Born: November 10, 1949:

Died: December 12, 2020.

ANN Reinking, who has died aged 71, was a dancer and choreographer who lit up the stage with unbridled sensuality. While she will forever be associated with the seminal American choreographer Bob Fosse, she brought her own style and personality to her uninhibited moves.

As a choreographer, she won a Tony award for her 1996 revival of Chicago, which she had first appeared in as a dancer almost 20 years earlier. With a nod to the show’s original director, Reinking’s work was described as “in the style of Bob Fosse”, as she picked up the Fosse mantle with a series of updated routines.

The connection continued with the 1998 revue, Fosse, an array of her former creative and romantic partner’s greatest hits. She conceived, co-directed and co-choreographed the show, which won a Tony for best musical, while its West End transfer earned her an Olivier for best choreography. The show’s success was the pinnacle of a career that saw her become a music theatre star at a time when stage musicals were serving up some pretty grown-up fare.

Ann Holmes Reinking was born in Seattle, Washington, one of seven children to Walter and Frances Reinking (nee Harrison). She began ballet classes aged eight, and won a scholarship to the San Francisco Ballet School.

After graduating from high school, she took part in a Joffrey Ballet summer school. Recognising she could sing and act as well as dance, the school’s founder, Roland Joffrey, encouraged her to gravitate towards musical theatre.

Reinking appeared in her first professional show, Bye Bye Birdie, at Seattle Opera House, in 1965. Aged 18, and with money saved from waiting tables, she upped sticks to New York, where she lived at the YWCA while taking classes at the American Ballet Theatre School.

Following a stint in the corps de ballet of the Radio City Music Hall, she joined the ensemble for a tour of Fiddler on the Roof, and made her Broadway debut aged 19 in the chorus line of the 1969 production of Cabaret. That same year she joined the ensemble of Coco, starring Katherine Hepburn as Coco Chanel, and went on to appear in Wild and Wonderful (1971).

In 1972, Fosse cast Reinking in Pippin. It was the beginning of a relationship that in part defined them both. Outwith her personal and professional liaison with him, Reinking won awards for Over Here! (1974), was Tony-nominated for her role as Joan of Arc in Goodtime Charley (1975), and appeared A Chorus Line (1976).

Her relationship with Fosse gave her casting as Roxie Hart in Fosse’s original production of Chicago (1977) an extra frisson, especially as she was taking over the role from Fosse’s wife, Broadway star Gwen Verdon, from whom he was separated. Where tension might have been expected, the two women became life-long friends, with Reinking learning the show’s moves from Verdon. In 2019, a TV mini-series, Fosse/Verdon, saw Reinking played by Margaret Qualley.

Reinking went on to appear in Fosse’s erotically charged revue, Dancin’ (1978), for which she was again Tony-nominated. Fosse also cast her in All That Jazz (1979), his semi-autobiographical big-screen fantasia, which saw Roy Scheider play Joe Gideon, a hedonistic choreographer based on Fosse. Reinking played Kate Jagger, Joe’s dancer girlfriend.

Reinking’s film career began in 1978 with Stanley Donen’s big-screen satire, Movie Movie, and continued with the big screen version of Annie (1982), in which she sang and danced several numbers as Grace Farrell, the secretary of Oliver Warbucks, played by Albert Finney.

She appeared in a TV movie, A Night on the Town (1983) before playing one of two pregnant wives to Dudley Moore’s bamboozled bigamist in Blake Edwards’ film, Micki + Maude (1984). Other than a guest role in an episode of The Cosby Show (1987), this was her final screen role, as she returned to the more adrenalin-pumped arena of live performance in Fosse’s 1986 revival of Sweet Charity.

Despite Fosse’s death the following year, the pair’s partnership was far from over. Reinking’s appearance as Roxie Hart in her 1996 revival of Chicago possessed as much hip-thrusting sass as she had when she first played her almost two decades earlier. In the Fosse revue, too, Reinking took the stage for some shows in 2001.

In 1991, she founded The Broadway Theatre Project in Florida; Playbill magazine would describe the institution as “the world’s most prestigious musical theatre arts education programme for high school and college students”.

Reinking was married four times. With her third husband, businessman James Stuart, she had a son, Christopher, who suffers from the rare genetic disorder, Marfan syndrome.

In 2009 she produced a documentary, In My Hands, about working with children diagnosed with Marfan, and shaping them into a dance troupe. In 1994, she married sports writer Peter Talbert.

While technically retired, her long-running revival of Chicago was still shimmying its way through sold-out shows right up to 2020’s pandemic enforced theatre closures. When they eventually re-open, her high-kicking spirit can be guaranteed to be at the centre of chorus lines to come.

She is survived by Peter Talbert, Christopher, and six siblings.