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Non-ballet: Bob Fosse 1

On a suggestion we have gratefully received from Sean Wood, director of the Geneva Dance School (Ecole de danse de Genève) we are going to do a series of features on dance forms other than classical ballet.

Our first non-ballet feature will introduce the most iconic of all jazz choreographers, Bob Fosse.

Bob Fosse (1927-1987)

Fosse was born the son of a vaudeville performer in Chicago, 1927. Influenced by his father he began performing at an early age and sought formal training at the Frederick Weaver Ballet School. He was the only boy at the school but dealt with his detractors with typical style:
"I got a lot of jokes and I got whistled at a lot. But I beat up a couple of the whistlers and the rest sort of tapered off after a while."
His training certainly paid off. By 13 he was touring theatres in Chicago with his friend Charles Grass and they were soon making a salary of over $100 a week - a huge sum in those days.

After performing all over the world with a show that toured army and navy bases, Fosse felt he had perfected his technique and set off for Hollywood where he hoped to follow in the steps of Fred Astaire. Here is a clip from one of Fosse's early films (My Sister Eileen). Watch it to the end because the dancing gets better and better:

Fosse had choreographed his first piece at the age of 15 while working in a night club. When he realized he was not going to be a Hollywood leading man, he turned to choreograpy full time and headed to Broadway. There he worked on shows like The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees. His huge success on Broadway - both shows won Tony awards - brought him back to Hollywood and he continued to work both in live theatre (winning 10 Tony's) and film (winning the Oscar for Best Director) until his death, from a heart attack, in 1987.

Here is one of Fosse's most famous sequences from Sweet Charity:

Fosse was a very private man who lived a difficult private life. He gave few interviews. Here is a rare clip of Fosse being interviewed on camera:

"If you think you can do better, then do better. Don't compete with anyone, just yourself. When you are in trouble or have a dilemma, ask yourself, 'What's the important thing?' And when you wake up in the morning, ask yourself how you can be a better person, not just a better performer."

The second part of this feature will look at Fosse's unique style and choreographic voice. To read part 2, click here.

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