Research Catalog

Interview with Chet Walker

Interview with Chet Walker, 2018/ Conducted by Kevin Winkler on October 3 and 5, 2018; producer: Dance Oral History Project.
Walker, Chet, 1954-

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StatusFormatAccessCall NumberItem Location
AudioSupervised use *MGZMT 3-3478Performing Arts Research Collections Dance


Additional Authors
Winkler, Kevin
Online resource (4 streaming files: approximately 4 hr. and 10 min.) : digital +
  • Streaming file 1, October 3, 2018 (approximately 1 hour and 53 minutes). Chet Walker speaks with Kevin Winkler about his childhood and family background including his mother's having been a dancer with the Stuttgart Ballet; his first dance classes, in Memphis, Tennessee and Ridgewood, New Jersey; ballet class (starting when he was around 11) including his reminiscences of class visits by Rudolf Nureyev and Erik Bruhn; his dyslexia and how it led him away from school to dance; his absorption in ballet at the time; an anecdote about his audition with Alexandra Danilova at the School of American Ballet; his successful audition for the (1971) revival of On the town including his unfamiliarity with the audition process and surprise at being cast; memories of Jerome Robbins' visits to the set of On the town; Ron Field and his seemingly harsh behavior toward Walker at rehearsals; his next show Ambassador, in particular working with Joyce Trisler; the [1973] revival of The pajama game including reminiscences of the director George Abbott; (briefly) Zoya Leporska; the show as a learning experience for him; how it was updated including the then-radical interracial aspects; what it was like to be a Broadway dancer at this time (1970s) including the family-like bonds among performers; recollections of his earliest encounters with Bob Fosse: when Fosse and Robbins came to see On the town in 1973, at an audition for Liza with a Z, and at an audition for Pippin; being cast as a replacement for Paul Solem [a Peasant] in Pippin; his experience as a swing in The pajama game and later in Lorelei and Dancin'; his trips to Los Angeles and ultimately unsuccessful attempts to become a television actor including an anecdote about Fosse's comments on these efforts; joining the cast of Dancin'; auditioning with Michael Bennett for A chorus line; (briefly) his roles in A chorus line; his experience as an alternate, dance captain and ballet master in Dancin', including his growing understanding of Fosse and his approach to directing; his relationship with Fosse; Walker's substance abuse during this time including how and when he quit; the skill set required of a dancer (in musical comedy) in the 1980s, including the ability to sing and act; the AIDS crisis including the guilt of being a survivor; the circumstances of how he came to be an alternate in (the 1985 California production of) Sweet Charity; working on his number "I'm a brass band" with Fosse, including more on their relationship; possible reasons as to why Fosse always walked out during the number "Baby, dream your dream"; reminiscences of Fosse expressing his concerns about [the public and critical reception of] Big deal and [the revival of] Sweet Charity; in 1986, collaborating with Craig Jacobs, Lani Ball, Erin Parker, and Kathleen Lowe to produce a celebratory tribute to Fosse including his (Walker's) envisioned framework for the program [ends abruptly but continues on streaming file 2].
  • Streaming file 2, October 3, 2018 (approximately 13 minutes). Chet Walker speaks with Kevin Winkler about meeting and negotiating the terms of the tribute project with Bob Fosse; reviving the project (eventually the show entitled Fosse) seven years after Fosse's death, initially by contacting Gwen Verdon; how the project developed including the involvement of Garth Drabinsky.
