These 6 Dancers Are Appearing in the New Film AND Broadway Productions of “West Side Story”
Could it be? Yes it could. Something's coming, something good…
Well, two somethings, to be precise. Next February, a West Side Story revival, directed by Ivo van Hove and choreographed by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, is coming to Broadway. And next December, a new West Side Story film, directed by Steven Spielberg and choreographed by Justin Peck, is coming to movie theaters.
The two productions promise radically different takes on the iconic musical, originally directed and choreographed (for both stage and film) by Jerome Robbins. But—as we discovered yesterday, when casting for the Broadway revival was announced—six remarkable dancers will be part of both projects.
Meet, or re-meet, the West Side Story multitaskers: Yesenia Ayala, Ben Cook, Kevin Csolak, Carlos E. Gonzalez, Jacob Guzman, and Ricky Ubeda..
Yesenia Ayala (Anita on Broadway, Sharks ensemble in film)
The gifted Ayala—one of Dance Spirit's 2019 Broadway ensemble standouts—is three-time Chita Rivera Award nominee. She's danced on Broadway in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Carousel, working with Peck on the latter.
Ben Cook (Riff on Broadway, Jets ensemble in film)
Does Cook look familiar? You might recognize him from his run as Billy in the North American tour of Billy Elliot. Or from his scene-stealing turn in the Mean Girls ensemble on Broadway. Or from the HBO film Paterno. Which is all to say he's got both dancing and acting skills in spades.
Kevin Csolak (A-Rab on Broadway, Jets ensemble in film)
In addition to appearing on Broadway in Mean Girls, Csolak is a commerical-dance standout who's performed with Hayley Kiyoko and Justin Timberlake. He's also an accomplished actor, with credits including "Boardwalk Empire" and "Blue Bloods."
Carlos E. Gonzalez (Sharks ensemble on Broadway and in film)
The magnetic Gonzalez, born and raised in Cuba, is an alum of Montclair State University. He made his Broadway debut in On Your Feet!, earning an Astaire Award nomination for his performance.
Jacob Guzman (Chino on Broadway, Sharks ensemble in film)
The very talented Guzman has an impressive Broadway resumé that includes Fiddler on the Roof and Newsies. He also danced in the Angelica Tour of Hamilton and appeared in "Peter Pan Live!" on NBC. (And—fun fact—he's a dancing twin.)
Ricky Ubeda (Sharks ensemble on Broadway and in film)
Ubeda's first Broadway role, in On the Town, was part of the prize package he earned as the winner of "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 11. Clearly bitten by the Broadway bug, he went on to lend his high-spirited charm to the Broadway productions of CATS and Carousel.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.
Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"
At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.
Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.