Philadelphia Ballet’s HUMANKIND: Interview with stager Thierry Michel 

Philadelphia Ballet Principal Dancer Jermel Johnson, who will be featured in Hans van Manen’s Humankind. Photo: Alexander Iziliaev.

French native Thierry Michel, started his ballet training in Paris. He spent most of his professional career with the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany. During this time, he danced in the ballets of Hans van Manen. Now he is a stager for the choreographers work. This brought him to Philly, where he staged Humankind on the Philadelphia Ballet, running at the Academy of Music May 12-15, 2022. 

Debra Danese: What was your first introduction to ballet?

Thierry Michel: I was nine years old when my mother took me to my first ballet show. I went in thinking that I would leave halfway through but by the end of the performance, I found myself sitting on the edge of my chair. It left me wanting more. I was so fascinated by it. From there, my dance career began.

DD: What was your favorite role to dance? Do you have a least favorite?

TM: It is so hard to choose a favorite role because there are so many. But there was one role that I always wanted to do and finally got a chance to perform, Onegin by John Cranko.

Nothing comes to mind as a least favorite. It was nice to have a balance of different types of works in a variety of ballet styles.

DD: What is your connection to Hans van Manen? How did this evolve into you becoming one his stagers?

TM: I danced a lot of Hans van Manen’s ballets in my career. He was very rarely creating works on other companies, but when he created a piece for The Stuttgart Ballet when I was there, I got to work closely with him. Once they started looking for people who knew his work and knew his way of thinking, I was a good fit. This is actually my first time staging 5 Tangos and I am very grateful to be able to set this piece on Philadelphia Ballet. 

DD: How did you become involved with Philadelphia Ballet?

TM: When a company is looking to get a ballet from a choreographer, you are in contact with the choreographer’s team who take care of their ballets. Those who take care of Hans van Manen’s ballets received the call from Philadelphia Ballet about staging select works. Hans’ team then decides who will stage and polish the piece, which is how I got the call to be one of the stagers.

DD: Three words that best describe Humankind.

TM: Hans van Manen’s works are a word on their own. Each ballet has its own world and its own feeling. He puts out his feeling and emotion in a very abstract way and in an interesting way of dancing. They are not all the same but there is definitely a mark on each of his pieces. 

[Pennsylvania Ballet at the Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad Street] May 12-15, 2022;



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