Tony Mordente, “West Side Story ”Actor, Dead at 88

His death was confirmed to PEOPLE by his daughter, Lisa Mordente

<p>THA/Shutterstock</p> Tony Mordente in


Tony Mordente in 'West Side Story'

Tony Mordente, a choreographer and dancer who appeared in West Side Story, is dead. He was 88.

His death was confirmed to PEOPLE by his daughter, Lisa Mordente. According to his obituary, he died on Tuesday, June 11.

Long before he stepped onto Broadway, the multi-hyphenate honed his skills as a dancer at the High School of Performing Arts and American Ballet Theater School, per Deadline.

<p>Silver Screen Collection/Getty</p> Tony Mordente in 'West Side Story'

Silver Screen Collection/Getty

Tony Mordente in 'West Side Story'

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"I was a real ballet fan. I was only a ballet fan and I knew nothing else about anything else but ballet, and that’s all I ever wanted to know. And I went to the Met one night when Ballet Theatre came back into town. I was a scholarship student in a ballet theatre at the time," recalled Mordente in a 2007 conversation with PBS.

"And I went to see, I think it was a part of the Black Swan, and they also had fancy free on the... program. And I said, you know, I don’t know if I want to stay for this. It’s not really ballet, you know. And I, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that changed my life and my career as quickly as I did," he said.

<p>Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic</p> Tony Mordente and Lisa Mordente

Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Tony Mordente and Lisa Mordente

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"It was the most amazing. I think it was... was something I had never seen before in my life, and I just said that’s what I want to do," continued Mordente. "That’s exactly what I want to do. And I really wasn’t into choreographers then."

His big break occurred when he played A-Rab in the 1957 Broadway and 1958 West End productions of West Side Story. It was during the Broadway production that he met his ex-wife, Chita Rivera, who died in January. The two welcomed Lisa in 1958 and divorced in 1966.

<p>MediaPunch/Shutterstock</p> Tony Mordente


Tony Mordente

Aside from starring as Action in the 1961 film version of West Side Story, Mordente worked as a choreographer on Broadway and television for shows like The Ed Sullivan Show and The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour during the 1960s.

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In the 1970s, he began working as a director for shows like M*A*S*H, Family Ties, The A-Team, and 7th Heaven, among various others.

In 1978, he married Jean Fraser, with whom he shares his second daughter Adriana Mordente, per The Hollywood Reporter.

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