Fosse developed a jazz dance style that was immediately recognisable, exuding a stylised, cynical sexuality. Bowler hats, fishnet stockings, canes and chairs were disinctive trademarks. His dance routines are intense and demanding, requiring considerable stamina. Technically the syle involves moving one part of the body whilst holding the rest in a still pose – a combination of precisely-executed gestures, both sinuous flows and rapid kicks and jerks. The filmed routines in Cabaret (1972) are particularly characteristic: the vulgar energy of vaudeville and burlesque updated and cooly contained within a slick, knowing sophistication.
He was born in Chicago, Illinois as Robert Louis Fosse, which he shortened to Bob Fosse for his professional work. His career in dance began early. At age 13 he toured with his own dance act, The Riff Brothers, and was already choreographing by the time he was 15. He first appeared in film dancing in Give A Girl A Break and Kiss Me, Kate, both released in 1953.
- New Girl in Town (1957)
- Redhead (1959) (director and choreographer)
- How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961)
- Little Me (1962) (director and choreographer)
- Sweet Charity (1966) (director and choreographer)
- Pippin (1972) (director and choreographer)
- Chicago (1975) (director and choreographer)
- Dancin' (1977) (director and choreographer)
and several films:
In 1986 he directed and choreographed the Broadway production "Big Deal", which he also wrote.
Fosse earned many awards for his works. Among them were a Tony Award for Pippin, the Academy Award for Directing for Cabaret and an Emmy Award for "Liza with a Z". He was the first person to win these three most important awards in the same year.
His musical All That Jazz (1979) won the Palme d'Or. It is an uncompromising, semi-autobiographical fantasy that portrays a chain-smoking choreographer being driven by his A-type personality to the brink of a heart attack.
There was a resurgence of interest in Fosse's work following revivals of his stage shows and the film release of Chicago (2002). Rob Marshall's choreography for the film emulates the Fosse style but avoids using specific moves from the original. In 2004 the stage show Fosse itself won a Tony Award for Best Musical.
- Bob Fosse said of himself in an interview, "My friends know that to me happiness is when I am merely miserable and not suicidal."