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Bostock brings Fosse-focused dance class to Playhouse


All the fuss over Fosse can be measured in feet.

But understanding the late legendary choreographer and theater icon Bob Fosse, who first stepped to the forefront of the Broadway stage as choreographer of “The Pajama Game,” a sleeper hit just a handful of years after he had started out as an actor, is not limited to his fancy footwork: Body movement was a metric that also had a hand in his bulging bio and body of work.

And those hands ...

“Jazz hands,” regales Jessica Bostock of the signature musical digital dancing that helped make waves in such Fosse classics as “Pippin” and “Chicago.”

These days Bostock has her own role to play in perpetuating Fosse’s feisty brand of bonhomie and bombshell moves that blistered the dance floor in an Oscar, Emmy and Tony awards-winning career spanning some four decades. She is doing just that, offering a tip of the bowler hat to the choreographer/director by introducing “Fosse for Beginners,” a three-session dance class as part of the Bucks County Playhouse’s summer season.

For participants ages 15 and up, “Fosse for Beginners” begins June 12 and runs to June 26 at the Lambertville Hall in Lambertville, N.J.

All that jazz that was his life on and offstage was a critical component of Fosse’s fierce and forceful commitment to an exacting artistic integrity that netted attention for flamboyant fishnet-stocking clad characters and their sassy shoulder rolls.

“Fosse was one of the first directors/choreographers who approached dance as a way to show character,” said Bostock.

A character himself, Fosse infused his work with a wide-eyed cynical complexity that appeals just as much today as it did when he innovated it as the anti-hero steam-heated hotspot of “The Pajama Game.”

“So much of the material he offered was larger than life,” noted Bostock.

As his marital — and extramarital — relationships were a large part of his personal playlist, he acknowledged the important part women played in his life, not as tagalongs but titans in their own right.

“When I first saw ‘Chicago,’” which is now the longest-running revival in Broadway history, “I was taken with how Fosse portrayed women in strong powerful ways,” said Bostock.

Students at her upcoming class will be schooled in the ways of Fosse’s fastidious focus on the integration of mind and movement, and the angular antics amid his off-kilter killer choreography that cemented his status as a dance demigod.

A longtime fan of Fosse, Bostock has a bio that basks in the grace and grit that make the grade in a business where terpsichorean talent doesn’t always find its spot in the spotlight. But it has for her, with some 75 productions to her credit as choreographer and director at BCP and Lambertville’s Music Mountain Theater among the best of the burbs.

“I’m a choreographer first,” says the Bucks County Playhouse perennial.

Her involvement in the art of movement is far from an academic challenge as she proved as owner/artistic director of the Motion Dance Company. But when it comes to academics, she has chalked up successes at the blackboard: Bostock is an assistant professor of dance and theater at Bryn Athyn College, where she also fills the shoes as artistic director of the school’s inFlux Dance Company.

Nothing in flux with her career; it’s a steady stream of toeing the line successfully. And she wants to pass off that knowledge gleaned over the years to her students at BCP.

Bostock will do her level best to help “Fosse for Beginners” novices sidestep any doubts they might have, intending to give them “a basic toolbox that will definitely help with auditions.”

Calling “Pippin” “one of my favorite shows,” the choreographer now turns to prepping for her playhouse pursuits. What makes Bostock so busy? “I’ve got magic to do,” she says with appreciation of the “Pippin” hot challenge she has ahead of her.

Michael Elkin is a playwright, theater critic and novelist who lives in Abington. He writes columns about theater and the arts.

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