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.
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets (AKA "the mattress dance") hasn't been revived since it premiered in 1965. Nor has Rainer had any wish to do it again, to ask performers to heave 10 mattresses around while carrying out 31 tasks that changed every 30 seconds. It was an unwieldy, difficult dance. (Even the title is unwieldy.) But Emily Coates, who has danced in Rainer's work for 20 years, became curious about this piece and was determined to see it again—and to dance in it. She will get her wish November 15–17, when the mattress dance will be performed as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.
"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.