Bob Avian, the Tony Award-winning choreographer of “A Chorus Line,” died Thursday of a heart attack. He was 83.
In a career that spanned seven decades, Avian appeared in, staged, produced, directed or designed the dances for dozens of Broadway hits — his resume reads like a history of musical theater in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Avian began his professional career as a dancer, appearing in “West Side Story,” “Funny Girl” and “Henry, Sweet Henry.”
He then became a close collaborator of Michael Bennett, helping the director and choreographer on many of his biggest hits, including “Company,” “Follies” and “Coco,” on which he worked as an associate choreographer and assistant director. In 1976 he received his first Tony Award as co-choreographer of “A Chorus Line” and won his second Tony Award for co-choreographing “Ballroom.”
Avian also worked with Bennett as a lead producer on the original and national companies of “Dreamgirls,” one of the most successful musicals of the 1980s, and on “A Chorus Line,” an even bigger smash. Bennett, who died from AIDS-related lymphoma in 1987 at the age of 44, was one of the driving forces in American theater, but he also had a reputation for being hard-charging and difficult. In a 2020 interview with the Broadway Blog, Avian explained their largely harmonious working relationship.
“We were such good pals that we were never in competition with each other creatively,” he said. “He was open to whatever I suggested, especially if we were alone. If we were in a production meeting, I would never say anything because Michael was my boss. I always knew that, and he respected me for that.”
Among Avian’s other professional accomplishments were creating the musical staging for “Miss Saigon” and “Sunset Boulevard,” as well as choreographing “Martin Guerre” in London, which won him an Olivier Award.
In 2020, he published a memoir “Dancing Man: A Broadway Choreographer’s Journey,” which was co-written with Tom Santopietro.
Avian is survived by his husband Peter Pileski, his sister Laura Nabedian, five nieces and nephews and a great nephew and great niece.
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