What Steven Spielberg Taught Dancer Kellie Drobnick on the Set of West Side Story

August 20, 2020

After graduating from The Juilliard School in 2016, Kellie Drobnick immediately set about conquering the worlds of concert dance, Hollywood and musical theater. She spent two months dancing with MOMIX, toured in the Dirty Dancing musical, joined Twyla Tharp Dance and is a Jet in the much-anticipated West Side Story remake, directed by Steven Spielberg and choreographed by Justin Peck. Effortlessly elegant at 5′ 8″, Drobnick brings her sparklingly clear technique to every project, along with a glamour and stage presence that’s reminiscent of Hollywood’s Golden Age.


Hilliard, Ohio

NorthPointe Dance Academy in Ohio, The Juilliard School

2020 Clive Barnes Award finalist

A competitive advantage:
Growing up, Drobnick lived for weekends at conventions like New York City Dance Alliance. “I’ve carried with me the versatility learned by taking a different style every hour and being forced to pick up choreography immediately,” she says.

Kellie Drobnick leans her upper body to her left as she does a relevu00e9 passu00e9 in character heels outside in front of a red brick wall.
Kellie Drobnick

Jon Taylor, Courtesy Drobnick

The time of her life:
Dancing in the ensemble and understudying Penny in Dirty Dancing nudged Drobnick out of her comfort zone. “Juilliard was so serious and structured,” she says. “I always felt like I had to be perfect. So I basically cried the first time I had to sing in front of an audience! But the show ended up reminding me to dance for the joy of it and to entertain people.”

Words from the wise:
Drobnick says that making the West Side Story film was a master class in screen acting: “There’s a moment when we have to look at the camera, and I did this little thing with my eyes. Steven said, ‘Nope, just stare directly into the lens. Less is more with camera.’ ”

Dream jobs:
Drobnick has her eye on originating a role in a dance-centric Broadway musical. She’d also love to do more contemporary work with Peck, along the lines of his The Times Are Racing. “I want to do more work that thrills me like that,” she says.

What Patricia Delgado is saying:
At the West Side Story audition, Delgado, an associate choreographer, recalls how Drobnick was one of the few dancers who nailed the sequence from the beginning. “It’s so rare to find a dancer with both length and looseness, coordination and control,” says Delgado. During rehearsals, Peck would have Drobnick and her partner, Kevin Csolak, demonstrate “to see if the movement was working, because, if not, Justin knew they’d find a way to fix it.”

Next up:
Drobnick’s been cast as a swing in the developmental workshop of a tap-heavy musical directed and choreographed by Peck.