Michael Schwandt is one of the most dynamic contributors to creative & stage direction today. His ability to conceptualize & execute the entirety of a project, overseeing the concept, stage design, wardrobe design, screen content, lighting design & all movement-based action on stage has made him a vital, in-demand asset to any production he's a part of. Michael's attention to detail & ability to consistently deliver beyond client expectations is what makes him so successful. His extensive body of work as both a director and previously a choreographer can be seen across the board in live stage spectaculars, TV specials, commercials, music videos, corporate industrials & live events.
Early career projects from 2005 to 2008 displayed Michael's success at working with large groups of performers in nationally televised sporting events The BCS Championship Bowl, Valero Alamo Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, Pacific Life Holiday Bowl & The Beach Boys performance at the Liberty Bowl. Additional projects included directing & choreographing “Jambalaya” a Caribbean live spectacular for Wyndham Hotels in the Bahamas, creating performances for Cyndi Lauper & Kristine W at the closing ceremonies of the Gay Games at historic Wrigley Field & creating production numbers for Norwegian Cruise Lines largest oceanliner “The Pearl.”
Further showcasing his ability to work with major artists & different types of performers, Michael went on to direct aerial acrobats utilizing bungees, swings & hammocks for Sheryl Crow’s concert at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas & the La Dolce Vita Charity Concerts in NYC & London featuring performances by Natasha Beddingfield & Aretha Franklin which included a vertical tango where performers danced up & down a 100 ft. wall, counterbalancing one another.
In 2008, Michael became the new stage director & choreographer for the Miss Universe & USA TV specials where he was challenged to give the live stage portions of the show a fresh look. Michael had the foresight to convince NBC & The Miss Universe production to take a chance on an unknown artist that he firmly believed was the future of pop music. His intuition paid off when on July 13, 2008, he directed & staged Lady’s GaGa’s first ever television performance to “Just Dance,” ultimately seen by millions around the globe. Michael has went on to greatly influence the direction of the show pushing the visual boudary & expectation of modern day beauty pageants, directing & staging guest performances by Kelly Rowland & David Guetta, Flo Rida, The Veronicas, John Legend, Trace Adkins, Kevin Rudolph, Train, Boys Like Girls, Finger Eleven & Tinie Tempah on the two TV specials collectively through 2012.
In 2010 Michael was sought out to help develop the format & oversee creative direction & choreography for a new dance competition show, Your Chance To Dance on CMT/Vh1. Tasked with casting & supervising 14 on-camera choreographers, conceptualizing 60 performances for the season while overseeing choreography, wardrobe, set & hair/makeup for each episode, he helped the Gurin Co. create a successful new type of dance show. Michael was later asked that year to be the first guest judge invited to be on So You Think You Can Dance Europe (Ukraine Series) & also slipped on his dancing shoes again as a guest choreographer on the show.
Pushing further into major artist territory, Michael was asked to create a unique way for Katy Perry to perform the track “Peacock” from the album Teenage Dream. Michael conceptualized a fully programmable electrical light wire costume in the shape of a peacock used for the Teenage Dream promo tour & a televised performance on CBS for David Letterman. Branching into the Latin market, Michael pushed Universal Latin’s Ninel Conde into an entirely new direction with the extravagant music video & TV performances of “Vivir Es Morir De Amor.” He then went on to create a new flash mob style music video for acclaimed Latin Grammy Award-winning artist Juan Luis Guerra’s single “Lola’s Mambo” which was also cross-promoted as a commercial for AT&T & included a Latin Grammy's performance with synchronized swimmers.
2011 saw no sign of Michael Schwandt slowing down as he was tapped by the CW hit series, America’s Next Top Model for their “All Stars Music Video Episode” as a guest director & movement coach where he staged 7 music videos alongside the show’s Creative Director Jay Manuel & guest start rapper Game. Michael then eagerly jumped at the opportunity to work with the legendary Betty White for her guest performance in the British pop singer Luciana’s music video “I’m Still Hot” – coaching Betty White for the shoot as well as choreographing Betty’s stunt double was instantly a career highlight!
Miss Universe’s 2011 TV special in Brazil challenged Michael with the largest Miss Universe production to date, staging 15 Brazilian dancers, 5 capoeira martial artists, 2 Brazilian singers – pop star Claudia Leitte & Bossa Nova singer Bebel Gilberto. This exposure to the Brazilian market opened Michael up to ultimately stage direct the Miss Brazil & Miss Angola TV specials on Band network, again raising the bar for these respective productions in terms of a visual staging format, introducing video mapping sets & high end screen content & directing international guest artists like The Gypsy Kings.
