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Billy Siegenfeld is the founder, artistic director, choreographer, book-writer, vocal arranger and performing member of the Emmy®-Award-winning, nationally and internationally touring teaching and performance company, Jump Rhythm® Jazz Project. He is also a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence in the Department of Theatre at Northwestern University.
He teaches coursework at both NU and in residencies world-wide based in 3 educational concepts he created and continues to develop: Jump Rhythm® Technique, a rhythm-driven, rhythmically vocalized, vernacular-bodied system of dance and theatre-movement training; Standing Down Straight®, a mind-body-integrating concept of gravity-directed, injury-preventive posture and motion; and American Rhythm Dancing®, an umbrella-term embracing the community-directed, call-and-response-based aspects of African American-originated performance practice. Coursework includes: 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; the film-discussion class, American Rhythm Dancing® and the African American Performance Aesthetic.
Recognitions include: Chicago National Association of Dance Masters Artistic Achievement Award (2016); Stone Camryn Lecturer in the History of Dance at the Newberry Library (2013); Chicago Tap Theatre Inspiration Award (2012); Dance Chicago Festival Choreographer of the Year award (2011); Ruth Page Award (2006); Jazz Dance World Congress Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Art of Jazz (2005); Fulbright Scholar to Finland (2005); inclusion on the magazine Dance Teacher's 20th Century Timeline of Jazz Innovators and Choreographers (2000); Jazz Dance World Congress Gold Leo Award for Outstanding Choreography (1994).
Recent writing includes a new play with music and dance, Jimmie Blues and The Strange Case of the Accidental Dancer: What You See Is, More Often Than Not, Not What You Get, produced in Chicago in 2016. Two of his articles, "If Jazz Dance, Then Jazz Music" and "Performing Energy: American Rhythm Dancing® and 'The Great Articulation of the Inarticulate'," appear in the 2014 anthology, Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches.
He graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Literature and from New York University with an M.A. in Dance. Billy worked in New York City where he performed with the Don Redlich Dance Company for nine years. He served as 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 acting and dancing roles in the Broadway production of Singin' in the Rain as well as in off-off-Broadway productions.
Beside taking class in numerous movement techniques, he studied Meisner-based acting with Tim Phillips, musical theatre voice with Joan Kobin, and the ideokinetic principles of gravity-directed, injury-preventive human posture and motion with André Bernard. His work with Bernard serves as the foundation of Standing Down Straight® and is the reason he is still dancing. In his non-teaching-art-making time he volunteers as a TreeKeeper for Openlands, a metropolitan conservation organization in Chicago. He subscribes (with full acknowledgment of its elusiveness) to E. M. Forster's wish that the world be run "not by an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky."
photo by Justin Barbin