Legendary choreographer and director David Winters, recently moved to Fort Lauderdale and released his latest film “Dancin’ It’s On,” continuing his legacy of great moves.
David Winters used to shine shoes at Coney Island to earn money for dance classes. Every $5 meant another class. Afraid his mother would disapprove, he never told her about the side job until one day when his aunt saw him at work, blowing his cover to his mom. That’s when she realized her son was serious about dance.
Winters, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, went on to become a legendary choreographer, producer and director with a resume that included projects such as the film “Viva Las Vegas,” the television show “The Monkees,” an Emmy-nominated Nancy Sinatra TV special and two Diana Ross world tours—just to name a few. Today, the 76-year-old artist, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, is still directing and just released his latest film, “Dancin’ It’s On.”
Winters has been passionate about dance since age 2, when his mother remembers him making up dance moves. “She didn’t know where I got it from,” Winters says, adding that his mother told him he had “a God-given talent.”
So the day she found out that her 12-year-old son was shining shoes, they made a deal: If Winters completed his bar mitzvah, she would take him into Manhattan for dance classes. After singing in Hebrew at the service, he was offered $250 to sing at the synagogue for the High Holy Days. But Winters says he wasn’t interested. He was laser-focused on starting his dance training. “We had a deal,” he says, and his mom kept her word.
He took tap classes from Charlie Lowe, who was famous at the time for his dance school for kids. Two of his classmates, Elliott Gould and Christopher Walken, went on to become famous actors. Winters stayed in touch with both over the years. His natural acting and singing ability, along with his dancing talent, landed Winters the role of Baby John in the original Broadway production of “West Side Story.” At 17, he was the youngest performer in the show. When the film version was made, Winters was one of a handful of performers from the show to be cast in it.
Winters spent many decades dancing up to 10 hours a day, seven days a week. Now in his 70s, he can’t dance the way he used to, yet it remains his greatest passion in life. Throughout his illustrious career, spanning almost six decades, he’s worked with great talents such as Elvis, Michael Jackson and Barbra Streisand.
Prior to relocating to Florida in 2013, Winters lived in Thailand for more than a decade. He originally went there for a film festival, but stayed for the beauty and relaxed atmosphere. “I thought I was going for two weeks and wound up staying 14 years,” he says. Winters returned to the states to make his latest film, “Dancin’ It’s On,” which he directed and co-wrote. The romantic musical, which is playing nationwide, features two young adults from different worlds who partner up for a major dance competition.
The film brought Winters to Florida, where he’s decided to stay, now calling Fort Lauderdale home. He loves the stunning views, the restaurants and, of course, the musical venues. Two of his favorites are Mangos on Las Olas and Sky Thai Sushi. “I simply love it here,” he says.