Bob Fosse's Childhood Dance Partner
You may know Bob Fosse as the legendary creator of Cabaret, All That Jazz, Chicago, and so many more musicals on stage and screen. But did you know that Fosse grew up in Chicago? And that beginning at age 13, he performed professionally in a duo known as the Riff Brothers? In 2019, I had the good fortune to spend an afternoon with Bob Fosse's "brother," Charlie Grass. We met in a dance studio where, at age 92, Grass was teaching an old Riff Brothers routine to two younger dancers. One of them was Jenai Cutcher, who runs the Chicago Dance History Project, and met Charlie Grass when she interviewed him for the project. When Grass told Cutcher that he still had the dance notation from early Riff Brothers routines, she asked if he would teach them one.
In this profile Charlie Grass reflects on his Riff Brothers days with Bob Fosse — and on the career pressures that may have been responsible for Fosse's death from a heart attack at age 60.
“I guess Bob’s waiting for me up there to finish the routine,” Grass told me. “I’m proud of him, and a little bit of The Riff Brothers went with him.”