IDENTIFICATION AND BIO:
A principal dancer with American Ballet Theater (1977-86) and, since 1986, a principal dancer with New York City Ballet, Robert La Fosse is also a noted choreographer in the ballet, Broadway, and opera idioms. He has choreographed ten works for New York City Ballet and two for the School of American Ballet, in addition to commissioned works for companies in Europe and Canada. He has also choreographed for AIDS benefits and made works as contributions to AIDS education efforts. In 1993 he served as director and also choreographed a pas de deux, October, for a benefit organized by the Design Industries Foundation for AIDS (DIFFA).
La Fosse received his early ballet training at the Marsha Woody Academy of Dance in Beaumont, Texas. In New York he studied with David Howard at Harkness House and Stanley Williams at the School of American Ballet. In addition to his work in classical ballet, he has starred in Broadway productions of Bob Fosse's Dancin' (1979) and Jerome Robbins' Broadway (1989), receiving a Best Actor Tony nomination for the latter. In 1992 he was a guest artist with Twyla Tharp and Dancers at City Center.
KEY CONTACT PERSON(S)/EXECUTOR OF ESTATE:
Robert La Fosse
HUMAN REPOSITORIES OF THE WORK
(name and contact info, relationship to the artist and the work, assessment):
Robert La Fosse
In addition, La Fosse plans to designate one person responsible for restaging each of his works.
(location, format, condition, assessment):
La Fosse reports that almost all of his choreographic work has been documented on videotape, and that most of these tapes are archived at New York City Ballet. Some videotapes are in his personal collection stored at home. In addition, the following videotapes are held at the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library:
Dancing Hands (c1988)compilation videorecording of choreography focusing on hand movements and gestures; including choreography by Robert La Fosse of Ballet Hand Isolations with music by Grieg (Holberg Suite) and performed by the members of the New York City Ballet; one 3/4 in. videocassette (26 min.); call number MGZIC 9-2106.
DIFFA Presents a Demand Performance (1993)compilation video taped in performance at New York State Theater 18 October; presented by the Design Industries Foundation for AIDS in collaboration with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids; including choreography by Robert La Fosse of October with music by Keith Pruitt, costumes by Gary Lisz and performed by Susan Jaffe and Charles Askegard; four 3/4 in. videocassettes (163 min.); call number MGZIC 9-4078.
School of American Ballet: New Choreography (1987)compilation video of works danced by the students of the School of American Ballet and videotaped in performance at the Juilliard Theater, New York, 28 July by Virginia Brooks; includes Yesterdays choreographed by Robert La Fosse with music by Jerome Kern and danced by Caroline Cavallo, Heather Eberhardt, Michele Gifford, Andrea Long, Albert Evans, David Hedrick, David Holmes, and Eric Lindeman; vocalist, Karen Mason; one VHS videocassette (52 min.); call number MGZIA 4-556.
(location, format, condition, assessment):
La Fosse holds photographic documentation of his choreographic works in his personal files. A large number of his dances are also documented in the photographic files of the New York City Ballet.
(location, type [including notes taken by dancers], assessment):
La Fosse has not rendered any of his works in Labanotation. However, he does keep notebooks, stored at home.
(scores, sound recordings, set/costume designs):
These materials are maintained by New York City Ballet or by the other companies for which La Fosse has created works, and at home in personal files.
La Fosse has in his possession the following oral history:
La Fosse, Robert, interviewed by Ronald L. Davis. 1990. Oral History No. 468. Dallas, Texas: Southern Methodist University Oral History Program (17 March).
In addition, he has written an autobiography:
La Fosse, Robert, with Andrew Mark Wentink. 1987. Nothing to Hide: A Dancer's Life. New York: D.I. Fine.
Also, the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library includes the following entry for an interview transcript:
La Fosse, Robert, interviewee (1981)Interview with Robert La Fosse; edited transcript of interview by John Gruen recorded 3 May in New York City as background for Dance Magazine article; oral history covering topics such as: La Fosse's background and training, American Ballet Theater, dancing Prodigal Son, and various roles La Fosse has danced; 13 leaves; call number MGZMT 3-1166.
(location of newspaper clippings, printed programs, press releases, notes, files, diaries; assessment):
La Fosse keeps personal papers at home, including clippings, programs, press releases, and notes. His mother also collects published materials and memorabilia, as does the New York City Ballet press office.
The Dance Collection of the New York Public Library maintains clippings files for "La Fosse, Robert" and for "Positive me (La Fosse)," call number MGZR.
(archival assistance? storage? other?):
La Fosse is in great need of archival assistance to put his materials in order. “I desperately need an archivist,” he said. La Fosse previously paid an assistant to help copyright his choreography, but the assistant left for another job at higher pay. La Fosse would also like to make a will.
