Bob Fosse, born Robert Louis Fosse on the 23rd June 1927 was an America musical theatre choreographer and director, and a film director, whom unfortunately died on the 23rd September 1987. He died from a heart attack, on the opening night of ‘Sweet Charity’ which he had choreographed. His death was caused by his hectic life style. Many people were saddened as he was a major influence and a big part of many peoples lives. Fosse was a huge influence to a lot of performers.
He’d worked many times with Liza Minnelli who worshiped him.
From watching Stanley Donen’s 1974 film version of ‘The Little Prince’ the song ‘Snake in the Grass’ where Fosse performed a memorable song and dance number. It shows how he has been such an influence to so many people, including Michael Jackson, as his moves are very similar. Also after researching a lot of Fosse’s influences I came across watching Beyonce’s music video ‘Single Ladies (Put a ring on it)’ and it was being compared to the 1960’s dance which Fosse had choreographed and Gwen Verdon danced it, (Vodpod.
om/watch/1258787 accessed on 20/05/09) after watching these two videos it seems Fosse’s style is still influencing artists and dancers to this day. ‘Possessed of both unbridled energy, and tremendous artistic gifts, Fosse was one of this century’s great choreographers’ (DFernando Zaremba www. fosse. com/features/fosse_an_introduction5. html accessed on 01/05/09) Fosse has many signature movements that he used a lot during choreographing dances such as snapping fingers, hip and shoulder rolls, swivelling hips and strutting dominantly.
Not only did his dance movements signify his choreography. But the tilted bowler hats, white gloves and tight black costumes, made his choreography stand out over everyone else’s. Fosse wore hats a lot because of his self-consciousness, due to him loosing hair at the young age of 17. He also used gloves a lot because he didn’t like his hands. A quote from Fosse himself ‘I thank God that I wasn’t born perfect’ (www. dailycelebrations. com/06230a. tm accessed on 18/05/09) This quote should give people a lot of confidence because although Fosse was loosing his hair at a young age and he was self-conscious about his hands he’s still glad he wasn’t perfect and lived his life to the full and was very successful in life. Fosse wore gloves a lot due to him being self-conscious.
Putting them as part of costume during dances made Fosse’s dance’s stick out from the crowd. None of the choreographers at his time had signature moves or costumes. Fosse himself often called the en masse amalgamation of these moves the ‘amoeba’, and that word as much as any describes his particular style, one at once fluid and angular’ (DFernando Zaremba www. fosse. com/features/fosse_an_introduction5. html accessed on 01/05/09) Fosse has influenced Jazz Dance history and even though he has now passed away he has designed a style that has continued on in dance studios around the world, and will still carry on for a very long time.
When Fosse’s sister got enrolled in the ‘Chicago Academy of theatre arts’ She was so shy the first time she went and ended up crying so to give her some courage, Fosse’s parents sent 8 year old Bob Fosse there to keep her company and acknowledgment that someone was there that she knew. After the first day that Fosse had accompanied her, he continued the dance lesson along with her, this was the realisation that this would carry on in his career (All Fosse’s Jazz: Exploring the Razzle-Dazzle World of Bob Fosse thought Martin Gottfried’s All His Jazz Strickland.
R Seminar December 2006). He then began studying dance at a small neighbourhood institution but soon moved on to the ‘Frederick Weaver Ballet School’, this is where he founded his confidence as he was the only male enrolled, and people would be laughing. But the person that Fosse is, he just carried on, because he enjoyed it. But Fosse was unable to be traditional as a young dancer to the rigid positions of ballet, so instead he included inward turned knees, hunched shoulders and burlesque suggestion into his choreography later on in life.
Fosse was born straight into theatre as his father was a vaudeville actor. By the age of 13 Fosse was touring in his own dance show called the ‘The Riff Brothers’. This is when he was exposed to a Cabaret performance style, among nightclubs. Two years later he got the opportunity to choreograph his first Cabaret number. In this, the dancers were dressed up in Ostrich feathers. This is where one of his signature styles were created as the dance and the costumes had a very sexual nature. By 1945, Fosse had graduated from ‘Amundsen High’ in Chicago.
Once Fosse became 18 he joined the Navy, this is where he claims he perfected his technique as a performer-choreographer-director. The huge highlight of Fosses style was isolated movements, he took such simple moves, such as moving an eyebrow or just one finger, but these simple movements made a huge impact on the dance. ‘In any Fosse number, you’re sure to find cigarettes, net stockings and a tipped hat. He used cool, jazz sensibility in his choreography, yet Burlesque in nature and sleek by choice with pelvic movement and heavy leans’ (www. dancehelp. com/articles/jazz-dance/Bob-Fosse. spx accessed on 18/05/09) That quote may suggest that Fosse’s style may have had some influence from the Burlesque style that he grew up within. When Fosse and met his first wife, Mary-Ann Niles they formed a dance team and appeared in nightclubs, on television and stage musicals. This was making Fosse’s name more and more recognisable. He then moved to Hollywood in 1953, to try and become more successful, especially with his acting. This is when he met his second wife, a dancer/performer Joan McCracken. This is whilst he and her were both working on a show called ‘My Sister Eileen’.
