Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Chita Rivera Explains Great Choreographers

I still haven't seen Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life yet, but from what I've heard and seen, it is more than just one dance number after another. Hopefully I'll learn something about her and the people with whom she has worked.

Fosse was disappointing because I felt I didn't learn any more about the man than I knew before I saw the show. That is one of the things I enjoyed about The Boy From Oz and Jersey Boys -- you gain some insight into the artist. Perhaps if Mamma Mia! had been "the ABBA story" I would have enjoyed it more.

There was a cool article in the Sunday December 18, 2005 issue of The New York Times ("Above All, Do Not Make Eyes At Bob Fosse" by Claudia Rocca) that gave Chita's perspective on the four major choreographers she showcases in one of the show's numbers:

"You do one step, and you know it's Jack Cole," said Ms. Rivera, who first worked with him on the 1953 musical "Zenda." Viewed as the father of theatrical jazz dance, Cole trained in modern but he incorporated everything from East Indian dancing to Graham to ballet. "He was universal," Ms. Rivera said.

"When Bob Fosses showed you a movement, you had to be so focused and so small and so clean," Ms. Rivera siad, recalling how he fired a woman from the film "Sweet Charity" when she couldn't control her eyes. From him, Ms. Rivera learned minimalism. "You do it long enough, it becomes a part of you."

Robbins, who discovered Ms. Rivera when she was a 17-year-old ballet student, is especially dear in her memory. "He could do all of it," she said. "He made dancers actors." She knew nothing of Broadway, but once he gave her a major role in "Call Me Madam," she said, "I knew that's probably where I would be."

If Fosse taught stillness, Gennaro, a "West Side Story" choreographer, taught speed. "Peter was like a jazz musician, scatting. His feet were so fast." Ms. Rivera said. "His footwork was fast, complicated and very whimsical at times. He kept changing it, too. You had to catch it the first time around."

Now this is what I'm talkin' about!

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