A West Side Story Revival is Coming to Broadway—Without Jerome Robbins' Choreography
The 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story, shot on location in New York City, preserved Jerome Robbins' choreography. Photo courtesy DM Archives
We didn't see this one coming.
According to Playbill, a revival of West Side Story, the beloved 1957 musical that put a 20th century, New York City spin on Romeo and Juliet, is coming to Broadway in 2020. We'll still hear Leonard Bernstein's music and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, but the new production, directed by Tony winner Ivo van Hove, will be deviating from the original in at least one crucial respect: the choreography won't be original director Jerome Robbins'.
Instead, Belgian contemporary choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker has been brought on as choreographer. This will mark the first production since the original to significantly deviate from Robbins' iconic moves, which were immortalized in the 1961 Oscar-winning film adaptation. (Incidentally, there is also a new West Side Storyfilm in the works, helmed by Stephen Spielberg and penned by Tony Kushner of Angels in America fame. We have yet to hear whether it will also be updating Robbins' choreography.)
Revivals of classic shows are increasingly opting to hire new choreographers rather than treat the original steps as sacrosanct—think Hofesh Shechter and Fiddler on the Roof, or Justin Peck and Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel. But choosing de Keersmaeker to choreograph a musical set in 1950s NYC is particularly surprising: Her career has primarily been in Europe, where she has developed a reputation for rigorously mathematical and musical contemporary productions. But she does have some NYC cred to her name: She attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in the 1980s.
Whether de Keersmaeker can live up to Robbins' precedent-setting work remains to be seen. But it does present an excellent opportunity for NYC-based dancers. There will be an Equity call for male and female dancers Monday, July 16 to audition to participate in a development lab for the production this winter.
James Whiteside (Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine)
Say you're perpetually impeccable designer Thom Browne. Say you're planning your Spring 2020 Paris menswear show along a "Versailles country club" theme. Say you want a world-class danseur to open the show with some kind of appropriately fabulous choreography.
Who do you call? James Whiteside, of course. On Saturday, the American Ballet Theatre principal—wearing pointe shoes and a glorious pinstriped tutu—kicked off Browne's presentation at the École des Beaux-Arts with a 15-minute, show-stealing solo. Whiteside choreographed the piece himself, with the help of detailed notes from the designer.
I'd been a professional dancer for five years when I realized the pain I'd been feeling in my hip and down my sciatic nerve was not going away. I had been treating it for two years as we dancers do—with regular visits to my masseuse, physical therapy, baths, ice and lots of Aleve—but I never stopped dancing. It finally dawned on me that if I kept going at the speed I was going (which was, well, speedy), the pain would only get more severe and unrelenting, and I might never dance again.
I told myself I'd take two months off, and all would be better.
That first morning when I woke up at 10 am, I had no idea what to do with myself. My life until that moment had been dictated by class and rehearsal, every hour accounted for. How should I fill the huge swath of time ahead of me?