On paper, Andy Blankenbuehler isn’t an obvious choice to choreograph “In the Heights.” Set in a Latin neighborhood, the show bursts with hip-hop and salsa music, and he doesn’t have a background in either.
“When the producers asked why they should hire me,” he says, “I told them, ‘You don’t necessarily need a hip-hop expert. You need a storyteller.'”
Blankenbuehler is dedicated to helping dancers guide a narrative. He even left his performing career — which included several Broadway gigs — to help them do it. “I’m choreographing what I would have wanted to perform,” he says.
For “In the Heights,” he used eight months of research to blend everything from break dancing to ballet. Most pieces begin with naturalistic movement and then evolve into metaphors for the emotions of a scene.
“The show is about the value of diversity,” Blankenbuehler says, “and I try to embody that by showing a dancer’s personality through movement.”