- The Latest
- Breaking Stereotypes
- Rant & Rave
- Dance As Activism
- Dancers Trending
- Viral Videos
- The Dancer's Toolkit
- Health & Body
- Dance Training
- Career Advice
- Style & Beauty
- Dance Auditions
- Guides & Resources
- Performance Calendar
- College Guide
- Dance Magazine Awards
- Meet The Editors
- Contact Us
- Advertise/Media Kit
- Buy A Single Issue
- Give A Gift Subscription
Top Broadway Choreographers on Bob Fosse's Legacy
Conscientious theatergoers may be familiar with The School for Scandal, The School for Wives and School of Rock. But how many are also aware of the school of Fosse?
The 1999 musical, a posthumous exploration of the choreographic career of Bob Fosse, ran for 1,093 performances, winning four Tonys and 10 nominations; employing 32 dancers; and, completely unintentionally, nurturing a generation of Broadway choreographers. You may have heard of them: Andy Blankenbuehler and Sergio Trujillo danced in the original cast, Josh Rhodes was a swing, and Christopher Gattelli replaced Trujillo when he landed choreography jobs in Massachusetts and Canada. Blankenbuehler remembers that when Trujillo left, "It was as if he was graduating."
Like the others, Trujillo didn't appropriate the distinctive Fosse style. But it's more than happenstance that the show produced this bumper crop of choreographers. Ask them why, and they make the school analogy. Trujillo says, "We all need some sort of master, like Michelangelo was. And for us, to be able to experience the work of Bob Fosse was like going to graduate school in choreography." Blankenbuehler likens it to "a finishing school."
For Rhodes, it was more like his freshman year—Fosse was his first Broadway show, and he was totally focused on performing. But, he says, "Even if you didn't know you were going to be a choreographer, that kind of training is like having a professor help you along the way. We all had Professor Bob Fosse."
They needed him. As Blankenbuehler points out,"There weren't a lot of mentors." Partly because of the impact of AIDS, partly because dance shows were not in fashion in the '90s, there wasn't "a Bob Fosse or a Jerome Robbins or a Michael Bennett I could chase—who I could dance for in his shows, be his dance captain."
He learned a lot doing several shows with Susan Stroman, Blankenbuehler says, but he was still "attracted to the classics—to study from them, as if they were a teacher." That's why, although already a choreographer, he returned to performing to tour with West Side Story. "I'd never done West Side," he explains. "To me it was like a college course. And I think dancing in Fosse was very much the same thing."
Rhodes notes that doing the show was not for everyone. "You had to be really dramatic with your body; you had to tell a story; you had to show musicality. And you also had to have a certain type of performance quality. I think all those things are sort of beyond just average dancers—maybe that is what gave us all insight into how far you can take dance, and how much you can tell a story with dance." For him, the crucial lesson was Fosse's composition, "the way transitions happen, the way you get from one formation to the next. He had meticulous composition—it was like Balanchine."
Rhodes says composition was his takeaway, "probably because as a swing, you have to attack not just the step and the style. You have to understand the entire stage picture. So at a very young age, I got the master class in the overall picture of Fosse's work. I got to watch it and learn what worked. As I put myself into all these different roles, I had to find the way in that was right for my body. I didn't realize it at the time, but being a swing was actually preparing me to be a choreographer."
Now, he says, when he's stumped, he finds himself borrowing from the numbers he did in Fosse. "It turns into different steps, because it's a different show with different characters," he says. "But Fosse's composition will always get you out of a jam." A particular favorite, he says, is "Rich Man's Frug," with its interweaving clusters crossing and circling one another. "It works like a Swiss clock," he says. "That kind of composition is beyond steps or the style of the movement."
Blankenbuehler looks beyond the steps, too, beyond the isolation that is such a crucial element of the Fosse style. "Another part of isolation," he notes, "is stripping down the unimportant. A lot of Broadway musicals are actually about adding on. That's not a bad thing, but Fosse's way is a different approach. You strip away, and boil down what's most important. 'Big Spender' is a perfect example—he stripped everything away to its raw, cold bitterness."
The Hamilton choreographer also cites Fosse's "study of tension and conflict, because so much of his choreography is about not letting out energy—the internalization of deeply seated pelvic angst. It feels sexual, but it's really about neurosis and dysfunction."
