Happy Birthday, Bob Fosse!

Today we’re celebrating the birthday of choreographer Bob Fosse. Check out this great performance from Fosse’s second film, Cabaret (1972), which starred Liza Minnelli as an American nightclub performer in Berlin when the Nazis come to power.

Cabaret is regarded as a landmark in the history of Hollywood musicals. Fosse was determined to set the action in the “real world” of Berlin in the 1930s, so he eliminated the stage convention in which characters sing in the course of their daily lives; here, the singing is “realistic” and occurs only in the context of the cabaret or beer garden.

The film won eight Oscars, including one for Fosse as best director, in 1973. That same year, he won two Tony awards as best director and best choreographer for the musical Pippin, as well as three Emmy awards for his direction, choreography, and production of the television special Liza With a Z. No other director has won the “Triple Crown” (Oscar, Tony, and Emmy awards) in the same year.

Bob Fosse will be featured on the Innovative Choreographers stamps, which will be issued July 28 in Los Angeles, California. We can’t wait! For more information about the stamps, visit Beyond the Perf.

Miles Davis/Edith Piaf First Day of Issue Ceremony a Star-Studded Affair

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Miles Davis and Edith Piaf First Day of Issue ceremony yesterday in New York! It was the perfect way to celebrate these music icons.

Held at the Rubin Museum of Art, the event drew a talented cast of musicians, producers, and family, all eager to celebrate the lives and achievements of both legends. Ronald A. Stroman, Deputy Postmaster General, USPS, dedicated the stamps, accompanied by (clockwise starting left) June Townes, singer; Erin Davis, Miles’ son; Mark Ruffin, journalist and radio personality; Vincent Wilburn, Jr., Miles’ nephew and musician; Tania Stavreva, pianist; George Avakian, producer, Columbia Records; Cheryl Davis, Miles’ daughter; Don Was, President, Blue Note Records; and Maria Elena Infantino, singer and actress, and Edith Piaf impressionist.

Maria Elena Infantino performing a tribute to Edith Piaf

A joint issue with France’s La Poste, these stamps celebrate a lively musical conversation between nations. Edith Piaf, forever associated with her hometown of Paris, is one of few French popular singers to become a household name in the U.S.; the great American jazz trumpeter Miles Davis is beloved in France, where he performed frequently.

The ceremony included remarks from legendary jazz bassist Ron Carter, who played with Miles as part of the Miles Davis Quintet, as well as Miles’ daughter Cheryl and his son Erin. Closing the ceremony was a jazz quartet of students from the Juilliard School of Music, playing a few of Miles Davis’s hits.

We had an absolute blast! Were you at the event? Tell us about your experience. What was your favorite part? If you weren’t able to make it to New York yesterday, we hope to see you at another event!

Name, image and likeness of Miles Davis with permission from Miles Davis Properties, LLC.

International Language of Music: Miles Davis & Edith Piaf Stamps Now Available

We are excited to announce that the new Miles Davis and Edith Piaf (Forever®) stamps—a joint issue with France’s La Poste—are now available nationwide!

These dramatic stamps capturing the two international music giants in motion will be issued at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City at 11 a.m. The dedication will include performances of both of the musicians’ songs. Singer and actor Maria Elena Infantino will play Piaf, and musicians from the prestigious Julliard School will perform some of Davis’ hits. A host of other music industry greats will also be at the event to celebrate these two iconic performers. You won’t want to miss it!

For the first time in U.S. Postal Service history, each of the Miles Davis and Edith Piaf stamp panes will include a QR code on the back, linking users who scan the code with their cell phones to images and songs about both musicians.

The Miles Davis and Edith Piaf stamps are being issued as Forever stamps, which are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.

Will you be joining us in New York today? Which Davis and Piaf songs do you hope to hear during the ceremony?

Major League Baseball trademarks and copyrights are used with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc.

The Transcendent Dance of Isadora Duncan

“The dancer of the future will be one whose body and soul have grown so harmoniously together that the natural language of that soul will have become the movement of the body.”

—Isadora Duncan


A couple weeks ago I mentioned that Katherine Dunham will be honored this year with one of four Innovative Choreographers stamps. I am very excited that Isadora Duncan (1877–1927), widely considered the “mother of modern dance,” will also be included in the upcoming set.

Through dance Duncan expressed not only joy, contentment, and elation, but also grief, despair, and even evil. This link between emotion and movement was her most profound contribution to the history of dance. Through dance, she argued, we can transcend the limitations of the physical world to reveal the soul.

Katherine Dunham: Pioneering Choreographer

Katherine Dunham (1909-2006) was the first choreographer to develop a formal technique based on movements from authentic Caribbean rituals, such as an arched torso and undulating spine, hip thrusts and pops, and shoulders that twitch and shrug. “The techniques that I knew and saw and experienced were not saying the things that I wanted to say,” she explained. “To capture the meaning in the culture and life of the people, I felt that I had to take something directly from the people and develop that.”

Dunham technique, as her method came to be called, combined Caribbean and African dance elements with aspects of ballet. It stressed strong core muscles, a flexible torso, relaxed back, powerful knees, and the ability to move parts of the body in isolation. “My real effort,” she recalled, “was to free the body from restriction.”

Her first full-length show, L’Ag’Ya, was set in Martinique and inspired by a folktale about a man who uses a zombie charm to win the love of a woman and exact revenge on his rival. Culminating in the fighting dance of Martinique, L’Ag’Ya debuted in Chicago in 1938 and became one of Dunham’s most popular performance pieces.

This video has no sound, but Dunham’s dancing really speaks for itself!

Later shows drew on the folk and ethnic traditions of the Caribbean as well as Central and South America and Africa. Debuting in New York City in 1940, Tropics and Le Jazz Hot traced the rich legacy of African dance in the Americas and featured Dunham’s popular performance as “Woman with a Cigar.” She also appeared in the successful 1940 Broadway musical Cabin in the Sky, which she helped choreograph with George Balanchine. Bal Nègre, which opened in 1946, included another audience favorite, “Shango.”

Dunham and her dancers received accolades in the U.S. and around the world, but they also encountered racial prejudice. Not only did some hotels and restaurants refuse to serve them, but Dunham and her troupe had to work against the widespread belief that African Americans were incapable of mastering formal dance techniques.

Despite the obstacles, Dunham eventually realized her dream that African-American dance be taken seriously as an art. Audiences worldwide flocked to her shows, and Dunham technique influenced a generation of African-American dancers and choreographers, including Alvin Ailey. Dunham choreographed dance sequences for Stormy Weather (1943) and other films. She also opened a performing arts school in New York City. In 1963, she choreographed a new production of Verdi’s opera Aida for the Metropolitan Opera.

In addition to multiple honorary degrees and other awards, Dunham received the 1983 Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement in the arts, as well as the 1989 National Medal of the Arts “for her pioneering explorations of Caribbean and African dance, which have enriched and transformed the art of dance in America.”

Later this year, Dunham will be one of four choreographers honored on the Innovative Choreographers stamp pane. The others are Isadora Duncan, José Limón, and Bob Fosse. I can’t wait.