michael peter johnson

Figuring It Out: Michael Johnson on his Producing and Touring Internship

On the last day of his internship, Michael Johnson reflects on his six-month experience in the Producing & Touring team at Sadler’s Wells.

Getting out of the lift to the offices of Sadler’s Wells Theatre – just above and behind the historic main stage, there is an image by photographer, Mike Figgis of Ballet Frankfurt, taken in April 2004. Within the picture hides the uber-tall and magnificent dancer, Stephen Galloway waving his arm. Galloway is a giant creative force in both the dance and fashion industry, with a career I aspire to follow, so it felt inspiring to see this image every working day in my new role as the Producing and Touring intern.

Photograph by Mike Figgis that hangs in the Sadler’s Wells office buildings.

I came to Sadler’s following a few years of working as a professional dancer and came wanting to learn as much as I possibly could about the role of producing and ways to tour dance works internationally, as well as playing a small part in one of the strongest powerhouses of contemporary dance in the world, which I have admired for most of my life.

This was not your average or basic internship. There is of course the odd post office errand to run, expenses to file and internal mail to send to stage door, but you are never treated as the office aide.

Alongside continual development opportunities across the team, you are pulled in many directions, which reminds me of a dancer in the studio. I had the chance to work on a variety of tasks and projects in my six-month placement.  There is rarely a dull day in the Producing & Touring office. You are mentored with guidance and care, such as one-to-one meetings with senior producers who seek to fulfil your individual expectations.

Sweet treats from foreign trips are always in abundance, as producers are flying back from all corners of the world such as international festivals, opening nights or rehearsals, where a vast portfolio of Producing & Touring shows are created and presented.

Challenges morph, but rarely escalate in the Producing & Touring team. You’re constantly learning both hard and soft skills, from finding out the most efficient modes of travel for your productions on the road, to witnessing how to evacuate members of your team from a category 5 hurricane.

In my final week as an intern, I was offered the chance to oversee the London Fashion Week show of fashion designer and Sadler’s Wells ambassador Hussein Chalayan. Chalayan’s collaborations with Sadler’s Wells include Gravity Fatigue, the first dance production he ever directed, and the upcoming new show Dystopian Dream, of which he is designing the costumes. This opportunity was a perfect chance to gauge my skills in helping to produce a live fashion event within a traditional dance theatre context.

My biggest revelation was realising that the Producing & Touring team, from freelance technicians to wardrobe staff, producers and coordinators, all work tirelessly against constant pressures, both financial and artistic, to ensure that the best contemporary dance shows get out there and seen all over the world. Following this internship, I hope to continue my own projects as an independent dance producer, specialising in dance and fashion. In the not so distant future, I look forward to producing my own projects in dance and fashion through my company, Mode and Motion. Taking the breadth of experiences gained here at Sadler’s with me, I hope to continue chasing in Stephen Galloway’s footsteps.

Image of Michael by Nick Eagle