I’m forever returning to this video of Debbie Allen dancing Bob Fosse’s I’m a Brass Band at the Tonys. It’s just such a shining example of the kind of commitment that any choreographer dreams of.
From the New York Times:
Debbie Allen gets up from the table at a midtown restaurant. ”It’s the finger tips on the hat, the shoulders that move, one and then the other – this is Fosse and Gwen working together,” she says.
Miss Allen is describing the dance movements she learned for ”Sweet Charity” – the demanding dance routines for which she was coached by Gwen Verdon, the original star of Bob Fosse’s hit of 20 years ago. Miss Allen’s portrayal of Charity, a woman of the streets, opened recently on Broadway at the Minskoff Theater, and both she and Mr. Fosse’s revival have received critical praise and have been nominated for Tony Awards.
Miss Verdon coached Miss Allen in a Los Angeles studio for a West Coast run of the show about a year ago, sharing a theatrical tradition with other dancers who have coached proteges in their previous roles. ”Dancing with Gwen is like playing a duet with Miles Davis,” Miss Allen said. ”It’s an artistic high.”
Miss Verdon has similar views about Miss Allen. ”Debbie learns so fast and catches on to the essence of the scene so fast,” Miss Verdon said in a telephone interview. ”I knew it was Debbie’s role the minute we started working together.” ‘A Kind of Feistiness’
She said she remembered fondly the time during rehearsals when Miss Allen, who didn’t know how to pop open a flattened opera hat, learned the technique. In the show, during a scene in which Charity sings ”If My Friends Could See Me Now,” the actor with whom Charity is having a date gives her the opera hat. Charity doesn’t know what it is, or how to open it. The actor shows her, and then she proceeds to use her fingers to open it, then closes it under her arm and giggles. She pops it on her rear, and it opens, then closes it between her knees.
”What thrills me the most was that she caught the idea at once of the fun and the game of how many ways you can pop open a hat,” Miss Verdon said. ”Some people just dance and do everything technically correct. She had great fun doing it.