That â€œSomewhereâ€ Place? Itâ€™s Dances at a Gathering
Seeing Dances at a Gathering and West Side Story Suite in the same program suddenly connected Robbins’ utopia for me. At the end of WSS Suite, when the blue sky with a couple wispy clouds appear in the “Somewhere Ballet,” we’ve seen it before—just a few minutes before. That almost clear sky is the setting for Dances at a Gathering, that place where young people welcome each other, play innocently, and soar in beautiful lifts. It’s almost like 12 years after making the “Somewhere Ballet” in West Side Story (1957), Robbins took that oasis of hope and created a whole ballet, Dances at a Gathering (1969). And isn’t it ironic that at the end of Dances, a hint of a darker feeling creeps onto the stage as the Chopin gets stormy and the dancers look to see what danger is on the horizon. It seems that for Robbins, at the end of optimism is danger, and at the end of danger is optimism.
takes the tragic ending of the story and makes it optimistic. Instead of Maria draped over the dead Tony in despair, both Maria and Tony are kneeling (as they are in their most hopeful moment in the movie, in the song “One Hand, One Heart”). One by one a guy from the Jets and a guy from the Sharks meet each other and walk through the kneeling bookends of Maria and Tony. It’s as though the Somewhere place of their fantasy has come to life, and all those troubled young kids can walk through the aisle to acceptance.
This particular performance of Dances at a Gathering sparkled, mostly because of Tiler Peck’s star turn as the pink girl (a new role for her) and Maria Kowroski’s spirited girl in green (an old role). Tiler (Peck) and Tyler (Angle) were dreamy together. With a cast like this, it’s easy to see that Dances at a Gathering is an American masterpiece—and one of the best ballets in NYCB’s huge repertoire.
The “Somewhere Ballet” from Robbins’
West Side Story Suite, with Faye Arthurs as Maria and Robert Fairchild as Tony, photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB