Tuesday, July 14, 2015

In the Heights - meet choreographer Stefan Sittig

In The Heights is a show about more than just a group of immigrants in the big city (in this case New York City), it is a show about how immigrants have shaped this country and how, through hard-work, resilience and endless energy, have transformed (and improved) our great nation!

I am the proud son and grandson of Latino immigrants. My mother and grandmother (my Abuela) came to the U.S. from Montevideo, Uruguay in the late 60s. They both had to adapt quickly in a foreign land.  My grandmother came over at the age of 50, didn't speak a word of English and had always been a housewife.  She quickly had to learn a new language, learn to drive a car and develop a trade to get a job.   When I look back, it's absolutely remarkable to me how much she and my mother both accomplished in such a short time, and how strong, adaptable and resilient they had to be to succeed here.   And succeed they did!  

In The Heights strikes so many chords for me hard to pick just one --- I identify most with the character of Nina, the daughter of immigrants, with high expectations put on her to be the first to go to college and make her parents and family proud.  And like in the show, my Abuela was a key figure in my life growing up and taught me so much about hard work and determination.   And of course, the dancing (and music) in the show bring back so many memories for me.

In addition to the lessons I learned from my Uruguayan ancestors, I also was raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, another incredibly vibrant Latin country.  From the age of 6 to 18 I lived in Rio and absorbed the language, culture and history of that great city and country!   So I also have the experience of being an "immigrant" myself, trying to adapt to a totally different culture and language. What I took away most from my 12 years growing up in Brazil is that life is short and should be enjoyed!  Music and Dance are a big part of Brazilian culture and "Carnaval" is their yearly celebration of life (think New Orleans Mardi Gras times 1,0000!).   How could I have grown up in that country and NOT have become a Choreographer?  I grew up around the most amazing polyrhythmic music and spectacular dancing every day!  I was lucky!   

So, I've done my best to bring all the rich experiences I have been lucky to have to this creative process and to imbue this show with the spirit of both my Uruguayan ancestors and my adopted country, Brazil!  

-Stefan Sittig (Choreographer)

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