The Marina del Rey Symphony and choreographer Nancy Dobbs Owen celebrate “Leonard Bernstein @ 100” in Burton Chace Park

Leonard Bernstein was a titan of 20th century modern music
Photo by Allan Warren

As George Balanchine once said, “See the music, hear the dance.” And that is something you can definitely do with the music of Leonard Bernstein when it’s paired with inspired movement. The legendary composer’s name not only sounds great with the word “ballet,” it’s synonymous with some of the 20th century’s most beloved pieces of American musical theater and dance, including those featured in “On the Town” (originally based on the Jerome Robbins’ choreographed “Fancy Free”) and the classic star-crossed lover saga “West Side Story” (also originally choreographed by Robbins.)

Next Thursday, concertgoers at “Leonard Bernstein @ 100” — the Marina del Rey Symphony’s celebration of what would have been the revered New York Philharmonic music director’s 100th birthday — get the chance not only to hear Bernstein’s memorable melodies live, but also see what they look like in the hands of an ensemble of fleet-footed dancers. “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story” and “Three Dance Episodes from On the Town” are paired not only with Bernstein’s buoyant operetta “Candide” and darker original film score for “On the Waterfront,” but also accompanied by original ballet choreography from Nancy Dobbs Owens.

“The beauty of a person like Bernstein is that he was definitely a crossover guy,” Marina del Rey Symphony conductor Frank Fetta told The Argonaut earlier this summer. “He was a great conductor, a great pianist, a great composer. His music crossed over both the classical and serious worlds and then all over to musical theater.”

It will be interesting to see how Dobbs animates the music that Robbins’ initially made iconic through his choreography (and immortalized in the film version of “West Side Story”), but the addition of new choreography to this hallowed musical oeuvre promises to be an added bonus to this celebration of music on such an auspicious birthday.

— Christina Campodonico

“Leonard Bernstein @ 100” happens at 7 p.m. Thursday (July 25) at Burton Chace Park, 13650 Mindanao Way, Marina del Rey. Free. Parking in public lots can cost $8 to $10. Visit beaches.lacounty.gov for more information.

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