Research Paper: Michael Bennett Difiglia

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[. . .] He had the tendency to be symbolic and serious (Les Noces, 1965). The work that was done by him in the later part of his life was more abstract unlike the ones he did in his earlier life which were more character or story led.

Robbins liked dancing to emerge from strolling or walking in a natural manner. This is also evident in the West Side Story's opening sequence and also in a lot of his ballets too. Even with all the abstract nature of his work you always feel this pull towards the feeling and character in the work done by Robbins.

Comparing the 3 styles of choreography

Fosse was a choreographer with very innovative mind but he had a particular style of choreography unlike Bennett who was influenced and motivated by the characters and the musical instruments used in the plays. Bennett as well as Fosse was inspired by Jerome Robbins. Bennett felt that Robbins' work had totality in it. Fosse made use of light in his work to direct the attention of his audience to various things on the stage and he would make use of the idea of subtext which would allow the dancers to think of something while on the stage. Whereas, Bennett had the ability to choreograph characters like he did in A Chorus Line as well as choreograph the sets as he did in the play Dream girls. This new technique of choreographing the sets proved to be a breakthrough for him. Plexiglass towers were used in this play and they moved throughout the play to create continuously changing space and perspective.

Robbins's work like Fosse and Bennett's had variety in it as well. The most prominent thing in his choreography was the way that he would introduce dance in his routine, it seemed to come very naturally. He preferred his dancing routines to be in complete accordance with the music. His work was an inspiration to many especially Bennett and Fosse. Unlike Fosse and Bennett's work, Robbins's work had a more abstract feel to it. But even with the abstractness the audience could feel a pull towards the feelings and emotions of the characters. Academic ballet was Robbins's favorite however; he liked making use of famous and everyday movements as well. Therefore, it can be said that while all three of these choreographers had a love for music and dancing they all had individual styles of choreographing. Fosse preferred having some control on his characters and the sets which is evident by his use of light on the sets so that he could control and direct the attention of his audience. Bennett preferred untraditional form of choreography as he didn't always follow the trends; he preferred his choreography to be more organic as he did with the sets of Dream girls in which he had choreographed the sets. Lastly, Robbins earlier work shows his preference for more natural dancing routines which synchronize with the music. However, is later work has a more abstract quality to it but even that abstractness his performances have enough power in them to pull the audiences and make them feel what the characters feel.

Conclusion

Bennett's talent was not only commendable but transformative. His contributions can be traced to his ceaseless efforts to give the audience a new experience through a complete alteration of music, dance and storyline. He wanted only to delight and surprise his viewers; connecting with them emotionally and stylistically. It is wholly possible to state that Bennett revolutionized Broadway at a time when its demise was in sight.

A theater-goer could expect to see multiple dance styles -- such as jazz ad tap -- and a continuous 'pushing of the envelope' to create productions with techniques never before applied. This was particularly true of his dogged attention to cinematic techniques that gave the dual feel of sitting in a movie theater while experiencing a live production.

Bennett was the recipient of several directorial and choreographic awards; and no one can doubt that his contributions to Broadway resonate today. He is considered as the sole force behind the total revival of Broadway. His distinct methodology set him apart from his contemporaries. Some believe it was because he had the ability to get to the heart of a production through simplicity not complexity (Reynolds and McCormik). Some were enchanted by his use of sound; others by the 'dazzling principals' he brought to the stage. His gift of conceptualization was absolute and incomparable.

According to Reynolds (674); Bennett laid bare for his audiences the distinct differences between commercial theater and concert dance. His passion for the work connected with his audiences; and at one point he ever created his own ballet -- an idea borne from work with a group of dancers in his studio. However, Bennett was also a collaborative producer and his work was always the perfect combination of song, narration, dance and -- sometimes -- comedy. Yet, in each and every instance harmony reigned and a production was subtly infused with his unique style -- sometimes jazzy, other times athletic -- the dance ran the gamut of ballet-like to angular; and the mood romantic to bumbling -- but always engaging and breathtaking.

Finally, Bennett's vision of what theater could be changed Broadway forever. His lack of creative inhibition allowed him full license to experiment until he was pleased and satisfied with the results -- as was the audience (Suskin 416). He was principled; never straying from his beliefs -- despite what others might be saying about him. His focus was his career and the end product; and no matter the turmoil of his personal life -- it never came to taint the work he offered the world. The time he was able to offer his career was cut short by the ravages of a disease that came to grip the nation and the world as well. Yet, Bennett continued to work until the end of his shortened life -- and we are all the better for it.

References

Clark, Daryl Kent. "Michael Bennett: A Singular Sensation,." 100 Treasures - Michael Bennett. Dance Heritage Coalition, Jan. 2012. Web. 26 Feb. 2014. From http://www.danceheritage.org/treasures/bennett_essay_clark.pdf

Cerasaro, P. 2013 Tony Awards Clip Countdown: #7 - Michael Bennett Masterpieces. 2013. Web. 8 Feb. 2014. http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/2013-Tony-Awards-Clip-Countdown-7-Michael-Bennett-Masterpieces-20130603

Cohen, Selma J., and Dance Perspective Foundation, eds. "Musical Theater."International Encyclopedia of Dance. Oxford: Oxford University, 2005. Online.

Dietz, Dan. Off Broadway Musicals, 1910-2007: Casts, Credits, Songs, Critical Reception and Performance Data of More than 1,800 Shows. Jefferson, NC: McFarland &, 2010. Print.

Derezinski, Amelia. Star Turns: Dancing on Broadway. New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 2004. Print.

Everett, William A., and Paul R. Laird.The Cambridge Companion to the Musical. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002. Print.

Gussow, Mel. "A Tip of the Hat to Bob Fosse."The New York Times. The New York Times, 03 Oct. 1987. Web. 15 Mar. 2014.

Long, Robert Emmet.Broadway, the Golden Years: Jerome Robbins and the Great Choreographer Directors, 1940 to the Present. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003.Print

Mandelbaum, Ken. A Chorus Line and the Musicals of Michael Bennett. New York: St. Martin's, 1989. Print.

Reynolds, Nancy. No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. Print.

Shewey, Don. "The Musical According To… [END OF PREVIEW]

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