Bob Fosse: Biography, Quotes & Death

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Bob Fosse was an American dancer, choreographer, and director known for the Tony award-winning musicals 'Chicago' and 'Cabaret'. In this lesson, we will learn about Bob Fosse's life and quotes that make him memorable.


Ever wonder where the phrase, 'Live like you'll die tomorrow, work like you don't need the money, and dance like nobody's watching' came from? Well, it was Bob Fosse. Bob Fosse was a wildly popular and successful choreographer, dancer, and director linked to Tony award-winning productions, such as Chicago and Cabaret. Fosse established a career in musical production after serving in the military. He earned enough Tony and Academy awards to set records in the entertainment industry. In this lesson, we will review Bob Fosse's life and contributions to his field.

Bob Fosse
Bob Fosse

Early Life

Bob Fosse was born in Chicago on June 23, 1927. Due to his early interest and talent in dancing, Fosse received a formal education in dance and before he hit adulthood, he was performing regularly at night clubs. It was his exposure to night clubs that taught him about burlesque and vaudeville style.

After graduating from high school, Fosse enlisted in the military. Upon completing his service, he relocated to New York City and began his dance career.

Fosse's Career

Bob Fosse struggled to catch a break until 1953 when he got a small part in the movie musical, Kiss Me Kate, where director George Abbott and choreographer Jerome Robbins spotted his talent.

Bob Fosse choreographed George Abbott's production, Pajama Game, which revealed Fosse's distinct dance style. The industry fell in love with his combination of Vaudeville and complex dance moves. He earned his first Tony Award for Best Choreography for his work on Pajama Game.

Although the musical industry loved Bob Fosse, he encountered criticism from industry professionals that claimed his choreography was too provocative. It was that overly-suggestive style and use of the body that would become Fosse's signature dance style. Fosse believed that dancing was incredibly personal and said, 'Don't dance for the audience; dance for yourself.'

By 1960, Bob Fosse was a well-known name in the musical industry. He choreographed many smash hits, including Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity, Chicago, Pippin, and Cabaret. During his production of Damn Yankees, he began a romantic relationship with Gwen Verdon, and they had their first child together. Verdon and Fosse formed a lifelong creative relationship together after this production.

Even though Fosse's choreography was earning awards, and the productions were huge successes, his received pressure from producers and directors to soften his dance moves. To overcome the pressure, he chose to direct and choreograph many of his most famous musicals.

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