That gives “West Side Story” a different kind of speed. When the dancers are having so much fun, they seem to lose track of their identities. David Alvarez steals the show as the melancholy Bernardo. When he’s dancing, why should his face be so ecstatic? He’s a gang leader—and, sigh, a boxer in this reimagining.
It occurred to me that this film could have really leaned into dance by watching the back stories unfold and then trying to remember them later. What if the original musical had included the dream ballet? They sing in her bedroom, until the walls open up and they’re able to dance together in harmony in “a world,” the script states, “of space and air and sun,” where the two groups are able to unite.
It’s safe to say that the idealistic ballet was never going to come to fruition. For the most part, people only have a limited amount of faith in dance as a language. Suppose, however, that it had been added — and then updated? A progressive act would have been thrilling.
This sense of harmony is echoed in the stage appearance of many of Peck’s dances. A few of my favourites are “The Times Are Racing,” which has four dance episodes, and “Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes,” which has four dance episodes. When you think of “Somewhere,” this is what comes to mind.
Another scene from the stage musical follows, however, and it’s one that is even less frequently performed: As the dream progresses, it becomes a nightmare. There is chaos and violence as Riff and Bernardo appear, their deaths are reenacted, and Maria is separated from Tony. Their journey concludes with a duet of “Hold my hand and we’re halfway there.
At some point in the future! The dream ballet would have won my vote, no matter how far it went into the nightmare. More could have been said. After all, Maria and Tony are in a desperate situation. A dance is in order because they’re clinging to the air.