On Fosse, Now and Then

posted by Jenny Dalzell on Wednesday, May 08, 2013
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Bob Fosse with dancers Valarie Pettiford (top left), Barbara Yeager, Alison Williams, and, of course, Bebe Neuwirth on the cover of Dance Magazine, August 1986.

As dancers, we can't hear the word "Fosse" without pigeon-toeing our feet, slinking our wrists from side to side, and imagining our legs have suddenly sprouted to Ann Reinking's length. (And Fosse is on our minds a lot nowadays, since Pippin is back on Broadway with Fosse-inspired choreography by Chet Walker.) But Bob Fosse's style runs deeper than the aesthetic: "Each step has an intent behind it and you have to bring out every aspect of your character to convey it," says Broadway veteran Valarie Pettiford, who teaches professional-level Fosse workshops for the Verdon Fosse Estate. In "Not the 'Old' Razzle-Dazzle" (May 2013, pg. 46), Dance Magazine speaks with Pettiford and several other Fosse experts (including his daughter Nicole Fosse, master teacher Diane Laurenson, and Kathryn Doby, Fosse's assistant for Pippin, Chicago, and Dancin') to find out how training in Fosse-style jazz can help strengthen and deepen performances.

 

Pettiford appeared on the cover of Dance Magazine in 1986, along with Bob Fosse, Barbara Yeager, Alison Williams, and Bebe Neuwirth. She's in costume for Fosse's Big Deal, which had opened roughly two weeks before presstime. The show closed two months before the issue came out that August, but as those dancing for Fosse attest in Kevin Grubb's feature article, "Fosse and His Followers," there was nothing else like working with Fosse. "He's a theatrical Messiah," said Big Deal dancer Gary Chapman. "Working with him, it's like I started out as a glass of water and ended up champagne."