Billy Siegenfeld

Billy Siegenfeld is the director, principal choreographer, script-writer, musical arranger, and performing ensemble member of the Chicago-based Jump Rhythm® Jazz Project (JRJP), a national-and-international-touring group he founded in 1990.  JRJP performs a “theatre of energy” that fuses rhythm-driven vocalizations and texts with dynamic motion.  Recent projects include: 1) writing the play Jimmie Blues and The Strange Case of the Accidental Dancer, which he also choreographed and performs in; 2) touring with JRJP to Barcelona to perform at L’Escola de Artes Musicales; 3) doing movement direction for the Writers Theatre production of the new play, Quixote: On the Conquest of Self; 4) premiering a short solo one-act at the American Comedy Institute in New York City; 5) directing Chicago Tap Theatre’s production of Time Steps (which Dance Magazine cited as “Best New Production of 2016”); 6) editing his writings for Getting Down To Go Forward, a forthcoming book on Jump Rhythm’s holistic-pedagogical point of view (University of Florida Press).  Shows he’s enjoyed serving as movement director/choreographer:  Aimée & Jaguar; How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes; All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten; and the musical version of It’s a Wonderful Life.  Recognitions from 1994 to 2016 include the Jazz Dance World Congress Gold Leo Award for Outstanding Choreography; the Ruth Page Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field; an Emmy® Award for his choreography and performance in the HMS-produced PBS documentary Jump Rhythm Jazz Project: Getting There; and the Artistic Achievement Award of the Chicago National Dance Masters Association of Dance Masters.  He is also a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence in the Department of Theatre at Northwestern University where his courses draw on 3 concepts he created: Jump Rhythm®, a vernacular-bodied, rhythm-driven system of voice-and-movement training for career and non-career actors, dancers, and singers; Standing Down Straight®, a method of postural re-education that uses gravity-directed relaxation as a means of moving and vocalizing with more power and less effort; and American Rhythm Dancing®, an historical appreciation of the impact the African-American performance aesthetic had had on the arts and daily living.  After graduating from Brown University with a degree in literature, he moved to New York City and performed dance with Don Redlich; acted and danced in off-off-Broadway plays and musicals as well as in the Broadway production of Singin’ in the Rain; and, after stopping dancing because of dance-training-related injuries, studied ideokinesis with André Bernard, who taught him how to let the force of gravity, not human speculation, determine how the body should move.

Education

MA Dance, New York University
BA Literature, Brown University


Recent Publications

A writer on various subjects including vernacular-bodied, jazz-rhythm-based performance; teaching to "the person inside the student"; and "Standing Down Straight®," a gravity-directed, injury-preventive approach to both performing arts training and everyday behavior, Billy Siegenfeld’s most recent article,“Performing Energy: American Rhythm Dancing and 'The Great Articulation of the Inarticulate,'” appears in Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches, edited by Lindsay Guarino and Wendy Oliver and published by the University of Florida Press.

Recent Awards and Honors

  • Registered Trademark for “American Rhythm Dancing,” granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (2014)
  • Tapestry Award, given by Dance Inn for making contributions to the art of tap dancing (2013)
  • Inspiration Award, given by Chicago Tap Theatre for serving the company asitsn artistic consultant on the company’s story shows (2012)
  • Stone Camryn Lecturer on the History of Dance, conferred by the Newberry Library, Chicago:  “The Art of Misbehavior: Jump Rhythm Technique, American Rhythm Dancing, and The Aesthetics of Not Being Good” (2012)
  • Choreographer of the Year Award, given by Dance Chicago Festival and the Cliff Dwellers Arts Foundation, citing three works: “There Never Was A War That Was Not Inward”; “You Do Not Have To Be Good”; The Sumptuous Screech of Simplicity” (2011)
  • Registered Trademark for “Jump Rhythm,” granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (2011)
  • Registered Trademark for “Standing Down Straight,” granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (2011)
  • European Union/City of Turku Choreographic Commission, funding the site-specific version in Kakserta, Finland of “Sorrows of Unison Dancing” (2011)
  • Emmy Award for his work as performer-choreographer on the PBS documentary Jump Rhythm Jazz Project: Getting There (2007)
  • Ruth Page Award, given by the Ruth Page Foundation, citing “his vibrant dance artistry” and “development of a unique dance vocabulary” (2006)
  • Fulbright Scholar, conferred by the U.S. Fulbright Commission to introduce the theory and practice of Jump Rhythm® Technique to the students of the Arts Academy at Turku University of the Applied Sciences, Finland (2005)
  • Jazz Dance World Congress Award, given by the JDWC for “contributions to the art of jazz dance” (2005)
  • National Performance Network Creation Award, funding the creation of “The News From Poems” and “Sorrows of Unison Dancing” (2003)
  • Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence (2002)
  • Limón Dance Foundation choreographic commission, funding the creation of “If Winter” for José Limón Dance Company (2000)
  • Outstanding Choreography Award, given by the Ruth Page Foundation, citing two works, “No Way Out But Through” and “Romance in Swingtime” (1997)
  • Gold Leo Award for Outstanding Choreography given by Jazz Dance World Congress, citing “Getting There” (1994)

Recent Grants

In partnership with Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, he has received grants from the Illinois Arts Council, the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, and the Richard Driehaus Foundation.

Courses

Jump Rhythm® Technique;
Jump Rhythm® Tap;
Standing Down Straight® for Actors;
Partnered Swing Dancing as Source of Collaborative Decision-Making;
Choreographing Music:  Rhythmic and Dynamic Approaches to Creating Movement for the Stage;
American Rhythm Dancing@ and the African American Performance Aesthetic

Billy Siegenfeld

Professor

Department:

Theatre

Office:

70 Arts Circle Drive
Room 5-177
Evanston, IL 60208

Phone:

847-491-3147