The climax of Hamilton, he says, the slow-motion Bullet dance that kills the title character, is "a Fosse-esque gesture": not in its steps, "but in the way it constricts energy and boils down one statement into a moment in time. And that's what I learned at finishing school."When Blankenbuehler and Trujillo toured together in Fosse, Blankenbuehler recalls turning their 10-minute breaks into study sessions: "We would sit outside and write notes on the show—analyze the show, talk about our thoughts about the show." He's held on to that notebook. And, he says, he recognizes the same impulse in some of his casts. "I know who's a choreographer—you can see their brain working in those ways. It's a gift for me, because I know I have somebody who's using their brain first, not just their body."
Season 2 of World of Dance is almost here! The new season officially kicks off on Tuesday on NBC, and it's bringing a whole new crew of talented dancers with it (plus, some old favorites). Dance pro judges Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough and Ne-Yo are back, too, with Jenna Dewan serving as the show's host.
Obviously we'll be watching, but just in case you're not completely sold, here's why you're not going to want to miss out:
JLo Might Be Performing
Earlier this week, JLo (who serves as the show's executive producer) posted this insane promo clip to her Instagram. Dancing to a mashup of Cardi B's "Bodak Yellow" and her new single "Dinero," JLo reminded us all of her dance skills while also leading us to believe she might just hit the stage herself for a performance.
Travis Wall draws inspiration from dancers Tate McCrae, Timmy Blankenship and more.
One often-overlooked relationship that exists in dance is the relationship between choreographer and muse. Recently two-time Emmy Award Winner Travis Wall opened up about his experience working with dancers he considers to be his muses.
"My muses in choreography have evolved over the years," says Wall. "When I'm creating on Shaping Sound, our company members, my friends, are my muses. But at this current stage of my career, I'm definitely inspired by new, fresh talent."
Wall adds, "I'm so inspired by this new generation of dancers. Their teachers have done such incredible jobs, and I've seen these kids grown up. For many of them, I've had a hand in their exposure to choreography."
A few weeks ago, American Ballet Theatre announced the A.B.T. Women's Movement, a new program that will support three women choreographers per season, one of whom will make work on the main company.
"The ABT Women's Movement takes inspiration from the groundbreaking female choreographers who have left a lasting impact on ABT's legacy, including Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp," said artistic director Kevin McKenzie in a press release.
Hypothetically, this is a great idea. We're all for more ballet commissions for women. But the way ABT has promoted the initiative is problematic.
On the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba tours the U.S. this spring with the resolute Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso a the helm. Named a National Hero of Labor in Cuba, Alonso, 97, has weathered strained international relations and devastating fiscal challenges to have BNC emerge as a world-class dance company. Her dancers are some of ballet's best. On offer this time are Alonso's Giselle and Don Quixote. The profoundly Cuban company performs in Chicago May 18–20, Tampa May 23, Washington, D.C., May 29–June 3 and Saratoga, New York June 6–8.
Considering we practically live in our dance clothes, there's really no such thing as having too many leotards, tights or leggings (no matter what our mom or friends say!). That's why we treat every sale as an opportunity to stock up. And thanks to the holiday weekend, you can shop all of your dancewear go-tos or try something totally new for as much as 50% less than the usual price.
Here are the eight sales we're most excited about—from online options to in-store retailers that will help you find the perfect fit. Happy Memorial Day (and shopping)!
Now through Monday, Danskin's site will automatically take 25% off your entire purchase at checkout. Even new items like their Pintuck Detail Floral Print Sports Bra and Pintuck Detail Legging (pictured here) are fair game.
"The sun may be shining brightly, but we are not in a very sunny mood today!" said New York State assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal during yesterday's rally for the Artists of Ailey.
The dancers and stage crew are demanding increased wages and more comprehensive benefits, what they have termed "reaching for the standard" and "fair wages."
Pain is an inevitable part of a dancing life and dancers have a high tolerance for it, according to Sean Gallagher, a New York physical therapist whose practice includes many professional performers. "So when dancers complain, it really means something," he says.
But women and men experience pain differently, and tend to be treated for it differently as well. Female dancers need to understand those differences before they go to a doctor, so they can make sure they get treated promptly and effectively.
Rebecca Warthen was on a year-long assignment with the Peace Corps in Dominica last fall when a storm started brewing. A former dancer with North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and Columbia City Ballet, she'd been sent to the Caribbean island nation to teach ballet at the Dominica Institute of the Arts and in outreach classes at public schools.
But nine and a half months into her assignment, a tropical storm grew into what would become Hurricane Maria—the worst national disaster in Dominica's history.
Sidra Bell is one of those choreographers whose movement dancers are drawn to. Exploring the juxtaposition of fierce athleticism and pure honesty in something as simple as stillness, her work brings her dancers to the depths of their abilities and the audience to the edge of their seats.