Happy birthday, George Chakiris

Dance · Film

One of dance’s smoothest operators, a suave and velvety mover whose smoldering good looks propelled him to stardom — and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1962 — George Chakiris, born in Ohio, reared in California, celebrates a significant birthday today. Dance Magazine Editor Wendy Perron calls Chakiris “the sexiest dancer on film — ever,” and his West Side Story co-star Rita Moreno praises him for his silky yet explosive dance style.

Chakiris, a veteran film gypsy before bursting forth as the star of “West Side,” worked with the crème de la crème of Hollywood dance makers, notably Robert Alton and Jack Cole.

He played Frederic Chopin in Masterpiece Theater’s Notorious Woman. So it was amusing to sit near him at the Pasadena Symphony’s marvelous gala concert as a 12-year-old protegee named Umi Garrett spun out a Chopin étude.

Chakiris was in attendance to introduce his long-time friend — the vivacious songbird Moreno — on to the stage. In his customary super-gracious manner, he did so. Was I the only one in the audience praying that the duo would break into Jerome Robbins’s ‘America’?

This dancer-eternal looks decades younger than his age. He’s in tremendous condition. His personal fountain of youth? “Go to the gym,” advises George Chakiris.

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