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Dance You Fool, DANCE!

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There once was a choreographer named Fosse / His name rhymed with saucy / He was sexy and slinky / His moves made you thinky / If you don’t know him, it’s truly your lossy.

Once upon a time, back in 2003, I witnessed one of the greatest miracles in modern cinema. You guessed it, Chicago. Chicago was the first musical I’d ever seen that winked at me. Somehow, through Renee Zellweger’s tiny little eyes, she managed to convey to me, personally, that this was everything a grown up musical should be: sassy, smart, sexy, fun, insert ‘good’ adjective here. Thus begins my one-sided love affair with Bob Fosse.

Choreographers are not, by the nature of their jobs, usually known to those outside of the entertainment industry. Debbie “You got big dreams? You want fame?” Allen is an exception. Yet I could not recognize her choreography from Paula Abdul’s choreography. Straight up, now tell me, do you know anyone whose choreography is so recognizable, so impeccable that a lay-girl like me could spot it a leap away? I do. Bob Fosse.

Here is a quick rundown of how to spot a possible Bob Fosse dance piece:

1. Are the dancers wearing white gloves?

2. Are they wearing bowler hats? Do they keep touching the bowler hat with their white gloves?

3. Do the dancers often turn their knees inwards?

4. Do the dancers stand still and flick their wrists instead of make large movements?

5. Do the dancers look like they are bored with you because they know they are doing cool Bob Fosse choreography and you’re sitting at home wishing you could dance like that?

Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. It’s Bob Fosse’s choreography. He uses his dancers to create sophisticated silhouettes. He’ll stand them still and let them flick their wrists or ankles in time to the music. He restrains his dancers from wild, spastic gyrations. They are not allowed such nonsense. They are dancing for Fosse. Watching a Fosse routine is like watching a fully clothed strip show. And knowing the fully clothed version is twenty times more erotic than the skanky naked version.

Not convinced of the genius that is Bob Fosse? Here’s a few movies to wet your whistle:

Chicago – Does everyone know that Jerry Orbach originated the role of Billy Flynn? Now you know, and the more you know, the more you grow.

The Pajama Game
– Before my ex-lovah Harry Connick, Jr. danced it up on broadway, The Pajama Game was a fun little romp starring Doris Day and Bonnie’s daddy, John Raitt. I watched this movie two years ago, before I was hip to Fosse. The whole time I was thinking, “There’s something very sexual about these dances. Hmm…”

– I’m not a big fan of Liza with a Z. Or this movie. Chicago is sexy in subtlety. Cabaret is just garish and cheap. But, this is still Fosse’s choreography and it still rocks (even if I fast-forward through half of the movie because it makes me feel dirty on the inside).

All That Jazz
– The must-see for any Fosse fan. I watched this again the other night, which is what prompted this shrine of a post. All That Jazz is a thinly veiled biopic of Fosse’s life. He cast his actual girlfriend, Ann “Miss Grace Farrell” Reinking, in the part of the girlfriend. But this movie definitely has some problems. For one, the music stinks. It’s dated and smacks of sequins and legwarmers. And the plot is weird; he keeps talking to his angel of death, played by Jessica Lange.

All That Jazz is interesting because Fosse chronicles his own near-death experience, complete with choreographed 'good-bye' numbers from the most important women in his life. Then he actually died eight years after the movie was released.

– The filmed production of the Broadway play called…duh, Fosse. This is essentially a greatest hits collection of Fosse’s most memorable dances. But the dances are so good that the production won muy Tonys, even as a rehash of dances done 30 years prior. That’s how good he was.

Not enough? Me neither. Fosse also choreographed Sweet Charity, Damn Yankee,s and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, all of which are being added to my Netflix cue pronto. Hop to it, movie lovers. None of you have enough sequins in your life anyway.

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About Kristi Harrison

  • Sarah

    Interesting that Chicago is the movie that opened your eyes to the wonders of Fosse, as the choreography in the film version is markedly NOT Fosse. That was actually my biggest disappointment in the film.