What is “West Side Story” without Jerome Robbins? Gossipy.
It brings a different kind of speed to “West Side Story”. Sometimes the dance is so joyful, so light, that the performers seem to forget who they are. Like the dark Bernardo, David Alvarez is spectacular. Yet when he dances, should his expression be so full of happiness? He’s the leader of a gang – and, sigh, here reimagined as a boxer.
Watching the stories unfold – and, later, trying to keep track of them – made me think about how this movie could have really been about dancing. What if the dream ballet, part of the original musical, had been included? In it, Tony and Maria sing “Somewhere” in her bedroom until the walls open and the room is gone; now the members of the two gangs unite and dance together in harmony “in one world”, as the script says, “of space, air and sun”.
The dream ballet probably never had a chance. For the most part, the language of dance can only be trusted to a point. But what if it had been included – and updated? It would have been a thrill, a gradual act.
This sense of harmony echoes how many of Peck’s dances present themselves on stage. When they work – the two I love are âRodeo: Four Dance Episodesâ and âThe Times Are Racingâ – they rise beyond stages and structure to land in a place of sensation, sweeping. and scope. This is what you think of when you think of the poetic and elusive “Somewhere”.
But there is another scene that follows in the musical, which is even more rarely performed: The dream turns into a nightmare. Riff and Bernardo appear, their dead are re-enacted, and Maria and Tony are separated amid the chaos and violence. They meet in the bedroom, where they sing together, “Hold my hand and we’re halfway there.” One day, somewhere, somewhere! I would have voted for the dream ballet – until the nightmare. He had so much more to say. Maria and Tony, after all, are desperate. They cling to the air, and it calls for a dance.