West Side Story - Dance at the Gym Revision Notes

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West Side Story ­ The Dance at the Gym
This dance has a narrative function and is there to present a conflict between the Jets and
the Sharks, as well as to introduce the characters of Maria and Tony properly and
establish their romance
The dance comes straight after the prologue and the Jets plan to start a rumble with the
Sharks
The costumes are typically 1950s American dance costumes ­ long flowing skirts and
dresses for the Puerto Rican girls in bright colours, to represent their boldness and
promiscuity (but Maria wears white to represent her innocence, as does her golden crucifix
necklace) and the American girls are in typical 50s dresses, while all the boys are in suits
and shoes. The costumes are as free as possible to allow the dancers the most amount of
movement
The dance has an episodic structure
Blues
Traditional Blues Music is reflective of the 1950s era and creates a sense of naturalism
The fact that there is little distinction between the choreography for the Jets and the
Sharks in this section of the dance creates a lively, sociable atmosphere
Bright lighting, with some lights on the walls, creates a fun, lively atmosphere, as well
as giving the impression that they are inside during the evening
The dance establishes partnerships and character through an extensive amount of partner
work e.g. lifts or when Baby John carries on dancing energetically with his partner while
the others are slow dancing
Strong, large, accented movements, for example the shoulder movements of the girls
throughout help to create a lively, fun atmosphere
Large number of dancers creates this fun atmosphere BUT leads to the restricted
movement of the dancers
Promenade
Traditional social dance where the partners move around in circles and dance with
whoever is opposite them (from the 1930s ­ contributes to character; the man who
introduced it)
More traditional, repetitive, melodic music
Pedestrian movement ­ the dancers are simply walking around in circles
Gesticulation, in particular facial expression, creates tension between the two groups
Contrast between the hostile atmosphere and the more gentle music
Similar lighting to the Blues section helps to create a sense of naturalism throughout
Mambo
Use of attack creates a sense of aggression and therefore tension
Fast-paced, syncopated music and movement
Use of voice; they shout `Mambo' at each other, thereby creating tension
Aggressive movement ­ high kicks, claps, fast pirouettes
Draws on both American and Latino dance background (i.e. the Americans perform larger
steps than the Puerto Ricans) creating a distinct difference between them
Intense, strong movement throughout
Complex footwork all based on the Mambo step throughout this section
The Puerto Ricans use a large number of hip movements, small, controlled steps and
shoulder movement, drawn on Latino dance in order to establish character. Established
conflict with the Americans

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The Americans use larger steps, for example high rond-de-jambe kicks and jumps in
attitude, more based on American Jazz styles, again establishing their character.…read more

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