did you know there’s a specific choreography to West Side Story that gets purchased along with the rights whenever someone puts on the musical? and they have to use THAT CHOREOGRAPHY?
Yeah, and I don’t really know how to feel about it.
On one hand it seems reasonable: it’s very much a song-and-dance musical and there’s no obvious reason why you should be able to change the steps of the dances if you can’t change the notes or the words of the songs (and no obvious reason why you should want to change the steps but not the songs). And Jerome Robbins was as central to the creative effort as Bernstein and Sondheim so it isn’t obvious why people should mess around with his work on the show more than they’d fiddle with the text or score.
On the other hand I feel like some more flexibility might be good. I went to see a West End production in about 1998 or 1999 and the dancing just seemed a bit dead. All the steps were there, same as the film, same as ever, but there was no energy in it (which I found quite shocking given how much energy there is in the music: how could anyone dance that music so dully?). Maybe it was just that cast, or that director, or it was a bad night — I can’t really blame it on the choreography, but at the same time I sort of do. I don’t know why.
It seems like with ballet there’s a bit more room for changing the choreography from one production to another. Does anyone know about this sort of thing? Maybe it’s just because the rights for most famous ballets have lapsed. Hmm.