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“West Side Story” in the Middle East

Posted on 06 September 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

West Side Story

West Side Story.  Courtesy of Ora Lapidot.

Though I typically write about contemporary dance, I branched out to do an article about the musical West Side Story for the Jerusalem Post.  I always enjoy interviewing people involved with the production for these newspaper articles, and for this story, I got a treat: two interviews!

First I spoke with resident director Mascha Pörzgen, who gave me some great background about this revival of the classic Broadway production.  Then I had a stimulating conversation with Scott Sussman, who told me enthusiastically about his path to playing Tony.  We also spoke about the history of West Side Story and marveled at Jerome Robbins’ connection to dance in Israel (Robbins, who directed and choreographed the original West Side Story, was sent by the America Israel Foundation to check out the young country’s dance scene in 1951; upon his recommendation, American choreographer Anna Sokolow came to coach the Inbal Dance Theater).

After talking with both Mascha and Scott, I couldn’t wait to see West Side Story – and since attending the preview last week, I’ve been constantly humming the musical’s memorable tunes.  You can catch the run of West Side Story at the Opera House through the 14th.

This article was first published in the Jerusalem Post.

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West Side Story in the Middle East

West Side Story has always been very special to me because it’s actually the score that I grew up on, and it’s how I learned to sing . . . I’ve been singing “Maria” every day of my life since I was 14 years old,” Scott Sussman reveals.  For the last few years, Sussman has been singing “Maria” onstage while playing Tony in an international tour of West Side Story – and from September 2-14, he’ll be singing “Maria” here in Israel when the production comes to Tel Aviv’s Opera House.

Since its premiere on Broadway in 1957, West Side Story has won audience’s hearts with its modern twist on Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet.  With New York street gangs replacing the Montagues and Capulets, and with ethnic tensions rather than family rivalries, the protagonists’ love story became not just tragic but relevant for contemporary viewers.

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Les Ballets de Monte Carlo in Tel Aviv: Ballet for the 21st Century

Posted on 18 June 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Les Ballets de Monte Carlo in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Altro Canto

Dance history buff that I am, I was thrilled when I got to interview Jean-Christophe Maillot.  Why?  He directs Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, which in some ways carries on the legacy of the legendary Ballets Russes.  Yet even with these rich historical roots (or perhaps because of them), this top-notch company presents decidedly 21st-century work.  Read on to understand why!

This article was first published as “A Midsummer Dream” in the Jerusalem Post on June 14th, 2009.

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“Each time I go to a new country, I always go with a tremendous hope that what we will bring is completely different – because the environment is different, because the culture is different, because the history of the country is different,” explains Jean-Christophe Maillot, choreographer for Les Ballets de Monte Carlo.

Since 1993, the French-born choreographer has led Monaco’s world-renowned dance company on tours around the globe.  Yet for Maillot and most of the troupe’s 46 dancers, the company’s performances at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center will mark their first visit to Israel – and Maillot is looking forward to it.

Maillot’s hope may well be fulfilled on this tour.  Firmly rooted in the classical ballet tradition while moving forward with a distinctly contemporary style of choreography, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo is indeed different from much of Israel’s dance scene.  This contrast should prove exciting not only for Maillot, but for Israeli audiences as well.

Though it may seem paradoxical, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo’s freshness stems from a rich history.  Monaco’s ballet tradition stretches back to the early decades of the 20th century, when Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev brought his famed Ballets Russes to Monte Carlo.  The ground-breaking company dissolved when Diaghilev died in 1929, but it was reconstituted three years later by Colonel de Basil and Rene Blum.  Conflicts between the directors led to a split, and under Blum’s leadership, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo continued to win praise with its cast of star dancers and inventive choreographers.

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