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Tuesday March 27, 2001

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Perfecting Imperfection

By Lisa Lucas

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Award-winning musical opens tonight at Centennial Hall

Bob Fosse's choreography may be legendary, but it's definitely not perfect.

And that's just the way he intended it, said LaMae Caparas, a swing-dancing cast member of "Fosse," a celebrated musical which redefines the works of the famed choreographer.

"He (Fosse) played on his imperfections," Caparas said. "The reason why some of his choreography was turned-in was because he was pigeon-toed and he had slouched shoulders."

Fosse's style can be awkward for ballet dancers because it requires being "turned-in," rather than the more formal "turned-out" body- and footwork of ballet, she said.

Fosse - who choreographed such Broadway hits as "Cabaret," "All That Jazz" and "Chicago" - is further known for the incorporation of gloves and hats in his dances, but Caparas said he did so because he disliked his hands and because he was balding.

She added that behind each subsequent movement in Fosse's choreography is a story - often inspired by his real life experiences.

"His choreography is so subtle, but what makes it so big is the energy that comes from inside," she said.

Caparas described Fosse's style as "very quirky and very organic."

The cast of "Fosse," she said, must follow strict practice regimens and possess a strong devotion to dance, in order to reach perfection - or rather, the imitation of imperfection that Fosse was aspiring to - in its performance.

"We share the same passion - everyone's very passionate about the work and just loves it," she said.

Caparas said the cast rehearses weekly, while the swing dancers generally rehearse more.

"And when we're not on stage, we're in the wings rehearsing, doing the numbers," she added.

Many cast members, Caparas said, prefer to stay in shape by practicing Bikram Yoga or Pilates rather than hitting the gym. And for some dancers, the extreme physical demands of the job are more than enough to keep them fit.

"For some people the show is already so much - three hours non-stop of just straight cardio," she said.

Caparas said "Fosse" began touring more than a year ago in Fosse's native Chicago, but added she did not know of a definite ending date for the tour. She said the group will perform in Japan for seven weeks this summer.

Caparas, who was not originally cast in the show, said she received an offer for a contract after working as a promotional window model for "Fosse."

"I got to work with (choreographer) Ann Reinking - she got to see how I moved with the Fosse style," she said.

About two months and one temporary contract later, Caparas said she received a call from the casting director of "Fosse," who asked her to cover a permanent swing position during the tour.

Caparas described the swing position as "the hardest job in this business."

"It's like an understudy," she said. "I have to cover eight female onstage performers, including a number of feature tracks. What's hard about it is I have to be ready to perform at the drop of a hat."

Some UA dancers will have the chance to find out whether or not they can meet the "Fosse" challenge after attending an invitation-only workshop to be held in Ina Gittings Room 130 tomorrow at 11 a.m.

Jory Hancock, head of the UA dance division, said there will be 95 dancers attending the class, with limited room for observers. He added that the class will be taught by company members of "Fosse" and said the dance students in attendance are already be familiar with Fosse's style.

Caparas said she hopes people come to the show and have fun.

"It's a great show," she said. "It's not like any other Broadway show, like 'Les Mis(erables)' or 'Miss Saigon.' It's totally different - it doesn't have a story line. (It's) a celebration of Mr. Fosse's work."

"Fosse" opens tonight at Centennial Hall at 7:30. Performances will continue through Sunday. Ticket prices vary. Student discounts are available for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday performances. Call 621-3341 for more ticket information.