When I think of Ann Rinking, I see her legs. Legs in black tights. Legs in heels. Legs stretched easily until 6. They weren’t the only thing that made her dance so bright, but they were the anchors to her audacity. Regardless of her shape, she had the strength to anchor her body, giving the pelvic isolates a silky type of groove and subtlety a natural and impressive feel. Even if she is sprawled on a bed, her legs can tell a story.
Mrs. Reinking, who died in her sleep at the age of 71 while visiting her family in Seattle over the weekend, was one of the main pop dancers and for a while his mistress. This crib comes to play on A non-dance scene From Fosse’s semi-biopic “All That Jazz,” in which Mrs. Rinking plays a veiled version of herself. At that moment, all she wants is for Joe Gideon (Roy Cheddar, in the role based on Voss) to stop sleeping.
The dialogue is funny, but her legs steal the scene: She leans back and curls, naked, across the mattress. Her strength is further enhanced by her piercing blue eyes and long dark lustrous hair, parted mid-1970s to perfection. (Is there anything cooler than a ’70s dancer?) But really, it’s all about these legs.
Mrs. Reinking made her career on Broadway, and especially in the works of Voss, which was an inspiration to her. She officially met Fosse for an audition for “Pippin,” but was already impressed with his work. In an interviewSpeaking of seeing “Chicago,” she said, “I was amazed. The interest has passed. I don’t know why it just caught my attention. It was a quiet roar when they finished.”
In 1977, two years before “All That Jazz” was released, Mrs. Reinking, then 26, made a roar in “Chicago” herself when she replaced Gwen Verdon – Fosse’s wife, who has starred in several of his important shows in Broadway, including “The Yankees’ Curse” and “Sweet Charity” – the role of choir girl Roxy Hart, a role she reprized in 1996 when she presented the show in the style of Voss for Incurs! Presentation at City Center.
During the 1990s, Mrs. Reinking became the guardian of Voss’s legacy: The Encores! The revival led to a production on Broadway, where Tony was awarded for Best Choreography. “The hope is that when ‘Chicago’ is rediscovered, the audience will rediscover what theater is,” said Ms. Rinking in a 1996 interview in The Times. “It was complicated, complicated and big.” (At the time of the coronavirus shutdown, “Chicago” was still running.) In 1998, she, along with Richard Maltby Jr. and Chet Walker, uploaded a play that was shown on Broadway from 1999 until 2001.
While she is best known for her work in musical theater, Mrs. Rinking – known as Annie, at least in her “Dancin” days – started ballet. (Before she unveiled the 1996 version of “Chicago,” she said her dance style was more than Fosse’s.) When she arrived in New York as a girl, she won a scholarship with Joffrey Ballet. On the West Coast – she is from Seattle – she studied with the San Francisco Ballet and learned George Balanchine ballet.
This isn’t talked about much when talking about Mrs. Renking’s career path, but you can see it in her dance: there is an inherent elegance, an internal body regulation that you feel even when it’s not pronounced. One of the reasons Margaret Qualley, who brought Mrs. Rinking to glamorous life in the TV series “Fosse / Verdon”, is so good is that she shares this elegance; She was once a ballerina, too.
Mrs. Reinking may be gone, but her dance lives on: lush, plump, luxurious. And that’s not all Voss. I had forgotten the story of “Annie,” but in the 1982 movie, Mrs. Rinking played Grace Farrell, billionaire secretary Oliver Warbucks, who encouraged him to adopt Annie. In number “We have Annie.” Mrs. Reinking is dancing a storm.
Wearing a yellow silk dress – that wraps around her legs like a partner – she begins with a playful jazzy walk, stopping every few beats for shoulder contact or turning. She kicks and shrivels like a rag doll. She rushes across the hallway, jumps over a chair, plays the harp with two finger strokes and continues forward, spinning through space as if sliding down the wind – hazy, shiny but indelibly clear.
What a reckless! What a give up! In her enthusiasm, it is as if Mrs. Renking is showing us the sound of laughter. It’s over too soon, but it’s aptly named: At least these two minutes, we’ve got Annie, too.