Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happy, happy Conga!

As promised, a segment on a great dance scene. This time I'm going to talk about a great dance duo that, sadly, did very few numbers together: Tommy Rall and Bob Fosse. If I'm mistaken, they only did one such duet but I'd hate to make a comment without basing it in fact. At any rate, they do a wonderful dance-off in My Sister Eileen (1955).

Bob Fosse is the more famous of the two. He made appearances in very few films, so his fame stems primarily from his talents as a choreographer. If the name doesn't sound familiar, his choreography may ring a bell in films The Pajama Game (1957) (think "Steam Heat"), Sweet Charity (1969), and All That Jazz (1979). He worked with several stage productions too, if I'm not mistaken, but I'm not entirely acquainted with all of those. I will add, however, that there is an entire musical dedicated to his style. Fosse had the opportunity to choreograph My Sister Eileen and you can definitely see his style in the moves. Signatures included the hunched back, loose arms, legs curved in, and hats.

Tommy Rall does not receive the fame he deserves as an exceptional dancer. However, anyone who has seen his films usually recognizes him. For instance, do you remember these guys: Frank in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) and Bill Calhoun/Lucentio in Kiss Me Kate (1953)? That was Tommy Rall. His dancing was sexy and athletic. Sadly, because he is so undervalued as a performer, I don't know much about him. After looking at his IMdB profile (which doesn't include a picture, I might add), I can tell you that he began and ended his career with American Ballet Theater, but that is all I can say. If you know anything else about him, please let me know!

Both dancers were together in Kiss Me Kate and they danced a couple of numbers together (and I would love to highlight at least one of them in a later entry). This duet, however, is overlooked which is why I wanted to spotlight it today.

For discussion: what other male dance duos do you like? They're strangely hard to come by, considering the wealth of dancers at the time. Or, what do you think is the sexiest aspect of Fosse's style?

And, as always, thank you for reading!


  1. Very interesting post! I read that Beyoncé's ubiquitous "Single Ladies" was based off a Bob Fosse dance he choreographed. Very cool to see him in action.

    Oddly enough, the first male duo dance that comes to mind is "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan" with Astaire and Jack Buchanan. It's both elegant and understated while being quite masculine.

  2. One of my favorite dancers! He certainly isn't recognized nearly as much as he deserves. He is fantasic to watch. :) Seven Brides is a film that I have watched a hundred times over. Wonderful.

  3. My favorite male combos are Gene Kelly with Donald O'Connor and Gene Kelly with Fred Astaire. O'Connor and Kelly have very similar styles of moving and O'Connor has the skills to do all of Kelly's choreography quite beautifully-although Kelly is the more sexy and smooth. The only time that Astaire had a male partner of equal skill was Kelly. They looked great together, when doing a combination of their dancing styles. Too bad that was only once, but I think both men felt a bit hampered by the restrictions each imposed on the other. I think that Astaire with Buchanan or with Murphy were not as successful because Astaire just outshone his partner too much, even though he seemed to have adapted the dance to the partners' abilities.

  4. This Tommy Rall & Bob Fosse spectacular dance number was just shown on Classic Arts Showcase, free TV, and I was stunned that they seemed to perform the entire athletic piece without the slightest slip-up. It is a jaw-dropping performance. Check out the DVD, "My Sister Eileen".


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