I’ve been reading Fosse by Sam Wasson. This biography of acclaimed dancer, choreographer, and director Bob Fosse includes several chapters about his childhood years in Chicago. Bob Fosse grew up very near to where I live now, and I felt a little tinge of something (joy? pride? recognition?) whenever a familiar landmark or intersection was mentioned. Why?
I’ve been a fan of Bob Fosse for a long time. When I was a kid Kiss Me Kate was one of my favorite movies, although I didn’t yet know the significance of the young dancer/choreographer in a bit part, but later I discovered Pippin and Cabaret. For at least 20 years my favorite film has been All That Jazz.
Dance teachers taught me about Bob Fosse. I tried to emulate his style. Tried to be Gwen Verdon or Ann Reinking. (Impossible!)
Despite all that and also knowing that he created the musical Chicago, I did not know that Bob Fosse grew up in Chicago.
Well, maybe I did know that. I probably knew at some point, but I let that piece of trivia slip from my brain. At the time I didn’t know Chicago. I had never been here except to the airport. Why would I care if Bob Fosse was born in Chicago?
But now Chicago is my home. It’s odd, but I find myself liking Bob Fosse a little more because he lived near my neighborhood. Because he started dancing in a studio that was at an intersection I often drive past.
Places claim people. At least they claim successful people. If someone becomes famous or wins an award pride wells up among people who live where that person lived or who went to the same school. This is not limited to people who knew the famous person or even were there at the same time. Don’t you find that a little weird?
Each place that claims a successful person likely was home to an equal number of horrible people with whom they’d prefer not be associated. Furthermore each place was probably home to a lot more people who fall somewhere in between hometown pride and hometown shame.
People are not defined by where they lived or went to school. They are defined by what they did in those places, who they knew there, and what they did with those experiences. That last one is part of the reason why the other boys who danced in Bob Fosse’s act as a tween did not grow up to be Bob Fosse even though they lived in the same place and had the same hobby.
Now I’m reading the part of the book after Bob Fosse left Chicago. It remains interesting because it is still the story of someone I find fascinating, but I must admit that as silly as it seems I miss the references to Ravenswood Elementary and Sheridan Road.
Luckily, the Bob Fosse story has moved on to another city I know.
New York City.
Where I was born.
Not that it matters.
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