2012 was on point to be a crowning year as Michael directed performances for Cobra Starship to their hits “You Make Me Feel” & “#1 Night” as well as the debut television performance of Akon’s new single “America’s Most Wanted” on NBC. Then halfway around the globe, in the first of many Nike collaborations, Michael created an innovative live performance for the Press to debut the 2012 Nike-designed Olympic team uniforms utilizing the Chinese Olympic Team, free runners, water drummers, puppeteers & traditional Chinese dancers.
Michael went on to be the guest artist director & supervising choreographer for the 2nd season of the CW series Oh Sit!, produced by longtime collaborator Executive Producer Phil Gurin. The series featured a wide range of guest artists each week that included Havana Brown, Sean Kingston, Asher Monroe, Gin Wigmore, Taryn Manning & many more. Turning his eye to a budding new talent, Michael secured the first US TV performance for Australian pop-star, former So You Think You Can Dance & Australia’s Got Talent contestant, Timomatic. Michael creatively directed Timomatic’s US debut performance on Miss Universe in a Victoria Secret Show-esque performance to his 4x platinum hit “Set It Off.” Michael closed the year working with mega-Vegas casino Mandalay Bay for their New Years Eve Spectacular as Creative Director & Producer.
2013 took Michael Schwandt to extreme new heights as he was asked to create the massively publicized “Let’s Move” initiative for Michelle Obama & Nike’s joint venture. Michael choreographed Michelle Obama, Serena Williams, Colin Kaepernick, Gabby Douglas, Dominique Dawes, Bo Jackson & 6,000 kids for the nationally televised event, including a special guest performance by Jordyn Sparks. With the success of this high profile project, Nike brought Michael on board for conceptualization & stage directing of a series of World Cup live, televised & press launches for team uniforms & new products like the Hypervenom, Magista & Mercurial. Michael worked with celebrity players Cristiano Ranoldo, Andres Iniesta, Neymar & Reynoldo, creating innovative ways to reveal & integrate athletes into live performance. This collaboration culminated in the World Cup MTV Live Concert on Copacabana Beach. Michael’s extremely varied career also caught the eye of Feld Entertainment, a powerhouse in live touring arena shows. Feld brought Michael on as Creative Director for Ringling Brothers’ 2014 Gold Tour, playing to medium-size markets. Michael once again pushed the boundaries of what had previously been done for this particular show & created a fresh, narrative-driven Super Circus Heroes Arena Tour which ultimately played 36 cities in 2014.
2014 sent Michael on a path to achieve new heights, starting off the year as Assoc. Movement Coach for the FOX series American Idol, Michael helped create a fresh take on the show's group performances. Fresh off the heels of a successful Ringling Brothers launch, Feld Entertainment again asked Michael to direct their larger Red Tour, playing to full-sized arenas over the course of 2 years. Spending a year in development, Michael brought in an all-star creative team consisting of industry icons Peter Morse Lighting Design & Josh Zangen Set Design to give the show an entirely new look born out of a steampunk aesthetic. Michael forged collaborative relationships with Tempest Freerunning Academy to help bring new elements of street culture to the show including parkour, tricking & slackline & the X-games to bring the most extreme BMX riders to the show. Award-winning lyricist Mike Himmelstein & songwriter/producer Ron Anielo created a sound for the show unlike any other Ringling Brothers show in history, infusing dubstep, punk rock & the best influences from todays pop, the show’s music is more radio-friendly than circus. Opening to rave revues, Circus Xtreme has been critically acclaimed as a very fresh & relevant take on an American entertainment staple & has already been extended to a 4 year run!
Concurrently while redefining the American Circus, UK & Indian producers at Star TV enlisted Michael for their new singing competition show, Raw Star. Tasked with creating 10 original performances every episode for a 14 episode season, Michael broke down cultural boundaries creating the most Western-style concert performances ever before seen on Indian television. The integrative approach to lighting, LED screen content, scenic design, wardrobe & musical arrangement had never before been attempted in India. In addition to crafting each performance, Michael was a key mentor on camera alongside the #1 rapper in India Honey Singh, & countless guest Bollywood guests. Raw Star went on to become the #1 show for the network & the most talked about show on UK & Indian TV.
