Based upon Shakespeare's tragedy, West Side Story is about two major concepts: The violence between two NY gangs, the Anglo street gang The Jets and their Puerto Rican counterpart, The Sharks, and the forbidden love between Tony and Maria. Disapproved of by both sides, Maria and Tony meet in secret until a fateful night when the meaningless difficulty of their circumstance comes to a head.
Through out the movie DANCE is a powerful impulse that becomes intensely expressive communicating emotion. Unlike the movements performed in everyday living, their dance movements are directly related to survival. Dance is used as a way of releasing powerful feelings, such as joy, or anger. These feelings can be seen in the skipping, stamping, and jumping movements. Their dance movements tend to be relating to the surroundings of New York City. In their cultural groups dance is used as a means of displaying political or social strength as well as identity. Much of the musical score is accompanied by spectacular lyrics, and dancing routines with energetic participants depicting the story. As a contrast to the theme of tragedy this musical involves humor, fun and laughter. Both gangs have fun at the expense of the police, a lot of the humor comes from the words of the songs, "Everything's free in America. For a small fee in America.” The emotional power of a doomed love affair by Tony and Maria is depicted through Cheerful dance sequences the revelatory location and lighting/color design. Despite of their dislike, both gangs have a lot of fun with dance. This is portrayed by the vibrant colors of the girl's dresses and the boys' shirts, and the intense music. The bright colors of the dresses of the Puerto Rican girls are in contrast to the American girls, but Maria in particular stands out amongst the colorful dresses in her white dress. The identity of each group is pronounced by the color, light and texture in the film.
In America during ’50 and ‘60s, more complex social and economic structures began to emerge. Downtown New York has been shown as a rather unpleasant place to live, represented as a mean, harsh place to grow up in. These boys have no expectations or hopes in life. Although their outlets seem to be violence, with tough and mean expressions, they only act like this through necessity, due to the built environment surrounding them. West Side Story is dancing around the chaotic architecture of Manhattan's west side in the 50s and 60s. At the end of the musical introduction a sudden change occurs, the abstract portrait suddenly changes to a realistic view of New York's Manhattan Island. The music suddenly becomes the naturalistic sound of street traffic. For a few minutes we have a realistic, or documentary like view, of New York. The ending where the gangs seem to come together is little comfort. The main theme of the film is still pessimistic as is the representation of America.