Cholly Atkins Taught Motown to Dance. His Moves Get an Update in ‘Ain’t Too Proud.’


It was around that time that Mr. Trujillo, born in Colombia in 1963, began choreographing “Jersey Boys,” the 2005 jukebox musical about the Four Seasons. For research, he studied videos of the old TV shows, footage of all the old groups. Since the Four Seasons didn’t move much, he had a free hand. “What I created,” he said, “was like the Temptations more than anything.”

“Ain’t Too Proud” came with different pressures: “Can I live up to the legend of these great performers known for their dancing?” he asked himself. “With the confidence of having done other shows of the period” — “All Shook Up,” “Memphis” — “I let myself create with abandonment.”

First, though, he wanted to earn the audience’s trust. And so the opening number of “Ain’t Too Proud” (“The Way You Do the Things You Do”) is very old school. Some of the lyrics are pantomimed baldly (opening the schoolbook), and when the narrator affectionately mocks those lyrics for corniness, he could be speaking of the choreography, too.

Immediately after, the simplicity recedes. For Mr. Trujillo is tasked, as Cholly Atkins never was, with helping to tell a story, the plot of how the Temptations got together and what they went through. And over the course of the show, as the group’s music changes, getting funky or psychedelic, responding to the riots and assassinations of the late 1960s, the dancing also changes, turning harder-edged, angrier, more technically and emotionally complex.

Throughout, the base style — “sprinkled with period authenticity,” in Mr. Trujillo’s words — tilts contemporary: sharper, bolder in attack. The Supremes in this show pop their hips with much more sexual frankness than the demure originals would have been allowed.



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