Robert La Fosse: a Danseur with nothing to hide
During vacations in Spain I had the pleasure to be in great company: Robert La Fosse… correction: Robert La Fosse’s book “Nothing to hide” (1986).
My afternoons, during “siesta time” were a joy… I just read…
Robert La Fosse:
A Danseur with nothing to hide
Robbie was one of my favourite dancer’s at the end of the 70’s/beginning of the 80’s at ABT. Unfortunately due to “geographical reasons” I could not follow his later career, at the New York City Ballet… I still cherish wonderful memories of performances on stage and even on video (like, for example, “Romeo and Juliet” with Leslie Browne – I always liked Leslie, also such an actress, “Follow the Fleet” and “Push comes to shove” - Tharp’ s masterpiece - with Baryshnikov & Balanchine’s “La Sonnambula” with Gelsey Kirkland).
This book is a delight… full of wonderful memories, wit, humour, charm and sincerity! And with so many pictures I had never seen…
It contains lots of precious information: I was amazed to find out that, at the very beginning of his career, he danced on the Broadway stage on Bob Fosse’s “Dancin’ ” (The only advise that Bob Fosse gave him was: “Really good, Rob. Really good. Just one thing. You’ve GOT to change that name!”)
As an author, he sort of, “excuses” himself at the very beginning of the book with the following sentence: “I haven’t been able to study the English language as much as I’ve studied the vocabulary of Ballet”. (Isn’t this nice?)
And I add: THANK GOD FOR THAT! He is already such a good writer, such a good story-teller… If he had studied more English he might have really become a writer and the world of Ballet would have missed beautiful moments and a marvelous, very big talent!
And who knows? Perhaps he would have lost this sincerity of speech I so much admire…
There are moments in the book which are simply fascinating. I like very much people who have the capacity to express extreme complex thoughts in just a few words.
He can do this easily:
“People ask dancers how they remember so many different steps in so many Ballets. My answer has always been that it’s the same process by which people remember foreign languages or poems, lines in a play or trivia. A dancer’s ability to remember choreography is extraordinary to some people. I’m fascinated by people who can use their mind and their voice and their memory”
“Nothing to hide” is also an interesting, sometimes profound study about the chemistry between dancers: like his with Cynthia Gregory, Cynthia Harvey, Leslie Browne (with whom, I think, he shared a mutual empathy), Susan Jaffe, Darci Kistler, beautiful Patricia MacBride, Suzann Farrell... and even Makarova!
All of them idols of my generation! (I am only four months younger than Robert).
Also a very honest and sincere testimony about the lack of chemistry (at least during rehearsals) with Gelsey Kirkland – who was going through one of the most difficult phases of her life due to a sort of “dependence”…
In fact, Robert, a very honest and straight forward person that makes no fuss about hiding facts… (Isn’t the book called “Nothing to hide”?). It is quite obvious for his readers that, dancing with Miss Kirkland, was not one of “the best times in his life”. One feels his true dislike, this obvious feeling of antipathy toward her. And that is something called honesty.
An interesting story told very honestly without apprehension, fear, “Angst”… even when we feel so sorry for him: because of Gelsey’s neurotic ways to rehearse, he started to cry one day… and then all of a sudden she was comforting him… Gelsey… A marvelous dancer but definitely not an easy person…
It is beautiful the way he writes these pages, really analyzing his life. Not only as a dancer. So, I came to the conclusion that those beautiful, warm, sensitive, honest performances were in fact the true product of a beautiful, warm, sensitive person… Good to realize that… even if it is “just 30 years after”. It felt good, to realize that, although he was technically amazing, he paid even more attention to the characters he was portraying… Perhaps technique came just too easy for him…
He tells us about the rehearsals of “The prodigal son” (Balanchine), a ballet that until today is too much related to Edward Vilella (Eddie and Robbie could not have been more different...) and of his decision to make a point of never watching a video of Vilella doing it… not to be influenced. He created his own interpretation, performance of the character. And that is admirable. The great Mikhail Baryshnikov, at those times artistic director of the ABT, invested a lot in Robbie’s career. In fact he used to be even called his “protegé” (a beautiful word that I think is sometimes misunderstood in America) by the press.
Some pictures in the book show us how well both related on stage, during rehearsals: professionals, great artists, talents that respected each other! I wonder if they are still friends today!
There is still so much to tell about this book, about Robert de La Fosse but this is getting too long and I guess that you’ll have to buy the book! When I told him that I had loved his book, he answered: “Thank you. There's a lot more that happens after 1986. I need to start part 2. “Nothing to Wear”. Robbie, please do!!!!
Let me just finish today with one quote from his book: “Dance is an art form. It preceded Speech. We take it for granted now because we talk so much, but people used to relate through movement instead of words. But as Charles Schultz’s wonderful character Snoopy once said, “To those of us with true understanding, dancing is the only pure art form”. Thank you Snoopy and Bravo and Thanks Robbie!