Above- Rich Man’s Frug form the movie Sweet Charity
Legendary choreographer and director Bob Fosse once stated, “the time to sing is when your emotional 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.” Bob Fosse’s unique style and provocative dances have inspired artists for over 50 years. The mere mention of Fosse brings to mind black garbed dancers with bowler hats on heads, white gloves on hands, and bodies that are arranged in a highly specific, sensual yet unusual manner.
Born Robert Louis Fosse in 1927, Bob Fosse was the youngest of six children and used dancing early on to attract the attention he desired from his family. He began performing in burlesque night clubs as a young boy, which left a strong impression on him, leading later to dark sexual tones within his choreography. With the dream of becoming the next Fred Astaire, Fosse moved to Hollywood as a teenager, but premature balding limited the roles he could take in films. Only reluctantly did he agree to enter the world of live theater, his first of many choreographic undertakings being award-winning musical, The Pajama Game.
Fighting scoliosis and painful arthritis throughout most of his life, Fosse never let his limitations impede his artistic ambition. Molding his own imperfections into a distinct sinuous style, Fosse developed a jazz dance style that is now immediately recognizable and brought an innovative dimension of sophistication and sensual energy to the Broadway stage. Some notable distinctions of his unique style include the use of inward knees, rounded shoulders, and body isolations, which he used to emphasize the smallest of body movements.
After his initial success with Pajama Game, Fosse went on to choreograph and direct many more ground-breaking and award-winning musicals including Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity , Chicago, and Cabaret. Musical theater researchers and admirers agree that Fosse has claimed some of the most original and sustained achievements.
In 1973, Fosse became the first director in history to win an Oscar (for movie version of Cabaret), a Tony (for Pippin), and an Emmy (for the television special Liza with a Z) in a single season. More than any other choreographer, Bob Fosse became responsible for making it seem that the Broadway musical served mainly as a vehicle for choreographic expressions and conceptions. His need to focus on the imperfections of a dancer’s body to create new movements separated him from his peers and led to his accreditation as one of the greatest innovator’s in musical theater history.