MATRIX: What is your background; what brought you here?
MICHAEL: I spent a number of years in New York as a dancer, I danced with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for a while, then moved out to San Francisco to study computer animation. I got a call from Charlie Moultan, who is the Choreographer on this show, and it just so happens that Charlie also used to dance with Merce Cunningham many years back, and had heard I was in town. He thought that if I had danced for Merce, then I could handle the work here, so he invited me to audition, and I was very fortunate to be picked as one of the 10 Principal Dancers.
MATRIX: Describe some of the movements you find you’re being asked to do.
MICHAEL: The dancing is very club oriented – it’s kind of a mixture of that with a lot of modern dance technique too – it’s a blend. The dancers we’re working with are some of the best dancers in San Francisco; a lot of them belong to ODC [Oberlin Dance Collective of California]. There’s a dancer here who dances with Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet; they’re all top notch dancers. I think what Charlie was interested in was a group of dancers who had a lot of technique to start off with, but who could also mix it up and get funky and have a really good time, and show off their technique, but not get really uptight.
MATRIX: Have you seen the set you’ll be working on?
MICHAEL: Yes, I have. It’s incredible, massive – once we get all the people in there, it’s really going to be a trip. Today’s rehearsal was the first day we had the group of one hundred dancers with us ten, and I guess I would characterize it as controlled mayhem. There’s all this stuff going on, but if you really look at it, it’s tightly choreographed. I mean, there are definite sections of things you can really point out and say, “These guys really know what they’re doing”, and yet it’s a great big mishmash at the same time. It’s really cool and visually beautiful, I think.
MATRIX: How long have the 10 Principal Dancers been working together?
MICHAEL: We started working together on Tuesday [June 12th, 2001], so three days total with just the ten of us, and then today is the first day with the group of one hundred. I think we were all really fortunate to have that time to develop and generate new material together. The ODC people were lucky because they had already worked together, but I’ve made a lot of new friends, we all laugh a lot; it has been really great.
MATRIX: Now that there are more of you, how are the rehearsals structured?
MICHAEL: Basically, Charlie has put the ten of us in pairs, and each pair gets a group of twenty. Each pair has to teach that group of twenty material, we show it to Charlie, then all the groups come in. Each group has a different name like the ‘shakers’, the ‘crackers’, and Charlie groups them in the space, doing whatever it is we’ve taught them; he presses ‘play’ on the music and we just dance.
MATRIX: Has there been any talk about what you are going to do when the nine hundred extras arrive?
MICHAEL: It remains to be seen. For today Charlie is focused on getting that group of one hundred really solid with what they’re doing. At this point, since we’ve been working so closely with him for the past week, I think he’s going to trust us a little bit more in front of the camera – I think we’ll be a little bit more featured, but of course it all remains to be seen. I’m anxious to see what the finished product is like too, in the context of the film.
MATRIX: Tell us about your costume…
MICHAEL: Well… there’s not much there for one thing! I personally will be wearing a pair of very shimmery, transparent pants that are cut very, very low, and that’s it. Some of the women are wearing tube tops that are also very transparent and shimmery. I think we’ll have a sort of shimmery glitter makeup on our bodies as well, and some of us will get those Matrix plugs in our skin. I think they’re anticipating it’s going to be about one to two hours for makeup and hair for each of us, and that’s nine hundred people … it’s going to be pretty intense.
MATRIX: Have you done film work before?
MICHAEL: Very, very little. With the company I danced with we made several films, but nothing like this.
MATRIX: What is your anticipation of sitting for two hours having makeup put on?
MICHAEL: Well, I have a book… I have several. Then you have to get up every once in a while and re-warm yourself up, it’s just part of the process so you don’t hurt yourself. If you kick your leg too high and you’re not warm, you could rip a hamstring and that would be it, and the rest of the filming just wouldn’t be that much fun.
MATRIX: What did you think of the first film?
MICHAEL: It was amazing. I don’t want to gush, but I thought, “Wow! This is completely changing the way we think about films.” And certainly, as a dancer – all the movement, all the flying sequences – I don’t think anybody had ever seen anything like that before, so I thought about the possibilities for dance. With all of that, it seems to be upping the ante on what is possible, so having seen THE MATRIX, then Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I can’t wait to see what they do with this film; I’m really excited.
MATRIX: Thanks Michael.
Interview by REDPILL