No mean feat: how West Side Story’s dance rumbles got reinvented
The Sharks-v-Jets classic is told with Jerome Robbins perfect moves, admits Aletta Collins. How did she create new ones?
Aletta Collins is telling me about what arrived in the post when she started her latest project. A big parcel came and it was my vocal score for West Side Story, she says. But then there was this other score, she mimes holding a weighty tome. And I opened it and it was the choreography, this most beautiful book with absolutely every movement all written out and diagrams, so detailed and exact. Because everybody who does West Side Story uses the same choreography. Or at least they did, until now.
Since its stage premiere in 1957, Leonard Bernsteins score for West Side Story has been inseparable from Jerome Robbins choreography, a masterful marriage of movement, music, character and narrative. Robbins also directed the musical (and the 1961 film version) and his iconic moves defined the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, his mid-century jazz-ballet never losing its cool.