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On Your Feet!
Photograph: Courtesy Matthew MurphyOn Your Feet!

Choreographer Sergio Trujillo finds his own path by following in the steps of the greats

Written by
Dany Margolies

This year alone, Broadway choreographer Sergio Trujillo can watch proudly as not one but three of his shows hit the boards in Los Angeles.

In July, the Emilio and Gloria Estefan musical On Your Feet! plays Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre. In August and September, the Temptations musical Ain’t Too Proud runs at the Ahmanson Theatre and in November, Chazz Palminteri’s musical A Bronx Tale takes over the Pantages.

All this has put Trujillo at a level of success usually reserved for veteran choreographers such as Jerome Robbins, whose dances still frequently reappear in revivals. Indeed, Trujillo made his Broadway dancing debut in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway; to this day, he continues to revere and model himself after the legend. “I think one of the biggest influences he had on me as a choreographer, dancer and director was his ability to adapt to any style and to any story,” he says of the man for all seasons behind The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof and West Side Story.

Sergio Trujillo
Photograph: Courtesy Lee Cherry

As a young dancer, Trujillo also worked with Bob Fosse in that choreographer’s self-titled revue and was struck by the precision and clarity of his dance vocabulary. “That became what I demand of dancers,” he says.

Before Trujillo auditioned for the Robbins revue, however, he studied chiropractic. Today, that knowledge helps him to push dancers to the limit, and if a dancer gets hurt, he instantly knows what to do.

After reading a script and conferencing with the director, Trujillo begins what he calls his gestation period, isolating himself in a studio for three to four weeks to create a lexicon for the show. “Once I know what each number wants to be, what the narrative is, I create a blueprint so there is a map for what I want to do,” he explains.

He also does research. For example, for On Your Feet!, he spent two weeks in Cuba to study Afro-Cuban dances with local troupes.

Though he is particular about what he wants in a number, Trujillo makes his rehearsals collaborative: He wants his dancers to “breathe their own life into it.” That’s how, always on his feet, he keeps his dancers—and his audiences—on theirs.

See On Your Feet! at the Pantages Theatre through July 29, Ain’t Too Proud at the Ahmanson Theatre Aug 21–Sept 30 and A Bronx Tale at the Pantages Theatre Nov 6–25.

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