Fosse’s acting skills didn’t work out as much as he’d hoped over in Hollywood, so he decided to return back to New York. Fosse was very lucky, because as soon as he returned George Abbott, a legendary Broadway producer-director hired him to work out the dance numbers for a new musical he was working on ‘The Pajama Game’. ‘The Pajama Game’ became a huge success and the dance number that got Fosse’s name so big was ‘Steam Heat’ it was a big hit for everyone. The following year he started working on ‘Damn Yankees’, where he met his third and final wife, Gwen Verdon.
In the film version of ‘Damn Yankees’ Verdon and Fosse danced together to ‘Who’s got the pain? ’ In 1957, both Verdon and Fosse began studying with ‘Sanford Mesiner’ to develop a better acting technique for them both. Fosse wanted to improve on his acting skills all the way throughout his life. So he could be successful in other things. But Fosse’s name was getting more recognisable each year he had no need to worry. I’m thinking he wanted more of a variety in life. By 1959, Fosse got the opportunity to direct his first Broadway Musical Show, ‘Red Head’, in it he had he’s newly wed wife, Verdon staring in it.
Fosse had many personal quotes that became very famous such as ‘Live like you’ll die tomorrow, work like you don’t need the money and dance like nobody’s watching’, ‘Don’t dance for the audience; dance for yourself’ ,’Dance expresses joy better than anything else. ’ (www. imdb. com/name/nm0002080/bio accessed on 18/05/09) Fosse’s quotes gave a lot of people hope and faith when they are dancing. When Fosse was working with dancers he gave them all so much encouragement. During the time Fosse was choreographing his huge influence was ‘Fred Astaire’ he was an American film and Broadway Stage dancer, choreographer, inger and actor. Astaire also grew up in the same way Fosse did, they both grew up with a sexually suggestive nature, with Fosse growing up in Burlesque shows and Astaire growing up in Vaudeville shows.
When Fosse moved to Hollywood he had the ambition of being the next Astaire and to my thoughts he became just as successful as him, maybe even more. Other influences of Fosse’s was ‘Jack Cole’, a choreographer and theatre director and is known today as ‘the father of Jazz Dance’ He also took influence from Jerome Robbins. New girl in town’ gave Fosse the inspiration to direct and choreograph his next piece. Fosses film career was cut short due to him loosing hair at such a young age, as this limited his roles to be played. Although Fosse may have been upset about this, it didn’t stop him. He still carried on being very famous with more choreography. During Fosse’s time whilst he was choreographing he was a great man to work with and many performers praised him. But after his first heart attack his mood changed suddenly and the cast and production team working with him found it very hard.
Fosse had called up Fred Ebb and had said ‘’I know you must of thought while we were working on ‘Chicago’ that I was picking on you. ’ That was exactly what he said and I told him, ‘Honestly, Bobby, yes, I did think that. ’ He said, ‘Well, I was picking on you. Do you know why? Because you are vulnerable, and vulnerable people drive crazy. ’’ (Colored lights, Forty years of Words and Music, Show Biz, Collaboration, and All That Jazz, John Kander and Fred Ebb, as told to Greg Lawrence 2003, Page 123) No-one could believe how much he had changed.
Fosse even started on his cast, one incident was with ‘Michael Vita’ he only had two words to say which was ‘Your witness’ and because he couldn’t get them the way Fosse wanted them to be he went on and on and Michael ended up in tears. His directing and choreography changed a lot after his heart attack also. Whilst he was working on ‘Chicago’ Fosse wanted to put in something very vulgar which the rest of the cast and team weren’t happy about so John Kander and Fred Ebb plucked up the courage to ask him about it.
All this turned very nasty and Fosse suddenly started shouting at Kander and Ebb about them not giving him a re-write of the song ‘Roxie’. By this time the people that had worked with Fosse after his heart attack had gotten the bad side of him. Even though Kander and Ebb had put up with the bad side of Fosse, during working with him on shows. They still looked up to Fosse. He seemed to tell the truth and very bluntly, if Fosse thought you could do something, you actually felt it was possible. ‘I remembered Bobby. Mean, brilliant, friend, companion. Helpful, lovable Bobby. After all these years, how I miss him. Colored lights, Forty years of Words and Music, Show Biz, Collaboration, and All That Jazz, John Kander and Fred Ebb, as told to Greg Lawrence 2003, Page 140) Fosse’s non-stop work schedule, smoking non-stop, drink and drug issues eventually caught up with him, in the form of heart troubles in the 1970’s. In 1979 he created a semi-biographical film ‘All that Jazz’, in which the main character dies from heart problems. The main character was representing Fosse. Surely he knew he was doing too much to portray something that may happen to him, and unfortunately did at such a young age of 60.
During making this film, reading through colored lights, Kander and Ebb seemed to perceive Fosse felt hard done by all the time. He wanted to be the victim in everything. ‘If you watch the movie carefully, Bobby is always the victim and that was not so in reality’ (Colored lights, Forty years of Words and Music, Show Biz, Collaboration, and All That Jazz, John Kander and Fred Ebb, as told to Greg Lawrence 2003, Page 120) Fosse had lived a great life, he was always busy, no time to be doing anything else.
He was very dedicated person to his profession. My favourite information I came across was one of Fosse’s thoughts ‘The time to sing is when your emotion level is too high to just speak anymore, and the time to dance is when your emotions are just too strong to only sing about how you feel’ (www. absoluteastronomy. com/topics/Bob_Fosse accessed on 25/05/09) This portrays to me, dance and song are not just only for entertainment but it’s for privacy, emotions, sharing feelings. It’s a way to make things better.