19 Feb 2020

Leeds-based contemporary dance company, Phoenix Dance Theatre has today announced that they will collaborate with neighbours Opera North on original dance production, West Side Story Symphonic Dances.

Following The Rite of Spring in 2019, Phoenix Dance Theatre and Opera North will present a unique double bill of works by Leonard Bernstein. West Side Story Symphonic Dances will be a new dance production devised and choreographed by Aletta Collins, which interprets Bernstein’s thrilling, poignant music outside of the narrative of West Side Story. It will play in a double bill with a revival of Bernstein’s short opera Trouble in Tahiti, directed by Matthew Eberhardt with Quirijn de Lang as Sam and Sandra Piques Eddy as Dinah.

West Side Story redefined musical theatre when it opened on Broadway in 1957, breaking ground in several ways, not least in responding to the newly contemporary issue of gang violence in American cities. Bernstein himself arranged the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story as a work to stand on its own terms, free of the story of the show which the music is derived from. Taking this as her cue, choreographer Aletta Collins creates a dance work which interprets Bernstein’s thrilling, poignant music. This entirely new piece will explore the experience of young people through themes of group identity and family, conflict and violence.

Sharon Watson, Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director said, “I am thrilled to be working with our friends at Opera North once again after successful 2019 double bill, The Rite of Spring & Gianni Schicchi. I am also delighted to be welcoming Aletta back to our studios where she last created Maybe Yes Maybe, Maybe No Maybe in 2010. By collaborating with Opera North, we continue to bring contemporary dance to new audiences, broadening our reach and expanding our creative practice.”

This is the second major collaboration between Phoenix Dance Theatre and Leeds-based, critically acclaimed, Opera North, following our hugely successful work together last year on Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The young American conductor Jonathon Heyward makes his Opera North debut conducting this double bill of Bernstein’s work and it will be the third piece created on Phoenix Dance Theatre by Aletta Collins.

The world premiere of West Side Story Symphonic Dances will take place at Leeds Grand Theatre on 3 October 2020 before touring to Newcastle, Salford and Nottingham.