The artist talks about his cult films, the shooting conditions, his relationship to dance …
On the occasion of the film’s release Where we come from, directed by Jon M. Chu and adapted from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical of the same name, choreographer Christopher Scott has agreed to reveal a little more about his life, work and filming conditions.
First: What is your relationship to dance?
Christopher Scott: It might sound cliché, but dancing is really my whole life. I wake up, I dance, whatever I do I dance! It’s always on my mind. When I’m on the plane and I have my headphones on, I imagine choreas and footsteps in my head. My relationship to dance is very deep, it is like a member of my family because it is so omnipresent.
When did you start dancing?
I started when I was 13, I was doing street performances. I had the opportunity to perform on vacation, in front of a lot of people, and it was a great moment for me.
What were your main inspirations for the film?
Everything is inspiring, but the two things that really stood out to me are the neighborhood on the one hand, and the music on the other. Washington Heights shares its genes with you when you go for a walk. Your brain is constantly stimulated. Regarding music, there was already musical comedy. So I listened to it for a year, all the time: in the shower, in the street … there is so much to remember and understand. I was wondering : “How does it make you feel? What does it produce in you?”. Remember that most of the time, music will tell you what to do by itself, if you listen to it carefully.
A scorching summer, a New York neighborhood, a radio voice announcing strong heat … The beginning of the film may remind you Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee. Which non-musical film would you like to have adapted into a musical?
Absolutely! It’s one of my favorite movies, and adding choreography to this movie would have been just crazy. The connection with this film is special, and when I was filming Where we come from, I went to see the neighborhood where he had filmed. I think, but the question is really hard … The problem is that it can be anything! (laughs) there are too many choices … I think it over and tell you at the end.
What is the film Where We Come From? [critique]
There are also aspects which, without much surprise, can remind West Side Story : the community side, the protagonists, the choreographies …
I was completely inspired by this movie. When I was in high school, they played this movie in the theater and I went to all the rehearsals; it changed my life. It guided my creativity. There are a lot of similarities, and what I like is that you meet both sides! [les Jets et les Sharks], it brings you closer to the characters.
The film also deals with social and educational inequalities, and therefore with unequal rights. What motivated you to pass these messages through dance?
I come from a family of activists. My mother still fights against all these inequalities. When I started dancing, I said to myself: “Am I right to continue? Or should I be with my mother fighting these inequalities?”, I felt like I wasn’t doing the right things and I felt guilty. Then I realized that dancing is so powerful that it can speak to anyone. So I took the opportunity to make a film that would really convey a message. I grew up in Los Angeles for twenty years, and witnessing such gentifrication broke my heart. You don’t know what to do, how to act. Then a movie arrives and gives you the opportunity to express yourself on “why is gentrification so much of a problem?”. You have to see it to believe it. And when you can use dance – which is a real language – as a means of communication, you have to take advantage of it. For example on the set, for some English was not the mother tongue. And as I always repeat, we had trouble talking to each other, but not communicating, because we talk about dance!
Can you describe a typical day of shooting on this film?
Every day was different. Everyone was humble, talented, smart, so it could only go well. We were all there for the same reasons. This is the first time that I have learned a real lesson with this project. I started talking to the actors a lot, what they thought, I asked them their opinion. Then it makes sense, it gives you ideas … being in contact with all these people is the best school in life. We celebrated the end of the shoot every day, even when we were very tired. It was a project very dear to my heart.
And to come back to the film that you would have liked to choreograph?
Big fish is also one of my favorite movies, and I can’t help but believe that in a musical it would have been awesome. But the film is such a masterpiece that I would be frankly afraid to touch it! (laughs). But otherwise, Billy Elliot, that would have been cool too … I feel very connected to the character. But it would be too scary to touch these two classics, I prefer to remain a fan.
TrailerIn The Heights, at the cinema on June 23, 2021: