Friday, May 7, 2010

Bob Fosse and The Mystery of The Spread Out Fingers

Bob Fosse started as an actor and dancer in the 50's but his big break came, and the unmistakable Fosse style changed everything we knew about "jazz dancing" in movies and theater with this number from Sweet Charity. Nothing this quirky and surreal or sexual had ever been done before. At least watch the last half:

So of course, my sister and I were put in jazz dancing class where we would once again try to play something out for my mother. I was good though, I was a natural performer and could dance. I could dance like these chicks in "Big Spender" too. My mother started taking us to workshops in the city with these NY "Fosse-esqe" dance dudes" and wouldn't you know I would get picked out of the crowd of 100 dancers to do an on-the-spot routine with 15 people all 8 years older and more experienced and man I AM NO STRAVINSKY right? I couldn't deal with that shit, that individuality, I lacked the confidence. I was too nervous, I couldn't do the steps or keep up or "sell it" unless I was in a crowd. Whittled down to 15 people, I was clearly the 11 year old of selfish parents. My mother wouldn't talk to me all the way home in the car. By 13 I could roll the perfect joint. By 13 and 1/2 my parents split up and I wasn't being taken to anything that might get me anywhere. Relief and disappointment taste really weird together on a cracker. Even after a good bong hit.

Fosse. Following Sweet Charity, he did Cabaret with Liza Minelli which might have won him an Oscar, I don't know and then "Chicago" which probably got him an award as well. He did this show that show this show, produced the movie "Lenny" which is the sad film of comedian Lenny Bruce and the world of musicals was all about Fosse. When you say that you have to spread your fingers out in "jazz hands", it's like making the sign of the cross on Broadway. In 1979, he released the semi-autobiographical movie ALL THAT JAZZ which starred his real life "muse" and phenomenal Broadway dancer Ann Reinking who sadly ended up with neck like Mean Joe Green, I don't know what the hell happened to that poor girl. The movie is about a Broadway choreographer whose life is nothing but sex, work, getting laid, drinking, work, taking speed, sex, work and sometimes his daughter and all of it was a Broadway production in his mind. It wasn't really happening, man! (You have to see the movie to understand how necessary it was for me say "man".) Until it almost killed him. This clip of Ann Reinking, his mistress in the film, along with "his daughter and wife" is a hallucination he is having in ICU. It's brilliant, she's hot. Here it is:

In the movie he dies. Of course, he did not die. Not at that point but ultimately he did and it was Reinking who would go on to ensure that Fosse's choreography remain intact for the revival of "Chicago" in the 90's as did his wife, dancer Gwen Verdon, with other projects like the tribute Broadway show "FOSSE". They were like the keepers of the jazz hands or something, the Fosse jazz hands and pop and jerk moves. I was going to post a clip from the revival of "Chicago" but they all suck, are too long or have coding on them, so I'm going with another clip from the movie ALL THAT JAZZ which is CLASSIC Bob Fosse dancing. Doesn't matter what the story line is. It's cool, clever and highly sexual. The guy was a genius really and everyone has copied him since Sweet Charity. I can't think of anything in non-contemporary or ballet that isn't influenced by him except break dancing. However I don't think Breakin II: Electric Boogaloo is on par with any of this stuff or was ever in the Oscar race. Break dancing is cool though.

He died in 1987. I don't know how. I'm not Wikipedia. I told you up front. - Fatova Mingus.

(originally posted on my other blog in January 2010. )