This post is about the popular stage, its about fun, good times and all that jazz… It is about Bob Fosse… the choreographer behind some of the most popular and successful broadway musicals.
The dance, Big Spender from Sweet Charity’s (1969) film version, starring Paula Kelly and Chita Rivera with others, directed by Fosse always leaves me intrigued. The initial movements draw the viewer into the dark environs of the red light areas. The poses and the bar work magically in this dance. Fosse choses stillness and minimal movements which are an unusual choice for a club no., where one usually expects a lot of dance movements and an overt projection of the body. Instead his choreography renders a smooth transition from the focus on body parts in isolation to isolated movements. Inviting a continuous gaze from the viewer, it brings forth the plasticity of the taxi dancer’s body, creating an interplay between the exhibited and the spectator, where the roles are often reversed. Both Big Spender and The Rich Man’s Frug from the same film were much ahead of their time. He used similar aesthetics of movement and stillness to much success in Mein Herr, Cabaret (1972), but this time the chair had replaced the bar.
Closer home my first memory of watching jazz on Delhi stage were summer school presentations by Danceworx. Ashley Lobo’s Danceworx offered training in jazz and contemporary dance forms had become the first brand of dance school to take over Delhi's dance scene 20 years ago. Till then it was mostly the traditional Indian forms which had a sizeable following whereas Lobo's classes inspired dancers from all age groups. I was always an outsider to this school of dance but keenly watched their summer dance shows from the aisle and have distinct memories of their show on 'Chicago', the musical. We classical Indian dancers, had always been trained to turn the gaze inwards and direct it towards the infinite externally, whereas the mantra for them was “to look straight into the eyes of the audience”. The exuberance of energy on the stage and off it had completely changed the dimensions of performing and viewing dance!
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