offers, is informing my soul to grow from. I am interested in working through my history to bring me to a place of honesty as a performer and performance art is a channel I am finding myself being drawn to.
Do you have a favourite designer?
Mother nature is my favourite designer.
And finally if you could work with anyone, who would be your dream collaborator?
To transcend and offer a truth that feels personal to myself and hopefully, to others, is something I find very important. A collaborator who wants to go along for a journey of the sort, would be a dream.
Words by Michael Peter Johnson Images from Instagram #sansovino6
Michael-John Harper was born on the island of Jamaica in 1987 and moved to Florida, U.S.A, at the age of seven. An avid Musical Theatre student in high school, his dance talent was uncovered under the direction of Lori Sessions. He pursued his passion for dance and began his training at Michael's Academy for the Performing Arts. After graduating high school in 2005, he attended New World School of the Arts in Miami, Florida, as a scholarship student and graduated in 2009 with a B.F.A in dance. He then joined the Alvin Ailey II Junior Dance Company in New York and in 2010, became a member of Wayne Mcgregor|Random Dance (now Company Wayne McGrgegor) where he remained until 2015. Michael-john has toured the world extensively with performances in respected venues such as M.O.M.A and the Guggenheim, his dance experience also includes creative residency at the Palucca Schule in Dresden, Germany, with focus on Forsythe improvisational techniques; Scholarship student at the Alonzo King Lines Ballet in San Francisco, California; and performances at the 2009 Contemporary Dance Festival in New York with the Thang Dao Dance company. Moving to Berlin in 2015, Michael-John has worked for the Bayerische Staats Oper in Munich, Germany, in the Opera "The Fiery Angel" under the direction of Barrie Kosky and choreography by Otto Pichler and has also performed his first solo work, "Portrait of The Unknown Man" at Dock 11 in Berlin, under the direction and choreography by Yannis Adoniou and Stavros Apostolatos. Michael-John has been featured in magazines such as Numero Homme, GQ Style, Dazed, I.D, Kinfolk and appears in the designer, Patrik Ervells' F/W 14 campaign. Mr. Harper has been photographed and filmed by photographers such as, Daniel Sannwald, Matthew Stone, Bertil Nilsson, Matt Lambert, Jacob Sutton, Rick Guest and Benjamin Huseby. Along with editorial work, Michael-John made his runway debut in Milan, Italy, in the Ermenengildo Zegna F/W 16 fashion show with designer Stefano Pilati, featured in designer Edward Buchanans' "Sansovino 6" F/W 16 presentation and featured in designer Grace Wales Bonners' S/S 16 presentation in London, where additionally, he provided movement direction and choreography. Michael-John is currently based in Berlin as a freelancer.
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