OTHER RELEVANT INFORMATION:
A brief interview with Robert La Fosse (20 October 2000):
"I choreographed one of the first AIDS musicals at La Mama, called Positive Me!, with Los Angeles-based actress Lisa Edelstein, who works in television and film. It was geared toward high school and younger audiences, to educate them about safer sex and who gets AIDS. Beyond that, I have been an activist mostly in the form of organizing benefits and doing the AIDS Walk every year with Heather Watts and Jock Soto. Everything that I do in my choreography has some sort of reference to love or loss, but I can't say that my art is commenting on the virus. I‘m HIV-positive myself, and I'm living with it on a daily basis in a way that's personal. Whenever I think of an AIDS ballet, I think of people running around being the blood and the virus. Then the protease inhibitor comes in and dances the virus to death, which is so hokey to me. I‘m not a very political choreographer. I make dances that are mostly just about dancing. Lately I've been working more in opera and musical theater. I just came out about a month ago with my HIV status. I won't do articles in magazines unless I can edit them myself. I know what happens between the interview and the editing process and publication. I want full control."
How is it that you came out as HIV-positive?
"I did it during a seminar with HIV Arts NetworkI'm on the boardthat included a day of performers, dancers, singers, and drag queens at the Judson Church. I came out during a panel. I didn't plan it. I assume that everyone in my world knows about my disease, everyone in my company at least. I've been a guinea pig for new HIV drugs from the very early stages. I've been very talkative about it, and the dance world is such a small cliquey thing. So outing myself was not a big deal for me. I just don't want to become a poster child. I don't want it to take away from my work as an artist."
LIST OR OVERVIEW OF WORKS
(title, premiere date, music, production notes, performers):
Rappacini's Daughter (1985)pas de duex for tour of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Company; performed by Robert LaFosse and Leslie Brown with music by Hector Berlioz (Harold in Italy).
Positive Me! (c. 1986)choreography by Robert La Fosse; musical with music and lyrics by Lisa Edelstein and performed at La Mama etc.
Yesterdays (1987)choreographed by Robert La Fosse for four couples at the School of American Ballet; music by Jerome Kern.
Woodland Sketches (1988)choreographed for four couples at the New York City Ballet (American Music Festival); music by Edward Mc Dowell and costumes by Gary Lisz; performed later by Atlanta Ballet.
Ballet Hand Isolations (1988)choreographed by Robert La Fosse and danced by La Fosse, Melinda Roy and David Otto; part of PBS Alive From Off Center Dancing Hands with music by Edward Grieg.
Haydn Trumpet Concerto (1989)performed by the New York City Ballet with Kyra Nichols, Darci Kistler, Jock Soto and corps de ballet; music by Joseph Haydn (Trumpet Concerto in E Flat); grant awarded by New York State Council of the Arts; premiere 22 June.
Gretry Pas de Deux (1990)performed by the New York City Ballet with music by Gretry.
Puss in Boots (1990)choreographed for the School of American Ballet Workshop; music by Larry Spivack and costumes and sets by Gary Lisz.
Waltz Trilogy (1991)performed by New York City Ballet; music by Carl Maria von Weber, Franz Liszt, and Tchaikovsky; costumes by Gary Lisz and lighting by Stan Presner; premiere 7 February.
Four for 4 (1992)choreographed as part of the Guggenheim Museum's Works in Process for Heather Watts, Jock Soto, Robert La Fosse and Mellisa Podcasy; music by Keith Pruitt.
Osiris (1992)choreographed as part of the Guggenheim Museum's Works in Process; music by Larry Spivack and costumes by Gary Lisz; premiere 12 April; performed again 20 April 1993.
I Have My Own Room (1992)choreographed for 14 New York City Ballet members as part of the Diamond Project; music by Eve Beglarian and costumes by Robert La Fosse (under the name of Paula Van Sandt).
Spring Break (1993)choreographed for Barnard College dance students and later for the Stars of American Ballet; music by Martin Stock.
Missa Sicca (c. 1993)choreographed by Robert La Fosse in collaboration with Peter Martins for the New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet; music by Michael Torke.
October (20 April 1993)choreographed by Robert La Fosse; music by Keith Pruitt and costumes by Gary Lisz as part of the Guggenheim Museum's Works in Process.
"A Demand Performance" (19 October 1993)AIDS benefit sponsored by The Design Industries Foundation for AIDS (DIFFA); danced by Susan Jaffe and Charles Askegard.
Light Shall Lift Them (12 November 1993)choreographed by Robert La Fosse in collaboration with John Kelly; performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Adrianna Lecouvreur (1994)Metropolitan Opera.
Rags (1994)choreographed by Robert La Fosse and danced by the Bavarian State Opera Ballet, Aspen Ballet (199x), Russian Ballet Theatre of Delaware(199x) and the Icelandic Ballet (1995); music by Scott Joplin and costumes by Gary Lisz.
