Training In Fosse-Style Jazz

Bob FosseLike many other choreographers, such as George Balanchine and Martha Graham, Bob Fosse is one who created lots of spectacular work and an entire stylistic repertoire. His movements are slinky and sensual yet always have much emotional depth.

Fosse died over 25 years ago yet his style is still desired and emulated widely, especially throughout the US. The revival of Chicago the musical, choreographed by Fosse devotee Ann Reinking, is still running on Broadway and Pippin (with Fosse-inspired choreography by Chet Walker) is also back. Fosse’s work continues to inspire.

Fosse didn’t codify a technique to train dancers, yet his style serves as an essential base for students of all disciplines; Fosse’s smooth style and attention to detail are invaluable. Fosse is known to have called his dancers “actors”, emphasising that their primary job is to communicate a story as everything he did had an emotional, mental, political and ethical side to it. The dancers he trained are complete entertainers through their deep understanding of performance. Each step has intent behind it and you have to bring out every aspect of the character to convey it.

Fosse style encourages dancers to engage emotionally and also helps develop ensemble skills. In addition to dancers working together as a group, attention to detail is paramount. The intricate nature of Fosse’s choreography means so much can be conveyed through the subtlety of a single finger wag or a sideways glance. The style requires an incredible work ethic because much of the work is based on intricate isolations, so dancers develop a heightened body awareness and focus.

While the process of learning the work is intense, it is apparent there are two huge payoffs in auditions and onstage. You must be able to watch and replicate in a detailed and multi-layered way, and a diligent rehearsal process ensures confidence in performance.