If you’re in need of a large, elaborate dance number, Christopher Scott is your guy. The three-time Emmy-nominated choreographer has worked with everyone from Selena Gomez to Miley Cyrus to Gloria Estefan. Most recently, Scott served as choreographer for In the Heights, the new film adaptation of the hit Lin-Manuel Miranda musical. Over the course of the movie, Scott’s numbers, ranging from massive group dances to intimate duets, add bursts of energy to the production, without overshadowing Miranda’s lyrics or stalling the flow of the film. In working with director Jon Chu and Miranda himself, Scott brought the musical to the big screen, but in a distinctly new way.
In the Heights premiered on Thursday, June 10, on both HBO Max and in theaters across the nation. Before the movie’s opening, T&C chatted with Scott about his inspirations for the film’s choreography, working with Miranda, and the pure mechanics of orchestrating a production of this scale and complexity. Read the full conversation below:
The musical number “96,000” (set in and around a large pool) is one of the most complex scenes in the movie—what was your strategy there?
There were a lot of challenges in this movie, because it’s such a massive undertaking and there’s so much music; there’s so much detail to fill in. But, that number was by far the most challenging. One, just the scale of the pool—I had never even seen a pool that big. So, then there was a moment where we were thinking, can we even pull this off? Because we can’t shoot in a pool and have it look empty—you need thousands of people to fill this up.
[In the movie] it looks like the hottest day of the year, but it was freezing in that pool. So, temperature-wise, we had a challenge. There was a moment where the dancers had to get out of the pool and some of them [said], “we can keep going” and other ones [said] “I can’t keep going.” You have to listen to those dancers and when they tell you, “we’ve got to get out of the pool,” you have to get out the pool. It doesn’t matter how much time you don’t have—now we’re talking about safety.