Danses de Cour (1994)choreographed by Robert La Fosse for the New York City Ballet as part of the Diamond Project; music (Couperin) arranged by Richard Strauss and costumes by Gary Lisz.
Bach Sonata # 1 (9 August 1995)a benefit performance for Dancers Responding to AIDS; Martin Richards presents Dancers in the Afternoon; with music by J.S. Bach.
Three Piano Pieces (1995)choreographed by Robert La Fosse for theNew York City Ballet's Annual Guild Luncheon and performed by Helene Alexopulos, Rebecca Metzger, Albert Evans and Tom Gold; music by Jonathon Sheffer.
Die Fledermaus (1996?)performed by the New York City Opera; music by Strauss.
25.Counting Things (1996?)danced by Robert La Fosse and Jamie Bishton at Symphony Space in New York City; for Gay Pride Day the year of the Gay Olympics in New York; music by David Bryne.
Fallen Angels (1997)choreographed by Robert La Fosse in collaboration with Margie Gillis; performed at the Joyce Theater in New York City; music by Steve Martlan; premiere 6 May.
Splendora (1995)musical performed at Sag Harbor (theater?) and later at The American Place Theater in New York City (1996?).
Central Park (1996)film shown at Sundance Film Festival and on PBS; directed by Ethan Silverman.
The Duel (1996)performed as a Gala Performance in Toronto with Igor Zelensky and Jock Soto, and at an AIDS benefit for Austin Festival of Dance (11 April 1997) with Robert La Fosse and Jock Soto; music by Beethoven.
A Salute to Fred and Ginger (1988)performed by Stars of American Ballet; music by Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and various composers.
Anyone Can Whistle (1996?)musical performed at Carnegie Hall; music by Steven Sondheim.
The Wind Remains (199x)opera directed byTina Landau and Alice Tully Hall; music by Paul Bowles.
The Student Prince (198x)New York City Opera.
Stars and Stripes Forever (1996)performed by Les Ballets Trocadero de Monte Carlo; music by John Phillip Sousa (arranged by Hershy Kay).
Three Preludes (1987)performed by the Southwest Regional Ballet Festival; music by George Gershwin.
Concerto in E (11 April 1997)performed by the Alberta Ballet; music by J. S. Bach.
Concerto in Five Movements (1997)choreographed for the New York City Ballet by Robert La Fosse as part of the Diamond Project; music by Sergei Prokoviev, costumes by Gary Lisz and lighting by Mark Stanley.
The Nutcracker (1997)performed by the Russian Ballet Theater of Delaware; music by Tchaikovsky; premiere December.
Duke! (1999)one section choreographed by Robert La Fosse (others done by Susan Stroman and Garth Fagan) for the New York City Ballet; music by Duke Ellington; premiere 3 June.
Die Fledermaus (1998)choreographed for the Metropolitan Opera; directed by David Kneuss with new libretto by Betty Comden and Adolph Green; music by Strauss.
The Great Gatsby (1999)Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago (2000); music by John Harbison; premiere December.
A Child's Garden (2000)musical based on the autobiographical writings of Robert Louis Stevenson; performed by the Melting Pot Theatre Company with music-Louis Rosen; premiere 10 December.
The Four Seasons (1999)performed at Martha@Mother (theatrical show) with Robert La Fosse as Isadora Duncan; music by Felix Mendelssohn; premiere March.
Tributary (2000)choreographed by Robert La Fosse in collaboration with Robert Garland as part of the Diamond Project; performed by New York City Ballet and Dance Theater of Harlem (both companies on-stage together at New York State Theater).
Le Petit Ballet (1999)performed by the Beaumont Civic Ballet with music by Donizetti.
Alex In Wonder (2000)film; written and directed by Drew Ann Rosenberg and starring Ellen Greene, Robert Hays, Angela Gots, and Genevieve Bujold.
- Gruen, John. 1981. "Robert La Fosse, Marianna Tcherkassky, George de la Pena: Spirits of Adventure." Dance Magazine (September): 58-69, illus.
- ________. 1985. "ABT's New Generation: Susan Jaffe and Robert La Fosse." Dance Magazine (May): 100-104, illus.
- ________. 1988. "New York City Ballet's Robert La Fosse: an Eighties Adventure." Dance Magazine (March): 52-56, illus.
- La Fosse, Robert, with Andrew Mark Wentink. 1987. Nothing to Hide: A Dancer's Life. New York: D.I. Fine.
- Reiter, Susan. 1999. "Robert La Fosse: Addicted to Dance." Dance Magazine (July): 64-67, illus.
- _______. 1999. "A Performer's Selves, at 39, Prepare Their Futures." New York Times (30 May).