Added excitement comes from the bilingual reworking of the libretto. When Maria sings I Feel Pretty it comes out as: “Hoy me siento/Tan Hermosa/Tan preciosa que puedo volar/Y no hay diosa, en el mundo, que me va a alcanzar.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the recent hit musical In The Heights, which focuses on a poor neighbourhood of Manhattan’s Washington Heights faced with gentrification, was recruited to rewrite the lyrics. The Sharks sing in Spanish, with English surtitles, while the delinquent Jets sing in English.
Laurents was given the idea of a bi-lingual show after his companion, Tom Hatcher, who died two years ago, saw an all-Spanish staging of the musical in Colombia in which the Sharks – the Capulets of Shakespeare’s play – were transformed into heroes, the Jets into villains.
Laurents intends to make the new version darker and more threatening than previous stagings, certainly more so than the film, of which he is disparaging. “I thought the whole thing was terrible. Day-Glo costumes and fake accents!” he told the Washington Post.
This is the first portion of the talk I gave in Nashville this past week. I began the talk with a kinetic visual. For 30 seconds I danced in front of everyone. It was a very ridiculous-looking version of modern dance (and, c’mon, that’s a long time to look ridiculous). Then a professionally trained modern dancer (with Stillpoint Dance Theater) danced for 30 seconds. Hers was beautiful. I said, “Folks: exhibit A, exhibit B, this is the summary of my talk.” And with this my talk officially began.
She keeps the disciplines of a dancer. In her words:
“I start with Pilates warm-up in the mornings. I take 2 ballet classes per week and 3 modern dance classes per week along with improvisation and composition. I rehearse approximately 12-15 hours a week with StillPoint. I also use the YMCA 1-2 times per week for extra cardio and weight training. I teach dance as well so I am in the studio creating classes or working on choreography many hours of the day.I have to keep an anti-inflammatory diet in order to keep inflammation down in my body due to minor injuries and the intensity of the rehearsing. This means staying away from sugar, dairy and wheat, and it means eating lots of “superfoods,” such as blueberries, walnuts, and salads. I require more food and sleep whenever we are in an intense rehearsal season.”
I do none of them. She is free. I am not.
She has obeyed the laws of her craft, its “order,” and so earns the right to improvise in a way that reveals the beauty of the craft. I have obeyed none and so earn the right only to look like a fool.
My temptation based on my minimal experience and training is to say: “I caaan’t do it. It’s too hard. You can do it because of course you’re better than I.” In saying this I sanction both my ignorance and my unwillingness to learn about the craft.
Maybe if I simply imitate her movements, I say to myself, then perhaps I can dance like her. But without adopting the disciplines of modern dance I will not become a person for whom the movements and graces of modern dance come “naturally.” I will simply be attempting to behaviorally conform.
In Boston, the city’s humongous twin dance clubs, Axis and Avalon, no longer even exist; they were recently demolished to make way for a giant House of Blues. And for the first time in recent memory, we’re having a serious party-dance crisis. Kids were Gettin’ Lite and doing the Chicken Noodle Soup and the Soulja Boy not that long ago. But have you tried Gettin’ Lite? It practically requires an instruction manual and two feet of clear space around you. Good luck pulling that off at a party.
Clearly we’re not dancing the way we did even five years ago. What happened?
It’s not that dancing is vanishing. In one sense, it is more popular than ever. On television, this year there have been no fewer than four dance shows: “Dancing with the Stars,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “America’s Best Dance Crew,” and “Step It Up & Dance.” On the Internet, YouTube’s No. 1 “top favorite” video of all time is the goofy “Evolution of Dance.”
But it’s no coincidence that as dancing explodes in popularity on TV, it’s harder to find at bars and the average party. What’s popular on these shows and clips isn’t dancing - it’s second-hand dancing. These people are dancing so we don’t have to.
Where once we were a culture eager to dance among the stars, we’re suddenly OK to sit back and watch. In the same sense that we watch more sports than we actually play, we seem to be letting the professionals do our dancing for us, too. And as we outsource our dancing to professionals, something important is lost.