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Caleb James Grochalski

MT Literature
Prof. Brian Cimmet
West Side Story
1. What is the vocabulary of the choreography? Use descriptive terms (adjectives) to create a
vocabulary list.
Masculine, Grounded, Bent, Attacking, Aggressive, Smooth, Cool, Angular, Sharp, Specific,
Complex, Angry, Intense, Serious, Playful, Threatening, Athletic, Unfiltered, Uncontrolled,
2. Connect at least one element of dance (style, expression, etc.) to the character dancing. That is, how
does [step X] make sense or not make sense for [character Y], considering plot, context, backstory,
relationship, etc.
A good example of thins would be the use of snaps in Cool and the Prologue. I think the
snap is such an iconic and intense association with people that are cool. It sort of says dont
mess with me; I have bigger things to deal with than you. You noticed in the staging, specifically
in the movie, when they intentionally walked AROUND the little girl playing with chalk, but
THROUGH the other guys playing Basketball. The thing that always really gets me is that these
guys just POSE as if they are so tough and threatening, but they never really want to get too
physical, they are posers because they are scared inside. Now when I say they, I dont mean
everyone. But back on track, the snaps create a sense of cool. The Jets use it to create a sense
of Ive got your back, for each other.
3. Connect at least one element of dance to the moment in which the dance takes place. That is, how
does [step X] make sense or not make sense for [moment Y], considering subtext, exposition, value
changes, etc.
One thing I love is you notice a great difference from the way that the Jets move from the way
that the Sharks move. A perfect example is during The Dance At The Gym (Mambo) when we
watch the Sharks and Jets segregate and both of their leaders and their girls are dancing with
eachother. The Jets are more athletic and flashy and American swing dance like when dancing
with a partner, while the Sharks are more pulled up and very latin ballroom dance style when
they partner. You see a big difference in class with the styled of movement. The signature
ending for the Sharks is in some sort of shoulder sit, as seen in America (the movie version,
which is the better version of that song) as well as the partner section between Anita and
Bernardo in the Mambo sequence. Bernardo lifts her up to show her off. Meanwhile Riff and
Graziella are very low to the ground doing pirouettes with a bent supporting leg. The dance was
created to be messy. Its a social dance, its not supposed to be perfect.
4. Connect at least one element of dance to the music. How do musical choices dictate dance steps,
and/or vice versa?
Cool: Theres a point when the orchestra does a series of drum shots on the snare drum and
various members of the cast kick out a leg, specifically a developpe (a flicked kick), on those very
sporadic hits of sound. Sort of like they are containing themselves, but there are moments when
they break. The reason I said specifically a developpe made a difference was because if they
were just merely to bring up their leg, already straightened on those counts, it would add a
sense of control to the movement that the entire point of the song is to contrast that. These

boys (and girls) are out of control. Their movements are firing out of them like a gun, which is
what the drum shots dictate.
The Dance at the Gym: Right before Mambo! is shouted by the Sharks. The famous- one hand
up and skirt swish by all the sharks approaching the Jets and taking control of the dance floor
happens. This is a healthy work with opposites. The music is so intense at that moment which
makes the simplicity of a small mambo step seem like they are striding across the entirety of the
floor, even when they barely step 2 feet downstage. It makes you want to watch more intently
than you ever would have before.
5. With Rodgers and Hart and with Cole Porter, we essentially claimed that songs could be removed
without seriously impacting the throughline journey of the story or the characters. Can the same be
said for the dances in West Side Story? Why or why not?
A popular controversy is the placement of Cool and Gee, Officer Krupke throughout the plot.
Cool being sung by Riff while still alive in the first act, and Krupke being sung by the boys in
the second act as a comedy number to lighten the mood in all the destruction that is happening
around them. Krupke, is only in the second act to break the tension, which admitted by Arthur
Laurents, was a mistake in consideration of the characters. That being said, I feel that nothing
would work nearly as well if it were removed, but it does work better when those songs are
swapped. Hopefully that makes sense. Each dance makes us feel some sort of way about the
character and allows for more empathy to go to those characters. Each character discovers
something about themselves or their relationship with another character through the medium
of dance. That is what is so brilliant about the choreography about The Rumble. So in short,
the story would not flow nearly as well nor allow the audience to empathize as much as they
need to with all of those elements of dance.
6. Is there information you get from the dances that you dont otherwise get in the script?
During The Cha Cha section of The Dance At The Gym we watch Tony and Maria dance
before they ever speak. They see, they dance, and they speak. The dances job is to make them
fall in love and have such intense connection even with such simple movement that they are
one. Something about this movement must bring them to speak, but only speaking about 5
exchanges-10 lines total- before they kiss.