Jerome Robbins Remembered


Last week, PBS premiered a new documentary on one of the greatest choreographers of all-time, Jerome Robbins. Entitled Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About, the film was directed and produced by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Judy Kinberg and penned by Robbins biographer Amanda Vaill. The two-hour film features interviews with Robbins (who passed away in 1998), and dance legends like Mikhail Baryshnikov and Suzanne Farrell. It also has interviews with Stephen Sondheim, who Robbins worked with on West Side Story, and all the original Fiddler on the Roof creators (Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, Joseph Stein.)

I had the good fortune of working with Mr. Robbins when I worked for Leonard Bernstein's Estate. Before Bernstein died, he and Robbins and Sondheim and John Guare (Six Degrees of Separation) were working for years on a musical adaptation of some Bertolt Brecht material. Part of my job was to comb through cassette tapes that Bernstein had made of some of the meetings between him and Robbins where they were working out some of the material at the piano. On a couple occasions, I had to stop in at Mr. Robbins' Upper East Side townhouse and he was always very pleasant and even chatty, once asking me seemingly off-topic questions, like "Was it hard growing up with the last name Israel?"

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Curiously, some years later, the next time I saw Jerry (that's what we called him), he didn't remember me in the slightest. I had a meeting with Broadway directory Hal Prince about an opera I was working on and Jerry happened to have the meeting slot just before me. When Hal introduced us ("This is David Israel"), Jerry shot me a half-smile, turned, and walked out of the office. There were places to go, more interesting people to see.

So much for my forget-me-not theory.

To honor Jerry (even though he didn't remember me - j/k), we're giving away a copy of the PBS DVD. But you're going to have to earn it. Here's what to do:

Drop a comment below with your favorite song from one of the musicals Jerome Robbins worked on (in any capacity). We'll pick one random winner and mail you the DVD. That's all there is to it. May the luckiest song win. In the meantime, check your local PBS station for the next air-date of the new doc - it's pretty wonderful.