Dance has always been a passion for Kevin Winkler.
The rural Oklahoma native made his way as a young man to New York City to pursue a career as a dancer on Broadway.
After more than a decade on stage, he pursued a library science degree and landed a job with the New York Library of the Performing Arts. Now retired and calling South Florida his winter refuge, he’s writing volumes about legendary choreographers that have found places in that prestigious library’s collection.
His latest book, “Everything is Choreography: The Musical Theater of Tommy Tune,” is being released by Oxford University Press this month.
“Some of the most delightful moments I ever spent in a theater were at shows Tommy Tune either directed, choreographed or performed in,” said Winkler. “I’m a student of musical theater choreography — because I used to be a dancer and wrote a book about Bob Fosse — and I felt Tommy Tune had become an undervalued figure. He’s won a boatload of Tony Awards [and] been declared a living landmark by the New York Landmarks Commission, and yet, surprisingly, there’s been little critical discussion of his work as an artist and creative force in theater. He either doesn’t get mentioned or is just mentioned in passing. A book about his artistic life will fill that void.”
Winkler had just completed his survey of Fosse’s dance legacy and sent Tune a copy of the book, hoping to get his attention and even pique his interest in the project. Tune had already written his own memoir 25 years earlier, and Winkler was more concerned with the choreographer’s work and his creative process.
“He called me a couple of weeks later and complimented me on the Fosse book … He asked if I was sure I wanted to write a book about him,” Winkler recalled. “That was three years ago.”
The two kept in touch while Tune maintained his grueling touring schedule. Eventually, long afternoon conversations at Tune’s Manhattan apartment followed. They talked about his early days working in summer stock, the projects that failed or didn’t come to fruition, and, of course, all of Tune’s “greatest hits.” After the pandemic hit, phone conversations followed that Winkler described as “equally delightful.”
“He trusted me,” Winkler admitted. “He’s very open. Something that really impressed me is that he has a real abiding love for the theater. He’s spent his whole life working in the theater. My biggest takeaway was that the theatrical experience — the connection between performer and audience — is something sacred, really, and he has such great respect for that interaction.”
“Everything is Choreography: The Musical Theater of Tommy Tune” ($35) by Kevin Winkler will be available Nov. 15 from Oxford University Press and is available at Global.OUP.com and major booksellers.