In 2015 Michael started a new relationship with the iconic sports brand Reebok as their live show Creative Director resulting in a culmination of internal, industry & press events starting with the Be More Human live show. Putting Kendrick Lamar on the back of a flatbed truck on the eve of his anticipated album “To Pimp A Butterfly,” a disruptive performance gathered thousands as it traveled through he streets of LA. Additional collaborations included teaming up with Latin music icon Gloria Trevi for her 2015-2016 World Tour & Award Show performances, putting the Ringling Bros Circus Xtreme cast on shows like David Letterman, James Corden & the Thanksgiving Day Parade as well as live experiences for Beats 1Run in Los Angeles, New York City, Paris & London, taking sports brand Oakley outside of its comfort zone, an innovative take on a film premier for the Transporter Refueled at the Playboy Mansion & the launch of American Horror Story Hotel with Lady Gaga.
Ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics, Michael once again teamed up with global sports brand Nike for their Spring Fashion Show & the Olympics Live Innovation Show in Nike’s first attempt at a narrative driven live show, the Olympics seen through the eyes a young sports fan encountering medalists like Shawn Johnson with Carl Lewis as his guide. He also partnered with brands such as Westfield, In-An-Out Burger & LA Live to create live performances featuring artists like DNCE, Fitz & The Tantrums & Diplo.
2017 Michael teamed up again with Reebok for an ambitious projects, their Global Brand Experience working with teams in LA, Boston, London & Barcelona, Michael took the brands live onstage performance to new heights with live interactive content performances in an iconic Barcelona setting. Michael bridged his work with iconic athletes & the sports world with TV for the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sport Awards featuring Russel Wilson & a host of athletes from all over the world. Michael teamed up with the NBA & Nike to create a truly unique live performance to launch the new 2018 league jerseys & Nike’s innovated “connected” Jersey featuring 50 NBA basketball in a truly immersive space with 25ft moving LED transforming the space live in real time with featured appearances by Paul George, Blake Griffin & Kevin Durant & a live performance by Travis Scott.
Michael worked with Universal Studios in Orlando to help conceptualize & develop a completely new nighttime water projection screen, video mapping, light show called Universal Cinematic Celebration. In this innovative show a grid of fountains & a panorama of water projection screens highlight films such as Jurassic World, E.T., Fast & The Furious, Harry Potter, Transformers, Kung Fu Panda, How To Train Your Dragon & Minions. Michael also partnered again with Nike & The World Cup for a truly 360 unique immersive experience in London ahead of the 2018 World Cup with 360 content wrapping around the audience, a kinetic shoe launch with programmed shoes flying above the audience & featuring 27 players from around the world including Neymar & Cristiano Ronaldo.
In 2018, Michael began work on a then unknown project to help develop, conceptualize & create performances for a crazy new idea that focused on elaborate costumes, celebrities & anonymity as his work as Creative Director & Creative Producer for the mega-hit TV series the Masked Singer began. The Masked Singer would go on in 2019 with seasons 1 & 2 to smash all TV ratings records for the previous 7 years becoming the #1 most watch TV series garnering record numbers of viewers each week.
Simultaneously with the success of the Masked Singer, Michael was hard at work with Cirque du Soleil in Montreal developing what would be one of the biggest risks the brand would ever take with the development & creation of a completely new type of show devoid of any circus acts, R.U.N The First Live Action Thriller set to open in Las Vegas at the end of 2019.
A graduate of the University of Texas Radio-TV-Film Dept, education is very important to Michael. He continued to give back to his roots in the dance community by nurturing & educating aspiring dancers via guest lectures & master classes all over the world. Spanning the years 2002-2011, he was on faculty at the world-renown EDGE Performing Arts Ctr. in Hollywood for three years & was a guest faculty on the Tremaine Dance Convention and Hollywood Vibe tours where he connected with young dancers across the US, mentoring about realistic expectations in professional dance & choreography. Michael has also become a mentor & inspiring educator to thousands of dancers in Australia, having taught 10 consecutive annual workshop tours with a 55 workshops over 21 days in 9 cities. Michael has since gone on to sponsor 11 Australian dancers for their US work visas & assisted countless others in their professional endeavors, including bringing Feld Entertainment to Australia for the first time & hiring his entire Circus Xtreme dancer cast locally in Australia, another way to give back to a community that has supported him for 10 years. Other guest faculty credits include: Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Broadway Dance Center Japan, Sydney Dance Company, Brent Street Studios Sydney, Ed5 International Sydney, Urban Dance Centre Sydney, Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance Melbourne, Western Australian University of Performing Arts Perth, Pineapple Studios London, Dance Academy Zurich, Harbour Dance Vancouver, MBS Toronto & Manhattan Dance Project. Though Michael left the choreography & dance world behind for Creative & Stage Direction in 2012, he still continues to give back to this community when possible.