West Side Story - The Prologue, Revision Notes

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West Side Story ­ The Prologue
Choreographer ­ Jerome Robbins
Year Choreographed ­ Stage: 1957, Film: 1961 (The film increased the popularity of the musical
because it brought WSS to a wide audience)
Movement Components ­
Actions ­
Pedestrian Movements (e.g. clicking, walking) are masculine, creating a sense of realism,
as well as of hostility and conflict
Both the Jets and the Sharks usually move as a group, performing large sections of dance
in unison, (for example when the Jets perform a ball-change into a high kick) this
portrays the idea of the gangs, as well as conveying a sense of conflict and hostility
between the two gangs
Both Riff and Bernardo perform slightly different steps, or start the canon sequences, to
the other dancers in the gang (for example when Riff starts the low rond-de-jambe which
the Jets perform in unison or when Bernardo performs a pirouette and a half, and is
followed by the two Sharks behind him, who only perform a half turn). This establishes
them as the clear leaders of the group
Throughout the piece, the influence of jazz and contemporary is clear, as the dancers
perform numerous turns, jumps and leaps which, as well as the splayed fingers which the
dancers often use, are unanimous with these styles. The masculinity of these steps, as well
as their combination with the use of pedestrian movements throughout contributes to the
sense of realism created throughout the prologue
Contact work is used in the fight between the Sharks and Baby John; this creates a sense
of conflict because of the movements involved, e.g. throwing each other, kicking each
Dynamics ­
Both groups perform strong, sharp actions throughout, helping to create the sense of
conflict within the piece; it creates anger for the Sharks, and to some extent the Jets, and
a sense of authority for the Jets
The Jets perform the clicking motif in a more relaxed fashion than the Sharks,
conveying their sense of authority over the sharper way in which the Sharks perform it,
which conveys their sense of anger and/or panic
The movements are often disjointed; in the middle of several travelling phrases, the
dancers stop midway through the phrase, look around, before continuing, thus creating a
sense of tension
At the beginning, the Jets movement is more relaxed than it is later on, suggesting that
they are relaxed in their territory, and become more confrontational upon meeting the
Sharks (relates to the aural setting)
Space ­
Both gangs move in a triangular formation. Birds use this for a sense of security and
therefore this image is associated with strength and protection in both gangs
Physical Settings ­
Lighting ­
Use of natural light, and critically shadow, to create a sense of realism whilst also
creating the sense of conflict between the gangs

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Mostly filmed on the upper West Side of NYC, meaning that the piece is a site-specific
one, adding to the sense of realism within the Prologue
Use of a number of props within the piece, for example a basketball, piece of fruit
(orange?), a paintbrush and a tin of paint.…read more

Page 3

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Pace of the dance and action builds throughout, leading to an increasing sense of tension
and aggression between the two gangs…read more


Pat Minns


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