Campari Unpacks How Choreographer Michael-John Harper Defies Creative Constraints

Taking a leap of faith.

Presented by Campari
Food & Beverage
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Campari recruits Jamaican-born solo-performance artist and choreographer Michael-John Harper for its latest ‘Red Passion’ campaign, recognizing how the dancer’s dedication to the art of movement has led him to connect with pioneering creatives and find new opportunities.

Coming from a classically trained dance background, Michael-John has already performed with renowned dance and Opera companies such as Alvin Ailey II, Company Wayne McGregor, the Bayerische Staats Oper and the Komische Oper in Berlin. The dancer has also extended his expertise into the world of art and fashion.  

Campari sat down with Michael-John Harper to discuss how the dancer harnessed his passion and made his ambitions a reality:

When was the first time you knew dancing was your passion, and how did you go about bringing it to life?
Dance is an essential part of Jamaican life. I would say my earliest introduction to it was from the house parties my family would throw. Being in the center of a dance circle was where I felt most alive. When I started studying dance professionally at university, I knew then that it was my calling. 

2020 has been a very unusual year, where most people have not been able to follow their passion or fuel their creativity to the fullest for pragmatic reasons, can you tell us how this has affected you?
If anything, in an extraordinary way, it has allowed me space and time to dive deeper into my creativity and the world that I have been steadily building over the last four or five years. I had two huge contracts that were canceled, and in hindsight, it feels as if it was meant to be. The cancelations encouraged me to take my building endeavors to the next steps.

Can you tell us what it is like to live your passion? Any specific examples to share?
Living your passion to me is uncertainty that all at once feels terrifying yet full of excitement in one crazy rush. It is fleeting yet present. It’s not necessarily knowing when your next paycheck may come, but it’s the happiest you could ever be because you haven’t compromised for the thing that you love, for your dreams. It is purchasing a one-way ticket to a country where you do not speak the language, know no one, have no jobs lined up, but something in your spirit speaks and you know it’s right to get on the plane, only for your life to forever change for the better. 

Did you have to overcome any significant barriers to be able to express yourself fully?
Being a black effeminate male who does not subscribe to the social conditioning of our society, every day presents a barrier that I must overcome. At this point, it feels like a daily practice. I have grown to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. As challenging as it may feel, I know there is great beauty in this. To be our sovereigns and lead by example towards a world that we hope to leave behind helps knock down these barriers.

How do you feel when you push yourself out of your comfort zone? Can you give some examples where you have done this most memorably?
I have felt vulnerable and alone in these moments when I push myself out of my comfort zone. Whenever I am about to experience a giant leap in my creativity, whether it comes from performing a solo act never before seen by the world or even choreographing a production, I always feel uncomfortable. However, I still know this is precisely where I am meant to be. It’s the sweet spot.

We know your passion is dance but, clearly, it’s more than that, what are you most passionate about and how is it brought to life through movement?
I am most passionate about love. It is my engine, my life force, my mission in this life. To be in communion with it. To translate all of its teachings into whatever form or discipline it presents itself to me. This may not always take the shape of a dance, but I believe everything in this life and other lives, is movement. 

Head over to Campari’s website for information about the ‘Red Passion’ Campaign

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