Music: Leonard Bernstein (“Prologue,” “Something’s Coming,” “Dance at the Gym,” “Cool,” “America,” “Rumble,” and “Somewhere Ballet,” from West Side Story, 1957)
Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Choreography: Jerome Robbins with Peter Genarro
Staging: Robert LaFosse and Jenifer Ringer
Vocal Coaching: Joan Barber
Scenic Design: Oliver Smith
Costume Design: Irene Sharaff
Lighting Design: Jennifer Tipton, recreated by Randall G. Chiarelli
Duration: 36 minutes
Premiere: May 18, 1995: New York City Ballet
Pacific Northwest Ballet Premiere: March 12, 2009
The 2009 PNB premiere of Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story Suite was generously underwritten by Marcella McCaffray, Lyndall Boal, Carl & Renee Behnke, and Aya Stark Hamilton.
With a book written by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and choreography by Jerome Robbins, the musical West Side Story is one of the most popular theatrical productions based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Set on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the mid-1950s, West Side Story explores the rivalry between two teenage gangs of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Tony, who belongs to the native Manhattan gang, the Jets, falls in love with Maria, the sister of the leader of the rival Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks. The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems marked a turning point in American musical theater.
The original 1957 Broadway production, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, marked Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway debut. The production earned a Tony Award in 1957 for Robbins’ choreography. The musical led to the innovative, award-winning 1961 musical film, winning 10 Academy Awards out of 11 nominations, including Best Director, for Robbins and Robert Wise, and Best Picture. Jerome Robbins extracted a sequence of dances from West Side Story to make this suite for New York City Ballet in 1995.
Notes by Doug Fullington.
Contributing Artists for the 2018 Performance
Robert LaFosse received training with David Howard at Harkness House and Stanley Williams at the School of American Ballet. He was a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, as well as a guest artist with companies in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Mr. LaFosse also starred in two Broadway shows, Dancin’ and Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, which earned him a Tony award nomination for best actor in a musical. He has also choreographed more than 75 works for ballet, opera, musical theater, film, and television. Currently, Mr. LaFosse teaches ballet at Barnard College, Purchase College, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and Princeton University. In the past, he has taught at NYCB, the School of American Ballet, ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, The Juilliard School, Jacob’s Pillow, and Steps on Broadway, among others.
Jenifer Ringer was born in New Bern, North Carolina, and received her early ballet training in South Carolina and Washington, D.C. before moving on to a year of training at the School of American Ballet. Ms. Ringer was asked to join New York City Ballet as an apprentice in 1989, moving through the ranks until she was made a principal dancer in 2000. She retired from performing in 2014 after a 24-year career dancing featured roles in works by choreographers such as George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Alexi Ratmansky, and Christopher Wheeldon. Ms. Ringer has won the Dance Magazine Award, Jerome Robbins Award, and Dance Teacher Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award; in 1998, she graduated summa cum laude from Fordham University. In 2000, Ms. Ringer married former New York City Ballet principal dancer James Fayette with whom she has two children. They are currently the deans of the dance department at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. Ms. Ringer also works regularly as a répétiteur for the Robbins Rights Trust.