by DFernando Zaremba
When Bob Fosse died on September 23, 1987, many, many people were
saddened by his untimely passing. But few, if any, were surprised by
it. Fosse had always been a man who fully embraced life, and his death
at the relatively young age of sixty came as a shock to almost no one.
Indeed, many of his associates were amazed he lived as long as he did.
Possessed of both unbridled energy and tremendous artistic gifts, Fosse
was one of this century's great choreographers. Though he forged his
craft on the Broadway stage and on film, he was as much an artist as
Nijinsky, Balanchine, or DeMille.
He was also one of our era's most indulgent personalities, for he
applied the same frenetic pace to his personal life as he did to his
artistic efforts. A fan of drink and drugs, Fosse eventually tempered
his habits after his first major heart attack in the early 1970s. But
he never slowed down when it came to women. Married three times, Fosse
had an almost endless list of dalliances.
As an artist, Fosse was known for his thoroughly modern style, a
signature one could never mistake for anyone else's. Snapping fingers
are omnipresent, so are rakishly tilted bowler hats. Both hip and
shoulder rolls appear frequently, as do backward exits. Swiveling hips
and strutting predominate, as do white-gloved, single-handed gestures.
Fosse himself often called the en masse amalgamation of these moves the
"amoeba", and that word as much as any describes his particular style,
one at once fluid and angular.
Born Robert Louis Fosse in Chicago on June 23, 1927, Bob Fosse was the
son of a vaudevillian. He himself began performing in vaudeville as a
child and by his early teens was on stage in a variety of burlesque
shows. He began studying dance at a small neighborhood institution but
soon moved on to the Frederick Weaver Ballet School, an academy where he
was the only male enrolled.
He later recalled...