David Winters, ‘West Side Story’ Actor and Rock Choreographer, Dies

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David Winters (in red shirt) with The Jets in West Side Story

The British-born, Emmy-winning choreographer, actor, producer, screenwriter and director David Winters, whose credits include projects with Alice Cooper, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, the Monkees and Elvis Presley, the Oscar-winning film West Side Story, and the revered 1964 concert film The T.A.M.I. Show, has died, according to published reports. He had turned 80 on April 5; the cause of death was not cited.

According to a published obituary by Suzanna Bowling in Times Square Chronicles, Winters “was the first tap dancer to be recorded, first dance choreographer to be nominated in the history of the Emmys in the Special Classification of Individual Achievements category, before the Outstanding Achievement in Choreography category was created.”

Watch: Winters created the dance The Freddie, as performed by Freddie and the Dreamers

In all, Winters produced and directed over 80 feature films and 200 television programs and TV movies.

Born in London, Winters appeared in the Broadway production of West Side Story as well as the film, in which he played the role of A-rab, a member of The Jets.

Watch the spectacular opening sequence of West Side Story; Winters is in the red shirt

During that time, according to many biographies of Winters, he teamed up with future megastar Paul Simon in a duo or group called David Winters and the West Siders.

He then began concentrating on dance choreography, working with the dancers on the rock TV program Hullaballoo and crating the dance the Freddie, part of the act of the British group Freddie and the Dreamers. He worked with Presley and Ann-Margret on Viva Las Vegas, then three more with Elvis and four more with Ann-Margret, and on The T.A.M.I. Show, where dancers flanked the performers, among whom were the Rolling Stones, James Brown and the Beach Boys. The above-noted Emmy nomination came in 1967 for Movin’ With Nancy, a TV program starring Nancy Sinatra.

David Winters (r.) with Paul Newman on the set of Once Upon a Wheel (Photo from Wikipedia)

Related: Our Classic Video of Viva Las Vegas

Winters directed two episodes of The Monkees and worked on films and TV programs starring such box office giants as Paul Newman, Raquel Welch, Tom Jones and Rudolf Nureyev. He also directed Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare concert film.

On April 25, Cooper mourned Winters in a statement on his Facebook page: “David Winters… saw the potential of merging hard rock Alice Cooper with theater. We chose him as director/choreographer because he portrayed A-rab in the classic film, West Side Story. That film was a huge influence on us as a band.

“But most of all, David selected an 18-year-old ballerina out of hundreds of top notch auditioning LA dancers to dance on the “Welcome to My Nightmare” concert tour. That dancer (Sheryl) and I are still happily married after 43 years. I could not have found a more kindred spirit than David.”

He choreographed the 1976 remake of A Star Is Born with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, as well as the TV movie Star Wars Holiday Special. In 1981, he choreographed and served as creative consultant for the TV special Diana, starring Diana Ross, Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson.

Watch a David Winters dance performance on Hullaballoo from 1965

Winters authored a book, Tough Guys Do Dance, in 2018.

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