by Dustin Layton
An American in Paris... in Japan. I truly had NO idea what to expect on the first day of rehearsals. I’ve never worked with a translator before, much less a primarily non-English-speaking cast. I was nervous, but I think things got a little better after I told the cast a few times, “It’s a joke! You’re allowed to laugh!”
Technically, I’m here as the assistant choreographer, responsible for teaching the choreographic elements to this company. If you’ve seen the show, you know it’s no small feat. In addition to dancing award-winning choreography, the ensemble moves most of the set pieces. Chaînés with a chair over your head? Duh. Jetés from one countertop to another? Sure. We had a six-week studio rehearsal process before moving to the theater for technical rehearsals. And that’s where we are now.
Heavily based in ballet technique, the show is very stylistically specific. No matter where or who you teach, it takes a lot of time and care. As challenging as the show is, though, we try to keep it close to the original Broadway production. With any new production of a show, changes are usually made for that company. So, there have been some changes.
Like the text. It’s in Japanese. That’s kind of a big one.
An American in Paris will always have such a tender place in my heart. It challenged me and gave me the opportunity to grow as an artist. Seeing the Japanese company start to make it their own is really remarkable. From having heartwarming (and sometimes hilarious) flashbacks to the Broadway creative process, to seeing them beam with pride through beads of sweat after finishing the final ballet for the first time, to my crying at the end of the first full studio run-through... it’s a process. It’s a special, beautiful process, and I can’t wait for opening night to cheer them on.
And probably give notes after. 💅