Innovation through our Limitations: The Creativity of Bob Fosse

We often view our limitations as stumbling blocks. What might happen if we embraced them and created through them instead?

Bob looked different than the other dancers. He was small. His shoulders rounded slightly and his feet were a bit pigeon-toed. He had great rhythm, but with that body he would surely not get far as a dancer. Dancing is about length of line and he was all angles. Not to mention that his early training included burlesque… so “low class”. He had hang-ups, too. Absolutely hated his own hands and his thinning hair. What a mess of imperfections and insecurities.

Bob Fosse with Veronica Lindfors in Pal Joey (1963)

Bob Fosse with Veronica Lindfors in Pal Joey (1963)

What happened to Bob? Did he vanish into obscurity? No, he turned the dance world on its head by creating his own choreographic style, one that would make his name far more famous than any of those other dancers. His name was Bob Fosse, and in his sixty wild years on this earth, he was famous for his energy, his passion, and his originality.

The limitations he possessed were fully engaged and converted into strengths in his choreography. Shoulder rolls and hip rolls celebrated the uniqueness of his own body and were sensual and fascinating to look at. Arms and legs were often bent and angular, giving a dynamic sense of motion and lots of attitude. Legs were allowed to turn in at the knees, expressing pain, sensuality or humor. As to the hands and the receding hairline? Fosse made gloves and hats part of his choreography as well.

© Ontario Chamber of Commerce with CCLicense

© Ontario Chamber of Commerce with CCLicense

This new form of dance was very well suited to the growing art form known as musical theater, due in large part to Fosse’s background in burlesque. Can we imagine Cabaret or Chicago without those influences? From Fosse’s own limitations, real or imagined, came a new style that energized and engaged the public and sold tickets.

Unfortunately, in the pursuit of perfection, many of us censor artistic leanings within ourselves out of either fear of failure or a rigid acceptance of tradition and duty. If we can’t hit a certain mark or we don’t fit into a certain mold we are encouraged not to try. This is a terribly judgmental way to live and it limits our creative potential enormously. True, not everyone may be cut out to be a ballet dancer, but does that make one’s potential as a creative human being any less valuable or interesting?

Daniel Ilabaca does a cat balance.  image © Jon Lucas with CCLicense

Daniel Ilabaca does a cat balance.
image © Jon Lucas with CCLicense

 

2 thoughts on “Innovation through our Limitations: The Creativity of Bob Fosse

  1. Pingback: Author’s Choice: Favorite Articles of 2013 | synkroniciti

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