A former professional dancer and New York Public Library archivist and curator enlists the services of both experiences to describe and analyze the career of Bob Fosse (1927-1987), the legendary dancer, choreographer, and director.
Winkler (Their Championship Seasons: Acquiring, Processing, and Using Performing Arts Archives, 2001), now a blogger for the Huffington Post, has a focused agenda. He takes us through Fosse’s career (stage, TV, and film) show by show, dance number by dance number, and explains the birth of the project, Fosse’s involvement, the roles of key others (producers, performers, technical crew), the critical and public reception, and the consequent effects on Fosse and the cultural world he inhabited and—for a time—dominated. Although the author periodically refers to Fosse’s personal life (his marriages and myriad affairs—he was far from a loyal spouse), this information is principally contextual, but due to the recent flurry of charges of sexual impropriety by alpha males, this context will be timely. Indeed, sexuality was part of Fosse’s “thing,” and Winkler includes a brief scene of him chasing Mariel Hemingway around a room trying to convince her that sex with his current leading lady was de rigueur. (She escaped.) The author reminds us of Fosse’s numerous awards, including an astonishing eight Tony Awards for choreography as well as one for direction. Lovers of dance—and members of the dance cognoscenti—will especially enjoy Winkler’s detailed approach; general readers, probably less so. The text is not especially reader-friendly—lengthy paragraphs, few textual breaks and divisions—and Winkler is hardly disinterested. He is a Fosse fan and sees even in his less-than-successful efforts the glow of genius, a glow that the author’s determined prose and careful explication convince us is indeed there.
Thorough research combines with deep affection and admiration to create a clear analysis and tribute.