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How Sergio Trujillo Reinvents The Temptations’ Movement in ‘Ain’t Too Proud’

August 23, 2018 by Ashley Lee
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Jawan M. Jackson, James Harkness, Jeremy Pope, Derrick Baskin and Ephraim Sykes in “Ain’t Too Proud.” (Photographed by Doug Hamilton)

Get ready, ‘cause The Temptations are headed to the Ahmanson Theatre! Running through Sept. 30, the new bio-musical “Ain’t Too Proud” recounts how five guys were plucked from the streets of Detroit and became the definition of the Motown sound. The Broadway-bound production features the group’s iconic hits, like “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” and more.

We chatted with esteemed choreographer Sergio Trujillo (“Memphis ,” “On Your Feet!”) about making moves for bio-musicals, bringing the routines of The Temptations to the theater and learning from the group’s story five decades after it all began.

The Temptations’ choreography is iconic. Why has it remained so legendary?
There’s no other group who has had such soulful and funky sound. Even today, it’s so relevant — look at Bruno Mars, for example. It’s very hard to not want to dance to that music! I really made sure that I was well-versed in the period, but like every show I do, I come up with my “million-dollar step” for The Temptations.

You’ve been part of a few bio-musicals. What’s the trick to creating choreography for these shows without making things feel visually repetitive?
Every time you’re up to bat, you really have to think about the narrative. I don’t think about the steps; I think about the story, and that will always inform the particular number. I make it a point that whenever I’m up to bat, there’s a different concept or idea. But I still make sure it still stays within the world of the show.

Which number stands out, for whatever reason?
“I Can’t Get Next to You” sticks out because it really shows how the entire creative team came together to make something that’s really spectacular, like nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s not just choreography, it’s also scenic design, direction, everything. It’s a signature product of a really strong collaboration.

Which song was the toughest one to choreograph?
I’d say “I’m Losing You,” because it’s the number that takes place in the political and social civic unrest of the ’60s that they were living in. That angst had to be portrayed in the movement. It just took a little bit of time getting there, finding the right vocabulary to demonstrate that.

What is particularly timely about this musical, even though it’s a period piece?
In this story, there are moments when we’re reminded of our history and what our country has gone through, politically. I question, have we evolved? Have we overcome the issues of the ’60s? It’s a good reminder, and a good question for the audience to ask of themselves — along with having a phenomenal time and wanting to get up and dance. I think the show is more meaningful than that.

Get tickets from $39 to “Ain’t Too Proud.”