By Celna Chacko-Saran
Born in Colombia and having spent his childhood there, Sergio Trujillo had an uphill climb when his family decided to move to Canada in 1976. This was just as he was about to hit his teens. English was a language he did not comprehend and the children at his new school were quick to point out his colored skin in their jokes. Trujillo, however, asserts, “Growing up in Canada has a lot to do with who I am today.”
And today, as an internationally recognized choreographer, Trujillo is nothing short of a celebrity. Raised in a Colombian family, dance has always been a part of the culture, especially social dancing. Little wonder that he decided to take up dancing as his profession after watching a live performance at Canada’s Wonderland, a popular amusement park in Vaughn, Ontario.
“I witnessed my parent’s integration into the Canadian culture as they worked hard to provide for a good life for their family. This encouraged me to work hard in pursuing a career in dance,” says Trujillo. Enrolled at a chiropractic school, he took a sabbatical to dance in his first show, Jerome Robbins Broadway.
Having danced professionally for over 10 years, Trujillo began making a shift towards choreography in 1999. He assisted choreographers like Jerry Mitchell, Rob Marshall, Debbie Allen and Vince Paterson before he became an independent choreographer. He credits Des Mc Anuff, director of Jersey Boys, and theatre artiste Chita Rivera as his mentors.
Trujillo’s work sprawls across North America, Europe and Asia. In early 2011, he had the honour of four of his shows simultaneously running on Broadway — the 2010 Tony Award for best musical winner Memphis, the 2006 Tony and Olivier awards for best musical winner Jersey Boys, The Addams Family, and Next to Normal, the recipient of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize.
New York-based Trujillo was in town recently to promote Memphis, which is performing at the Toronto Centre for the Arts till Christmas Eve. Set in the 1950s, Memphis revokes the cultural revolution as a young white DJ, Huey Calhoun falls in love with a black singer.
Trujillo feels that there is potential for more and more Canadians to make their mark in the field of dance and choreography. “Individuals from any cultural ethnicity with artistic aspirations just need to stay focused and persevere to achieve their dreams,” adds Trujillo as he signs off.