Department of Theatre
Professor of Dance
Marjorie Ward Marshall Dance Center
10 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Graduate Program: Theatre
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 fuses rhythmically percussive body-music and expressionistic theatre (www.jrjp.org).
At Northwestern University he is a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence in the Department of Theatre where he teaches dance and movement courses based in the Jump Rhythm® point of view; an 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 perform his choreography using Jump Rhythm® Technique and Standing Down Straight® as the foundations of their performance, training, and teaching.
Billy is the creator of both of these systems. Jump Rhythm® Technique is a rhythm-generated movement-and-voice training for dancers, actors, and singers. Standing Down Straight® is an injury-preventive, mind-body-integrating system that serves as the basis of all Jump Rhythm-based performance and pedagogy.
Recognitions include (in chronological order):
- Tapestry Award, given by Dance Inn for making contributions to the art of tap dancing;
- Inspiration Award, given by Chicago Tap Theatre for serving the company as an artistic advisor
- 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”
- 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”
- European Union/City of Turku, Finland choreographic commission, funding the site-specific version of “Sorrows of Unison Dancing”
- Emmy Award® for his work as performer-choreographer in the PBS documentary Jump Rhythm Jazz Project: Getting There
- Ruth Page Award, given by the Ruth Page Foundation, citing “his vibrant dance artistry” and “development of a unique dance vocabulary”
- National Performance Network Creation Award, commissioning “The News From Poems” and “Sorrows of Unison Dancing”
- Outstanding Choreography Award, given by the Ruth Page Foundation, citing two works: “No Way Out But Through” and “Romance in Swingtime”
- Outstanding Choreography Award, given by Jazz Dance World Congress, citing “Getting There”
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 was designated a Fulbright Senior Scholar in 2005, which took him to Finland that year to introduce the theory and practice of Jump Rhythm@ Technique to the students of the Arts Academy of Turku University of Applied Sciences. He and senior company members of JRJP returned to the Academy for the next five years to teach Jump Rhythm® Technique and recreate his choreography on the dance company there. These residencies culminated in 2011 with his creation of the site-specific version of his “Sorrows of Unison Dancing” at Brinkhall Manor in Kakserta, and his delivering the keynote address at a conference at Turku University addressing art-based approaches to working with youth. The conference 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, Roots and Branches of Jazz Dance.
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. In New York, 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®.
|BA||Literature, Brown University|
A writer on jazz dance and music, Billy Siegenfeld’s articles, published in Dance Teacher and Dance Magazine, discuss the essential role swing plays in jazz dancing as well as those proposing a pedagogy based on teaching to "the person inside the student."
Recent Awards and Honors
|2006||Ruth Page Award for Major Contribution to the Field of Dance|
|2005||Fulbright Senior Specialist|
|2005||Jazz Dance World Congress Award for Major Contributions to the Art of Jazz Dance|
Grants from the Illinois Arts Council and the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, in partnership with JRJP, that partly supported the making of the choreography and vocal arrangements for Siegenfeld’s anti-war piece, The News From Poems.
|360||Jump Rhythm Jazz and Tap Techniques|
|365||American Rhythm Dancing|
|365||African American Performance Aesthetic|