School of Communication

Billy Siegenfeld

Department of Theatre

Billy Siegenfeld

Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence
Marjorie Ward Marshall Dance Center
10 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208

Billy Siegenfeld is the founder, artistic director, principal choreographer, vocal arranger, and ensemble performing member of Jump Rhythm Jazz Project (JRJP), a national and international-touring company of dancer-singer-actors that celebrates the fusion of rhythmically percussive body-music and emotion-driven dance theatre. ( /

He is a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence in the Department of Theatre at Northwestern University where he teaches coursework based on the principles of Jump Rhythm® Technique, a rhythm-generated, movement-and-voice system of performing arts training for actors, dancers, and singers; Movement Awareness based on the principles of Standing Down Straight®, an injury-preventive, mind-body-integrating system of postural and motional health; a guest instructor in the School of Engineering where he teaches partnered swing-dancing as a source of creative and collaborative problem-solving; and a fellow at the Women's Residential College. He is also the artistic director of the Helsinki-based Finnish dance company Jump Rhythm® Collective. Their members use Jump Rhythm® Technique and Standing Down Straight® as the foundations of their performances, teaching, and creative work. Billy is the creator of both of these systems.

In addition, Billy was placed by the editors of the year-2000 millenial issue of Dance Teacher on the magazine’s “Twentieth Century Timeline of Choreographers and Innovators” for founding JRJP and for creating the choreography based on the principles of Jump Rhythm® Technique. He was credited by the magazine Dance with “inventing the first genuine jazz technique in forty years.”

He delivered the keynote address at European Union conference on art-based approaches to working with youth. The conference’s sponsors commissioned him to write an essay based on this address titled “The Art of Misbehaving: Youth, American Rhythm Dancing, and The Need To Not Be Good.” It was published in Finland in 2012 in the anthology Moving In!: Art-Based Approaches to Working with Youth.

Both Billy’s first published article (“If Jazz Dance, Then Jazz Music”; Dance Teacher Now; August 1990) and his most recent one (“Performing Energy: American Rhythm Dancing and ‘The Great Articulation of the Inarticulate’”) are included in the forthcoming anthology of dance writing published by the University of Florida, Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches.

After graduating from Brown University with a B.A. in literature, Billy worked in New York City where he performed with the Don Redlich Dance Company for nine years. He was also a full-time faculty member at Hunter College for 13 years and served as the director of its Dance Program from 1982 to 1991. He performed in the Broadway production of Singin’ in the Rain as well as in off-Broadway theatre. He earned his M.A. in Dance from New York University with the thesis “Hunting the Rhythmic Snark: The Search for Swing in Jazz Performance.” Besides immersing in various dance techniques, he studied acting with Tim Phillips, voice with Joan Kobin, and Mabel Ellsworth Todd and Lulu Sweigard’s principles of gravity-directed, injury-preventive posture and motion with Andre Bernard. That work with Bernard served as the foundation of the mind-body-healing, injury-preventive movement re-training system he created called Standing Down Straight®.


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

  • 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 as an artistic advisor (2012)
  • Stone Camryn Lecturer on the History of Dance, given by the Newberry Library, Chicago in support of his interactive lecture-performance “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 Cliffdwellers 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)
  • 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 in 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, funding from the U.S. Fulbright Commission to introduce the theory and practice of Jump Rhythm® Technique and Standing Down Straight® 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)
  • 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.


101 Movement Awareness: Standing Down Straight® as Source of Movement-Efficient Posture and Action
260 Jump Rhythm® Technique
280 Jump Rhythm® Tap
325 Choreographing Music: Rhythmic-Dynamic Approaches to Dance Composition

American Rhythm Dancing™ and the African American Performance Aesthetic