The jazz dancer Billy Siegenfeld is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his Jump Rhythm Jazz Project. Four years ago, I wrote in Dance Magazine that “Billy Siegenfeld is one of a kind.”
There is no other dancer who gets as low and growly, who infuses his body with jazz rhythms that burst out of him, sending emotions in different directions.
Siegenfeld has enriched the jazz dance and tap communities in Chicago for a quarter century. He has combined the rhythms of both by making the body a percussive instrument. And it’s got to have that Swing, as opposed to rock’s steady downbeat. With the polyrhythms of true jazz, he has written, “These accents are voiced at moments when the ear least expects to hear them.” That sense of surprise leads to an explosiveness—at least when Siegenfeld himself is dancing. (You can see that in this short clip of him dancing—and vocalizing—alone.)
In true jazz, Siegenfeld wrote in the new book Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches, the dancer combines two different rhythms into a unity “that allows each to have its own say.” When this happens, the accents “pop off the ground with the stunning unpredictability of a perfect accident.”
Some of those perfect accidents are sure to surface in JRJP’s 25th-anniversary concert, Oct 24 to Nov 2 at Stage 773 in Chicago. The program includes the very moving duet Poppy and Lou, revivals of No Way Out and Too Close for Comfort, a work by company member Kevin Dumbaugh, and guest artists.