Haberman, who performed in “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’” (she was in the original workshop) and “Pippin,” was an assistant choreographer to Fosse on the Broadway show “Big Deal.” In “Sweet Gwen,” the dances, which never had formal titles, are named after the music: “Cool Hand Luke,” “Mexican Shuffle” and “Mexican Breakfast,” which inspired the Beyoncé video. To Haberman, that final number — with its jaunty head bobs and frisky, hip-gyrating walks — feels the most like Verdon.
“What I actually think is really interesting about these three pieces is that they’re very soft and sweet, and there’s no dark thing,” Haberman said. “There’s no irony.”
They’re also, she said, straightforward. And they add up to more than a pose with a derby hat. In other words, Haberman is drawing out nuance and humor, along with — following Verdon’s lead — generosity and playfulness. It’s what made her dancing so delightful. “To me, that’s why it’s so attractive, and that’s why I hate so much of the interpretations now,” Haberman said of Fosse’s work, “because it’s hard — it all has hard edges and it doesn’t have any intention except kind of like counts and sex.”
At a rehearsal in July, Haberman broke down the movement, fixing accents and shifting focus, but also urging the dancers — two men along with Pazcoguin — to be as effortless as possible. “I keep saying, when we get there, it has to be like nothing,” Haberman said. “I mean the beauty of watching Gwen in those videos, it’s just like ahhh. There is just this ease. It was kind of Gwen’s brilliance. It just was easy.”
For the new suite of dances, Lynne Shankel has orchestrated and arranged the music, by Herb Alpert, Lalo Schifrin and Johnny Mandel. While Haberman sees the first two works as being choreographed by Fosse in terms of their clear structure, “it doesn’t really matter to me in some way who choreographed it,” Haberman said. “Bob and Gwen — she gave him stuff, he gave her stuff.”