LCCB is thrilled to welcome back to Lake Charles the dynamic duo of Amanda Edge and Billy Ward. After the overwhelming success of their staging of Symphonic Dances from West Side Story for Assemblé 2013, we simply had to have them back for another high impact number. Our dancers have eagerly anticipated Amanda and Billy’s arrival this week to continue the work they began on the Fosse Medley this summer.
This fourth installment in our Assemblé 2014 blog series gives a little background about the Fosse Medley. Catch Assemblé 2014 March 22 and 23 at Rosa Hart Theatre!
By Amanda Edge and Billy Ward
The great American choreographer, Bob Fosse, gained great posthumous success when a 1996 revival of his show, “Chicago,” ignited Broadway audiences, swept the Tony awards, and inspired the 2002 hit movie (The show is still on Broadway!). Ironically, although “Chicago” is the reason Fosse is such a recognizable name today, he never really liked it very much!
Fosse had a wonderfully prolific career, and was the only person to ever win a Tony award (“Pippin”), an Academy award (“Cabaret”), and an Emmy award (“Liza with a Z”) all in the same year (1973), winning Best Director for each. In fact, he received many awards in his relatively brief lifetime (he died of a heart attack at the age of 60).
Fosse was a dancer and performer at a young age, like the kids at Lake Charles Civic Ballet! He couldn’t get enough of it, and it wasn’t long before he was choreographing for other dancers. He developed a style that was immediately recognizable: the use of turned-in knees, sideways shuffling, rolled shoulders, and “jazz hands.” With Fred Astaire as an influence, he used props such as bowler hats, canes, gloves and chairs. (Michael Jackson was, in turn, hugely influenced by both of them!) Fosse’s trademark use of hats was influenced by his own self-consciousness, as he began losing his hair at a young age. He took what he felt to be a negative attribute and found a way to turn it into a unique asset. What a great lesson for all of us, as dancers and as people!
For this medley/tribute, Billy and I wanted to show the many sides of Bob Fosse using our own understanding of his style, and highlighting the assets of the Lake Charles Civic Ballet dancers and guests. So much of his work was cynical and dark, and choreographers usually home in on these qualities; but he had so much more going on! For a program like Assemblé, we wanted to celebrate the variety of his shows, his versatility, and some wonderful music. We begin with “All that Jazz” from “Chicago.” It’s so familiar to audiences, and it features the older students. Next is “Who’s Got the Pain” from the musical “Damn Yankees.” It’s a quirky little vaudeville-type number, and while it looks like a simple, animated dance, it’s deceptively tricky! Then, there’s a balletic transition to “Cool Hand Luke,” which he actually choreographed for a Bob Hope special in 1968. It’s an intimate, haunting and sensual piece, with subtleties that are difficult to execute. It’s followed by “Something Better Than This,” a vibrant number from “Sweet Charity,” in which a group of girls longing for a better life share a spirited, sassy dance. “Mr. Bojangles” from “Dancin'” is next, and it’s a number just for the men, featuring Colten singing this bittersweet song. The finale is a section of Benny Goodman’s version of the great jazz piece, “Sing Sing Sing.” It has a driving, pulsing beat, and it features the full cast. Every time I hear the music, a huge smile spreads across my face and I just want to get up and dance. The audience should be bouncing in their seats!”
PS: Bob Fosse’s only child, his daughter Nicole, was Billy’s classmate at North Carolina School of the Arts and at the School of American Ballet! She went on to dance in Phantom of the Opera, among other things, and they’re still in touch today…
Austin, TX native, Amanda Edge has an extensive professional resume including 15 years performing with New York City Ballet as well as performing in Twyla Tharp’s Come Fly Away and Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Ms. Edge holds a BA in Arts Administration from Fordham University.
William “Billy” Ward began his dance training with LCCB. His professional career led him to become a solo dancer with New York City Opera for 26 years. He has also appeared in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. Billy is a licensed massage therapist.