‘West Side Story’ closes theater season at Vail Mountain School | VailDaily.com

‘West Side Story’ closes theater season at Vail Mountain School

Michele Philippon is Estella and a co-lead choreographer with Colby Wilson in Vail Mountain School's production of "West Side Story." It runs Thursday through Saturday.
Vail Mountain School|Special to the Daily |

If You Go ...

What: “West Side Story,” Vail Mountain School’s spring production.

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April 9

Where: Vail Mountain School’s Peter Abuisi Auditorium, 3000 Booth Falls Road, Vail.

Cost: Ticket are $15.

More information: Tickets are available in advance at http://www.vms.edu/purchase-theatre-tickets and at the door.

VAIL — You can be a Shark, or you can be a Jet or you can love them both.

Vail Mountain School closes its theater season with a classic, “West Side Story,” with shows through Saturday.

“It’s my favorite musical of all time. I’m excited about this one,” said Greg Jones, head of Vail Mountain School’s theater department.

This is the full script, not the abbreviated kid version, which lacks character development and was not challenging enough, Jones said. That means it’s PG-13, and parents might have some explaining to do about some of the ethnic slurs the characters sling at one another.

“West Side Story” remains relevant to contemporary geopolitical issues that have their roots in differences of culture and ideology, Jones said.

Choreography queens

Students Colby Wilson and Michele Philippon choreographed the entire show as part of their senior projects.

Philippon is choreographing the Sharks, Wilson the Jets. They’ll both be onstage for “West Side Story.”

“The highlight of the show is the differing styles of choreography,” Jones said.

Philippon and Wilson have danced their entire lives with local studios — Wilson with Studio 8100 and Philippon with Vail Valley Academy of Dance. They’re in the studio every day after school, three hours a day and more on the weekends.

They’ve both done their share of choreography, and when Jones asked them to do “West Side Story,” they thought about it for less time than it takes the guy behind you in New Jersey traffic to start blowing his horn when the light turns green.

They say they’re having a blast choreographing their classmates. There are challenges, of course, but nothing insurmountable.

“One is teaching people who don’t have a dance background,” Wilson said.

It helps that their classmates are willing to try nearly anything.

“There’s a vibe that they get into, and they’re willing to try different things,” Philippon said.

The Sharks dance in a Latin style, something new to both Philippon and her classmates. Philippon’s entire family dances, she said, (her younger brother and sister are among the 32-member cast), and her mother did it professionally.

Philippon does it because she loves it.

“It’s something I found to express my self athleticism and create art with my movements,” she said.

Senior projects

Vail Mountain School’s performing arts class happens during the day, not at the end of the day, as it is in many schools.

“It is the school’s strong commitment that kids should be able to be athletes as well as actors,” Jones said.

In addition to teaching their classmates to dance, as part of their senior projects Wilson and Philippon will both create a documentary film about it, write an academic paper and host a public performance of a dance that each will choreograph in response to separate poems. They won’t know the poem until “West Side Story” closes, so they’ll also learn a little about deadline pressure.

Vail Mountain School seniors have created senior projects about all sorts of things, including skiing. One senior installed a turbocharger on his car and created an instructional documentary about how to do it.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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