Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Power of Habit, describes Robbins as an "innovation broker," an idea man with "incredibly wide ranging tastes... he knew ballet but would go to these Jitterbug contests they had all over New York. None of his friends from the ballet world would come with him." And none, if any of them, are remembered.
Robbins was a catalyst for change in the arts. He brought vernacular dance into the stuffy snobbish ballet academies more interested in championing tradition than anything coming up from the streets. His first ballet Fancy Free (1944) uses Jitterbug steps in telling the story of three sailors on liberty in NYC. The score was written by an unknown Leonard Bernstein. A few months later his ballet morphed into his first Broadway musical, On the Town. That musical also broke the color bar on Broadway because Robbins insisted it reflect the diversity of a NYC crowd. By 1957, Robbins would conceive, choreograph, and direct West Side Story. If he did nothing else, he would be remembered fondly and honored for that seminal accomplishment.