Haveyou ever been to a Broadway stage play and wondered where did the crew getthose fancy, heated dance moves from? Orhave you ever gone to a show and were blown away with the crews style of dress,the formatting, lighting arrangement? Where did it come from? Well, letme tell you where it all got started!RobertLouis Fosse, nicknamed “Bobbie” and/or “Flash” was a kid born in Chicago, Illinoisto Cyril K. Fosse and Sara Alice Stanton on June 23rd, 1927. He was the youngest out of six children, buthis skill is what made him stand out from his other siblings. What is that skill you might ask?? DANCE!!! Fosse would always be found moving his bodyto the sound of music and when his parents realized just how compassionate hewas about the art, they signed him up to attend a formal dance school to takeup tap dancing. He began to perfect hisskill and eventually found himself performing shows in night clubs for adultaudiences. Vaudeville was the style ofdance that he would partake in, which would consist of a variety of acting,dance and comedy. In 1945, Bob graduatedfrom high school and then signed up to fulfill his military obligation with theNavy. While he was still in boot camp,the war was almost on its last leg, therefore, he was fortunate to not have tobe sent off to participate in active duty.
When he satisfied his obligationwith the USN, he moved to New York City, but would go back to perform a showcalled Tough Situation at various military and naval bases with a group hejoined called “The Riff Brothers”. Hissuccess was good, but once he made moves without his partner, Charles Grass,his career took off as a choreographer, producer and director began to takefull force. Fossebecame a well-known name and his style has been copied repeatedly bychoreographers, producers and directors all over. He and his crew would wear white gloves,suits and bowler hats. Their routineswere very sexy, fresh and full of life. This panned out perfectly, because people were becoming freer withsexuality and it caught the eyes of many although some considered it to betaboo/risqué’. Funny thing about hisstyle is that it didn’t come just as a fashion statement; it was a necessityfor him.
His reason for wearing the hatsis because he began to lose hair at a young age and he wore gloves because hewas displeased with the appearance of his hands.In hispersonal life, Fosse was what you would call a ‘ladies man’. He caught theattention of all the ladies with hissmooth moves and lavish style and ended up marrying three times. Two of those ladies were fellow dancers inshows that he performed; MaryAnn Niles and Joan McCracken.
But out of all of the marriages, he wasblessed with only one child; a daughter named Nicole with his last wife GwenVerndon. Before he had a family, he knewhe wanted to be the best. He put thatmindset to use when he choreographed his first show in 1954, with the show “ThePajama Game”. This boosted hispopularity to new heights, so much so, he won his first Tony Award for BestChoreography.
This performance was asuccess, but he caught major criticism from other producers and directorsbecause they felt he was too explicit with his choice of dance. The gyration was very sexy and they felt hewas not “politically correct” as we would say today. Because of this opposition from the masses,he decided if he wanted to do things his way, he would have to learn to directand produce his work in its entirety.Fossewould go on to make major moves throughout the years and captivate hearts withhis shows.
Some of his shows are asfollows: Damn Yankees Bells Are Ringing New Girl in Town Redhead Little Me Pal Joey Sweet Charity Cabaret Liza with a Z Pippin Lenny Dancin’ All that Jazz Star 80 Big Deal Even as his career reached unforeseen heights, hestruggled with complications with his heart, surviving from two heartattacks. His third heart attack is whattook him out while walking to the studio to rehearse for the show “SweetCharity”, September 23rd, 1987 in Washington DC. He was fortunate to see 60 years oflife. Before he passed away, he wasinducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1979. But after his death, he was honored by havinghis faced pictured on the United States ForeverStamp worth forty-five cents under the category of ‘Innovative Choreographers’ in July of 2012. Many dancers imitate his style of jazztoday. His style of dance has influencedBen Vereen, Ann Reinking, Jerome Robbins and Joel Grey to name a few. In the big screen for us, he was a mentor tothe very talented, Melanie Griffith.
His work is continued to be honored throughreworks and classes geared towards teaching dance. You’ve got to be a talented individual to win7 Tony Awards, Emmy’s, Academy’s, Golden Globes, and Oscars. And Mr. RobertLouis Fosse was all of that and then some.