one of my fondest memories of my senior year in high school was the experience of performing in west side story, one of the most extraordinary musicals of all time.
with dancing and music running deep in my blood since i was a little peanut, i fell in love with west side story at the age of 8…..and have since watched it about a gazillion times over…and over…and over….. the vibrant costumes, fluid choreography, powerful melodies and tender story engraved in my memory.
so for me, this breathtaking vanity fair weat side story photoshoot is the perfect love letter to this legendary tale.
the images speak for themselves…..
** images courtesy of vanity fair **
“West Side Story is gang warfare set to music. It’s dance as a weapon. It’s love and death with a Latin beat. West Side Story rocks. The first thing you hear is snapping fingers. That beat. The hoodlums who make up the rival gangs the Sharks (Puerto Rican) and the Jets (Anglo-Irish-Italian) fill the frame in the early going, trying to out-macho one another with charged moves, only to give way to the riveting heroines Maria and Anita.The inspiration for West Side Story came to choreographer-director Jerome Robbins in 1949. It was just the wisp of an idea at first … Romeo and Juliet updated for modern-day, urban America. Then, in the mid-1950s, he read newspaper accounts of Puerto Rican gangs fighting it out with veteran neighborhood gangs, and something clicked. Robbins was just the person to see it through. He was no stranger to the meaner side of life, having been born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side long before it was a cute place to meet for drinks. He enlisted the help of three brilliant collaborators—Leonard Bernstein (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), and Arthur Laurents (book)—and brought West Side Story to the stage in 1957. Not everyone got it. As Robbins biographer Deborah Jowitt notes, “No previous Broadway musical had ended Act I with two dead bodies onstage and Act II with a third.” But a perceptive critic of the age, Kenneth Tynan, called the show a “rampaging ballet, with bodies flying from the air as if shot from guns.”
Robbins and co-director Robert Wise managed to hang on to that quality for their 1961 film version, which won 10 Academy Awards. Not that Robbins cared all that much about pats on the back from the Hollywood establishment. He put his two Oscars (one for directing and a special award for choreography) in the basement, according to Jowitt. Of the trophies themselves, Robbins complained in a letter to a friend that they had “no faces, no fingers, no asses, no balls, no nothing. They’re bland like Hollywood, they’re gold and glued over.” But the movie has cojones to spare—without stinting on elegance. (Not that certain cojones aren’t elegant.)
A huge West Side Story fan is Jennifer Lopez, who says she watched the film “37 times” as a kid growing up in the Bronx. She was especially attracted to Anita, played by Rita Moreno in the film—a fiery foil to Natalie Wood’s dewy Maria. Says Lopez, “I never wanted to be that wimpy Maria, who sits around pining for her guy. I wanted to be Anita, who danced her way to the top.” With this portfolio, J.Lo gets her wish, and so do we. “