San Diego

‘West Side Story' Star Got His Start in San Diego

David Alvarez studied at California Ballet and the San Diego Academy of Ballet as a child

NBC Universal, Inc.

A brand-new movie version of the iconic musical “West Side Story” is now in theaters, and one of the stars has some pretty strong ties to San Diego.

David Alvarez plays “Bernardo” in Steven Spielberg’s reimagined, and more culturally representative story. He said taking on the role made famous by George Chakiris was “intimidating.”

“I had seen the 1961 film and I thought that George Chakiris as Bernardo was just so perfect and he really was Bernardo, so I had no idea what I could do to kind of come close to that,” Alvarez said. “I was so lucky to be in an environment where I was constantly being pushed to just find what makes me unique and bring that to my character.”

Alvarez also had to tackle some pretty challenging choreography. Fortunately, he’s been a dancer pretty much his whole life, earning his first Tony Award at 14-years-old as one of the original stars of “Billy Elliot” on Broadway.

He said he got serious about performing at a pretty young age while training in San Diego at the California Ballet and the San Diego Academy of Ballet.

“San Diego was like the place that opened my heart up to ballet and opened my heart up to really wanting to be a ballet dancer and wanting to make a career out of it,” he said.

Sylvia Tchernychev is the founder of SDAB and one of Alvarez’s former teachers. She said she knew immediately he had something special.

“He just loved to come into the room and take his place and dance,” Tchernychev said. “I just saw this look that he had. He was amazing. He was an amazing boy.”

Alvarez called Tchernychev “an incredible teacher,” and said the people he met there were “like a family.”

“That’s where I started to feel like I had other people believing in my talent,” he said.

That talent is now on full display in “West Side Story.” The movie is rated PG-13.

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