Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
Perhaps you already recognized elements of Bob Fosse's choreography before I started writing this series of posts, or you might have noticed certain moves in the sequences I've posted from Damn Yankees and Cabaret.
Here's what Fosse Style is to me:
thrusts, considered quite sexually suggestive at the time
tiny movements filled with meaning
smooth, including the snapping of fingers
looks simple but it ain't
the tiny movements suddenly become gigantic--huge kicks, big turns, jumps
jazz hands or cupped hands
sometimes white socks revealed noticeably above black shoes
If you noticed something that I missed, please tell us in your comment.
Now, take a look––if you like––at Ben Vereen and cast performing "Glory" in Pippin:
Bob Fosse directed and choreographed Pippin, which premiered in 1972. Fosse won Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography.
Something else about Fosse style: Each move has to do with the plot and the character. If you've seen the entire movie of Cabaret, you know that every song and dance interspersed between the characters' actions has something to do with them and their story.
Now I'd like to show you one of my favorite numbers. From the 1957 movie The Pajama Game, Carol Haney performs "Steam Heat" with Buzz Miller and Kenneth LeRoy:
"Steam Heat" introduced America to Fosse style when he choreographed it for the stage in 1954––his first job as a choreographer, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Choreography––and he recreated the choreography for the film. *see note
When Bob Fosse died in 1987, his widow, Gwen Verdon, and his partner, Ann Reinking, kept his work alive.
When I started this series on Fosse and Verdon, Birgit of BB Creations pointed out that we can still see Fosse's influence in Michael Jackson's dancing. We should also include Beyoncé and Single Ladies.
Michael, you were creepy, but I ask that you dance us out today so we can see how Fosse style evolved in your work.
Infinities of love,
*note: Carol Haney was ill and had to be hospitalized while making the film of The Pajama Game. Supposedly, her work wasn't up to par. If she wasn't at her best in that movie, then I can't even imagine what her best looked like.
My aunt took me to see Pippin on Broadway when I was a kid. I was way too young to appreciate how fabulous Ben Vereen was. Wow! What a performer! That shiny outfit really enhanced his every move too. The Pajama Game number was cute. Yes, those white socks work to balance out the collar and cuffs which keeps the eye moving. If they were black, it wouldn't be nearly as interesting.ReplyDelete
I am so jealous that you saw Pippin on Broadway.Delete
I saw a few Broadway shows, but never a Chorus Line. I'd have liked to have seen that. I saw Grease with the original cast (Barry Bostwick as Danny and Adrienne Barbeau as Rizzo). I hate the movie version that everyone loves. A show I never got to see (because I was too young and it had nudity) was Hair. My older sister saw it and bought the soundtrack. I know the entire thing backwards and forwards. The movie was horrible. I have found old clips of the original cast on YouTube from the Smothers Brothers show (remember them?)Delete
I remember the Smothers Brothers very well. On Sunday night while my mom watched Bonanza, my dad joined us in the bedroom to watch the Smothers Brothers on our little, portable TV. The first musical I ever saw that wasn't in a high school was a touring company of A Chorus Line. It was wonderful. I wish I'd seen the original Grease. It's my understanding that it was totally different from the movie. One of my older sisters saw Hair. She said it was so dark during the nude parts that she and her friend couldn't see anything.Delete
I was hoping you would include Pippen!!! Vereen was SO good in it!ReplyDelete
Ben Vereen is beautiful.Delete
Thanks for the videos! Bob Fosse had such a unique style. You can definitely see the influence on Michael Jackson's moves.ReplyDelete
Thank you for joining us.Delete
Interesting observations. Are you merely an admirer of dance, or are (or were) you a dancer yourself? I love to watch dancers, but my moves are very limited. My only claim to fame is winning a jitterbug contest in the early '60s (maybe late '50s...?) but I attribute that entirely to my partner. That guy knew how to LEAD. (Alas, a talent few men possess.)ReplyDelete
I knew a couple of disco dances. That's it. I was clumsy when I was young and now I trip over my own feet when I walk. I also have a talent for walking into walls. I'm an admirer of dance. Congratulations, you jitterbugger.Delete
Clumsy? Ya wanta talk clumsy? Three other girls and I were really tight in high school... the four musketeers. At our graduation ceremony, each of them told me the same thing before I went up on stage: "Don't fall!" (Yeah, Pearl's clumsiness came from me, too.)Delete
I must ask: Did you fall?Delete
HA! No. (Thank goodness.) But I think all of my friends were pulling for me...Delete
I like the Fosse Style of choreography. It is original and unmistakeable.ReplyDelete
You know it the minute you see it.Delete
Thanks for this post, Janie! I am so ignorant when it comes to dance, but I loved every second of the videos in this post, and I will be back to read your other posts on Fosse. I haven't thought about Ben Vereen in forever, and he is brilliant. I must have seen him on Ed Sullivan. Steam Heat was a joy to watch, and Billie Jean and Michael Jackson ~ OMG. Jackson was a genius but it came at a tragic cost. He has always personified intensity for me. Now I'm watching Thriller. Terry will just have to be hungry a little longer!ReplyDelete
Wasn't The Ed Sullivan Show wonderful? We got to see excerpts from Broadway musicals and the biggest hits from bands and guys who spun plates around while they made jokes. Everything I never would have seen otherwise was on Ed Sullivan.Delete
We go to the theater every time we are in NYC and I do love seeing some of the choreographers who emulate the Fosse style even though they would never admit they do.ReplyDelete
And you are right, looks easy but it's not
I haven't been to New York in a long time, but I saw some great shows there. I've never seen Chicago onstage, but Ann Reinking recreated Fosse's choreography for the revival that I believe is still running after many years.Delete
What a lovely post!! I enjoyed this!! Hope you have a great day♡♡ReplyDelete
Thank you. Same to you.Delete
Ah I would have loved to have seen Pippin and Ben Vereen is a classic. Fosse often showed sex and violence in his style of dance..in the later shows. Steam Heat from Pajama Game is a classic dance sequence showing the great but doomed Carol Haney who was a sought after dancer by Bob Fosse and Gene Kelly. Michael Jackson tilt ally room Fosse’s style and even the moon walk came from earlier African American dancing which I saw in some early clips of shows from the 30s or 40s...wish I could remember what clip I saw. He was very talented but he was a pedifile who truly wanted to remain a little kid....very strange character and predator. He was not your average child molester because I think he wanted to be a child and could mainly relate to children...so disgusting and sad at the same time.ReplyDelete
Can you believe that "Hollywood" thought Carol Haney wasn't attractive enough for the movies? She became Gene Kelly's dance captain and died when she was 40. Ben Vereen is 72 and ran into some trouble here in Florida a while back when he was accused of sexually harassing and taking advantage of the female dancers in a production of Hair. Vereen was in the original Hair.Delete
I believe it...this was the time of Ava Gardner and Marilyn Monroe so Haney was not their style for that moment...a true shameDelete
Hi Janie! Yeah, now I see the Fosse influence on Michael Jackson - oh, how I lived for his videos to come on MTV in the 80s.ReplyDelete
Happy 4th. :)
Happy Fourth, Vebbie. You were young in the '80s while I changed my kids' diapers.Delete
Thanks for the FOSSE retrospect! He definitely was an amazing choreographer who influenced generations of dancers!
Thank you for joining us in the heat of Florida.Delete
I'm ready for the fireworks to stop, but they'll continue for another week or so. People here love fireworks and they love to fire their guns on holidays.Delete