Michael trained in dance and theatre at Dartington College and in 1992 was awarded a bursary by the Arts Council to attend dance lighting workshops with Jennifer Tipton in New York.
Over the last 30 years Michael has worked exclusively in dance, particularly with choreographer Russell Maliphant, and established a reputation as a “choreographer of light”. Their collaborations have won international critical acclaim and many awards: Sheer won a Time Out Award for Outstanding Collaboration, Choice won a South Bank Show Dance Award, PUSH, with Sylvie Guillem, won four major awards including the Olivier for Best New Dance Production and AfterLight won two Critics Circle awards.
Michael and Russell also collaborated on Broken Fall commissioned by BalletBoyz, which also featured Sylvie Guillem and won the 2004 Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production and Fallen won the 2014 Critics Circle Award for Best Modern Choreography.
In 2007, Michael and Russell’s work was the subject of BalletBoyz’s Channel 4 documentary Light and Dance and The Daily Telegraph hailed their collaboration as “possibly the most important creative partnership in modern British dance”.
Eonnagata, Michael’s collaboration with Sylvie Guillem, Robert Lepage, Russell Maliphant, and Alexander McQueen, for which Michael won the 2009 Knight of Illumination Award for Dance opened at Sadler’s Wells as did AfterLight later that year. AfterLight led to Michael being nominated for both the Knight of Illumination Award and the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance, in 2010.
Michael has also worked for over 20 years with Akram Khan, including on his full length solo DESH, winner of the 2012 Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production and the 2012 TMA Outstanding Achievement in Dance Award, for which Michael was also nominated. He also lit in-I Akram’s collaboration with Juliette Binoche at The National Theatre, Torobaka Akram’s duet with Flamenco sensation Israel Galvan, the Mahabarata inspired trio Until The Lions and Akram’s highly acclaimed solo XENOS, winner of the 2019 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance. Apart from CREATURE, for English National Ballet, his most recent work with Akram is JUNGLE BOOK reimagined which premiered in 2022 and is currently on international tour.
Michael has also worked with the choreographers and dancers, Steve Paxton, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Laurie Booth, Jonathan Burrows, Meg Stuart, Javier de Frutos, Jonathan Goddard, Gemma Nixon, Shobana Jeyasingh, Liam Scarlett, Aakash Odedra, Natalia Osipova, Sergei Polunin, Aditi Mangaldas, and on contemporary creations with ballet companies in France, Germany, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, the US, and in the UK.
In 2009 Michael became an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells, in 2010 his contribution to dance was recognised with his entry into the Oxford Dictionary of Dance and in 2014 Michael received the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance.
In 2016 Michael created LightSpace an installation at Sadler’s Wells and the first ever presentation on the main stage there without any dancers or performers. He was also awarded a second Knight of Illumination Award for Dance for Conceal | Reveal, his and Russell’s 20th anniversary collaboration.
In 2018 LightSpace was presented at the Hong Kong New Arts Festival and Michael created a new installation, Tungsten Requiem, a eulogy for the extinction of the Tungsten Lightbulb. Michael became an Honorary Fellow of Rose Bruford College in 2019 and teaches on the college's new MA course, Light in Performance.
In 2023 Michael accepted an OBE for Services to Dance and the Arts.
He is currently in the early stages of a new project with Akram.
These are a selection of some of the 90 dance productions Michael has worked on.
Click on a production window to scroll through more images and info.
"Michael Hulls provides astonishingly beautiful lighting, moving from warm to cool, carving the empty stage into dynamic space."
– Sarah Crompton, The Guardian
"..with everything framed by Hulls’s impeccable oblongs of light.
"no one other than Maliphant and Hulls could have made (say) a quartet of female dancers look so ravishingly like an ancient temple’s caryatids come to life, or the entire female contingent, linking arms across the rear of the stage, so closely resemble a 30-foot-long necklace of pure gold."
– Mark Monahan, The Telegraph
"In Hulls’s blocks of light, splitting into geometric confining shapes, the dancers appear and disappear as if by magic. Till at the end long strips of light widen the stage for the finale, encouraging the performers’ endless roiling and rolling."
– Vera Liber, British Theatre Guide