Through Mar. 18 at TPAC’s Jackson Hall
For ticket info, call 255-9600
When Bob Fosse died in 1987, his dancers and actors were invited to a memorial service in a glamorous New York City restaurant in Central Park. Before the evening was done, his ex-wife and ex-girlfriends joined the guests in a bizarre dance of death, performing the hip, sexy steps in which he had once directed them in real life.
More than a decade later, Bob Fosse is big business. The musicals he directed and choreographed, such as Chicago and Cabaret, crisscross the country in national tours today. Ex-girlfriend Ann Reinking is a keeper of the flame, mounting and adapting versions of his choreography that extend to a wider and wider audience. Reinking even went one step further: She created and directed Fosse, a highly successful compendium of Fosse’s works extending from 1950s television appearances up to 1986’s Big Deal on Broadway. The revue won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1999.
Even more far-reaching than Reinking’s revival of his works, though, is a recent attempt to enshrine Fosse’s idiosyncratic way of dancing as “the Fosse style.” Unfortunately, to build him up, some folks feel that they have to denigrate his past and present rivals. Gordon Lowry Harrell, musical arranger and supervisor for Fosse, which appears in Nashville this week at TPAC, asserts that the choreographer was superior to George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Agnes de Mille, because he was “the only one who came into [Broadway] with his own individual style.” Harrell forgets that all three of these world-famous choreographers achieved great international acclaim years before triumphing on Broadway. Fosse, in contrast, started as a mere actor in 1947, and it took him many years to experience success.
In contrast to most other Broadway choreographers of his time, who were formally trained in ballet or modern dance, Fosse’s stylistic inspiration was lifted directly from vaudeville houses and strip joints. His parents were theatrical nomads, moving from show to show. He hung out backstage with strippers, memorized their dance routines, and later utilized the moves in his work. It should be no surprise that his choreography reflects this influence. Josef Pescetto, leading singer/dancer who plays the character of the young choreographer in Fosse, claims that his dances may be erotic, but they are not pornographic.
While Fosse utilized certain steps in his choreographyover and over to the point of easy caricaturehe did not achieve a universally recognizable style the way Martha Graham or George Balanchine did. True, he had his favorite routines accomplished in a slouched posture, or with bowler hat held in genteel, hyper-extended fingers. To have a style named after you, however, suggests that your creation has a totally original quality, a depth and uniqueness that cannot be copied by anyone else. If he falls short of that mark of genius, Fosse was nevertheless a gifted choreographer who excelled in musical theater. Not only has his work survived well after his death, but he has mightily influenced today’s choreographers, from MTV to musical theater. That seems high praise enough.
So long Don. Your creative energy and encouragement were inspirational to me.
It was so great being one of those kids in Dayton.
I miss Iodine.
^ It's nice to see an official acknowledgement by management. Kristen Mcarther Miles (the girl…
How ironic that "Vandy radio" gets resurrected as a fictional station?! I was just glad…
Wonderful tribute to a wonderful man.