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The Influence of Jazz Dance Legend, Bob Fosse

Updated: Jun 7, 2022

This week, we’re celebrating World Dance Day and International Jazz Day! Both of these beloved days grant creatives the ability to express themselves in any way they choose, whether it be separately or as a combined unit. Jazz music and dance are also created in similar ways, as both require the human body to carry it out, but when mixed together, neither can exist without the other. The smooth and languid essence of jazz music works in tandem with dance to create jazz dance, a style that is best known to have been practiced by jazz dance legend, Bob Fosse.

Fosse is known to the world of jazz dance to be an immensely influential man because of his distinct and unique style of dance. In an article by Treva Bedinghaus at liveabout, Fosse’s life and legacy are told in detail. Even though many years have gone by since his passing, his choreographies are still used in Broadway musicals and are practiced in dance studios all around the world (Bedinghaus, 2019). Born in 1927, Fosse grew up in Chicago, Illinois, where he was constantly surrounded by dance and theater. When he was a teenager, he got the chance to perform around Chicago, and later on military and naval bases in the U.S. His experience dancing in nightclubs and cabarets allowed him to hone his craft and technique and helped him create his distinct dance style (Bedinghaus 2019).

While jazz dance had surely existed before Bob Fosse became a dancer and performer, it was his specific style that could be recognized in an instant. In another article about him, writer Elena Nicolaou of Refinery29 talks about what made Fosse’s dance style so memorable. With stylish and sexually suggestive moves, Fosse’s signature moves were among three: turned-in knees, sideways shuffling and rolled shoulders, and his “...slow, angular sensuality” was linked to many Broadway musicals (Nicolaou, 2019). While he didn’t invent this move, perhaps the most iconic of all his signature moves are jazz hands, which are used everywhere from musical theater to cheerleading routines.

Bob Fosse won eight Tony Awards for his work choreographing for musicals, one for directing, and eight Academy Awards for the direction of the feature film “Cabaret”. His Tony Awards were for the musicals “Pippin” and “Sweet Charity” but he also received an Emmy for the musical concert “Liza with a ‘Z’”, starring actress and dancer Liza Minelli (Bedinghaus, 2019). In 1973, his achievements of winning Tony, Emmy, and Academy Awards made him the person to win all three entertainment awards in that year.

Bob Fosse was a creator in every sense of the word and constantly had his hands in every aspect of the arts, whether it was choreography, directing, or acting. He went from touring around his hometown of Chicago as a young boy to taking part in Broadway musicals that people will never forget. Fosse’s humble beginnings are a lesson to all of us that every door is open to us, and that we must seize every opportunity that comes to us. His way of reaching people through jazz music and dance was unforgettable, and his legacy will continue to influence generations of young dancers in the future.

In honor of International Jazz Day, we have curated a collection of playlists that we’ll continue adding/changing so you always have new music: New and Upcoming Artists, Songs of TikTok, International Jazz, and more. Check us out on Spotify!



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