  • Streaming file 3, October 5, 2018 (approximately one hour and 53 minutes). Chet Walker speaks with Kevin Winkler about the Bob Fosse tribute project including the initial New York sessions with his students; whether Fosse would have approved of the project; Fosse's choreography as based on steps and style rather than a technique including the roots of his style in the work of Jack Cole; Gwen Verdon's participation in the tribute project; the workshop performances in Toronto (Canada) funded by Garth Drabinsky and Livevent [Live Entertainment Company of Canada]; the challenge of creating a show that was more than just a revue; his goal of showing Fosse's various aspects as an artist; his choreography for the [2013] revival of Pippin including why it was billed as "in the style of Bob Fosse"; Jack Cole, in particular Cole's (respective) relationships with Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis; researching Cole's technique with the help of Linda Gold, a former Cole student (at University of California, Los Angeles) including a residency at Jacob's Pillow [in Lee, Massachusetts]; his [2012] show about Cole [Heat wave: The Jack Cole story] including various comments about Cole from people who had known him; collaborating with the librettist Shaun McKenna to produce a tribute to Jack Cole at the [2015] Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival; the show The Last Scrapbook, a musical work about Cole's life [still in progress as of date with McKenna as librettist and Walker as director/choreographer]; his transition from dancer to director/choreographer beginning in earnest with his restaging of Sweet Charity after Fosse's death; his own choreography as distinguished from choreography he has created "in the style of" Fosse and Cole; his dance operas including their kinship to the dream ballets in the musicals Oklahoma! and Carousel and "story ballets"; his dance opera Seduction, created with Howard Marren and Paul Katz [among others], including its central theme of substance abuse; creating a ballet [Nightcase] with music by Lalo Schifrin for Julio Bocca and Ballet Argentino; how working with Bocca changed the way he listened to music; his 20 years at Jacob's Pillow and the creation of the Jazz Musical Theatre dance program, beginning with his teaching jazz dance in 1999 and the performances by Walker Dance (originally called 8 & ah 1); helping young dancers at Jacob's Pillow understand themselves better [career-wise]; some unique aspects of Jacob's Pillow including Norton Owen and the archive he has created; an anecdote about his conversation regarding Rennie Harris and hip-hop with a group of dancers from Senegal; the circumstances that led to his United States State Department-sponsored trips to Serbia; his experiences there with the Roma; teaching overseas including his hopes to establish schools in Tokyo and Mexico City; the challenges of directing and choreographing a American musical comedy in foreign countries, for example explaining the profession of "taxi dancer" (as in Sweet Charity) and the conceptual underpinnings of the choreography of Bob Fosse and Jack Cole; the qualities that make a good teacher; what he wants to impart to his students [ends abruptly but continues on streaming file 4].
  • Streaming file 4, October 5, 2018 (approximately 11 minutes). Chet Walker speaks with Kevin Winkler about teaching; the far greater access to knowledge and opportunity that dancers have today compared to his time; the broad and eclectic nature of the dance training his husband has pursued; describes a video clip he was sent of Jack Cole and his dancers performing and his awe at what Cole had achieved.
Alternative Title
  • Dance Oral History Project.
  • Dance Audio Archive.
  • Sound recordings.
  • Oral histories.
  • Interview with Chet Walker conducted by Kevin Winkler on October 3 and 5, 2018 in New York City (N.Y.), for the Dance Oral History Project of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
  • For transcript see *MGZMT 3-3478.
  • As of March 2023, the audio recording of this interview can be made available at the Library for the Performing Arts by advanced request to the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The audio files for this interview are undergoing processing and eventually will be available for streaming.
  • Sound quality is excellent.
  • Title supplied by cataloger.
Access (note)
  • Transcripts may not be photographed or reproduced without permission.
Call Number
*MGZMT 3-3478
Walker, Chet, 1954- Interviewee.
Interview with Chet Walker, 2018/ Conducted by Kevin Winkler on October 3 and 5, 2018; producer: Dance Oral History Project.
Playing Time
Type of Content
spoken word
Type of Medium
Type of Carrier
online resource
Digital File Characteristics
audio file
Restricted Access
Transcripts may not be photographed or reproduced without permission.
Recorded for for the Dance Oral History Project of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts 2018, October 3 and 5 New York (N.Y.).
Connect to:
Added Author
Winkler, Kevin, Interviewer.
Research Call Number
*MGZMT 3-3478
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