Related topics

‘West Side Story Suite’ Premiered at Gala

May 19, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ Jerome Robbins is a great choreographer of Broadway musicals and a great choreographer of ballets. Now he has united those talents. Robbins has taken eight dances he choreographed for ``West Side Story″ in 1957 and made ``West Side Story Suite″ for the New York City Ballet.

The 35-minute ballet, which seems shorter, is a triumph. Instead of appearing dated, it looks as current as street life and gang wars today and as timeless as the ``Romeo and Juliet″ plot on which the musical is based.

In the Broadway show, Tony (Romeo) is shot but Maria (Juliet) lives. Robbins ends ``West Side Story Suite″ more optimistically, with his dream ballet, to a song of hope for an end to rivalry and violence. Tony and Maria and two other couples dance to ``Somewhere.″ The city tenements have disappeared and they have space and a future.

The New York City Ballet danced the premiere of ``West Side Story Suite″ at its spring gala on Thursday in the New York State Theater. The music is by Leonard Bernstein, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Some of the songs were sung by five offstage singers.

Robert LaFosse was Tony; Elena Diner, Maria; Nikolaj Hubbe, Tony’s friend Riff; Jock Soto, Maria’s brother Bernardo; Nancy Ticotin, Bernardo’s girlfriend Anita; Natalie Toro, Anita’s friend Rosalia.

Robbins’ choreography is clear and dramatic.

In one scene, Ticotin did a hot dance and sang how happy she is in ``America″ and Toro sang her homesickness for Puerto Rico. Both appeared as guest artists.

``Cool,″ danced with several quirky, hip solos by the Jets, is pure fun and done for comic relief.

The heart of the drama is ``Rumble,″ the fearful, stylized ballet fight with knives in which Riff and Bernardo die.

Paul Gemignani conducted.

The evening began with a Robbins ballet from 1979, ``The Four Seasons,″ to music by Verdi. It ended with a banquet on the promenade level for people who bought benefit tickets.

``West Side Story Suite″ will be danced five more times during this season, which ends June 25.

Update hourly