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"ONE HOUR WITH BILLY SIEGENFELD AND JUMP RHYTHM WILL NOT ONLY CHANGE THE WAY YOU VIEW THE WORLD, IT WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU SEE YOURSELF. BILLY CAN GET A STONE TO DANCE WITH A FULL SPIRIT."

JEANNE HERRICK, SENIOR LECTURER, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

before-wedge25 years. For what?

25 years. For what?

“25 years. For what?,” I asked myself this early Monday morning of this first week of our two-week anniversary season at Stage 773.

Coming to mind first is for the chance to celebrate a wisdom that I first heard my mother say.  She was one of those very wise, unsung classroom teachers. The home-grown teaching philosophy she practiced she called “teaching to the person inside the student.”  It was her belief that if people want to really connect with other people, they could make that happen more easily by throwing away the roles that keep them feeling separated from and/or superior to another person. My mother advised — never pedantically, never prescriptively, but actually, rather offhandedly, tossed off in the manner of a Zen koan (a form, I know, she had no knowledge about — though, this may be why she may have been the real thing, a kind of unanointed zen monk roaming through life in the disguise of a suburban wife, and mother of 3!) — that we try to admit out loud we’re all terminally imperfectable —  or, as Philip Roth put it (somehow channeling my mother, I always believed):

“The fact remains that getting people [or things] right is not what living is all about anyway.  It’s getting them wrong that is living. . . . That’s how we know we’re alive:  we’re wrong.”

At Jump Rhythm®, via the alignment concept we use to settle our dancing bones through our feet into the floor, Standing Down Straight®, we try to transmute this gravity-bound fragility we’re all subject to into a perfect reason to celebrate. I’d say that’s in fact what the 25 years are for — celebrating this all-too-human admission of flawedness; celebrating it by dancing with utter energy-exploding exuberance through the limits of our everyday, gravity-“imprisoned” bodies.

In these shows, in which well be performing our “stories-in-rhythm” using this everyday,  all-too-human body, we’d like to invite our audiences to imagine what we feel.  To feel what we feel, really; to feel that what we love to do most at Jump Rhythm® — dance and sing with other people using RHYTHM as our language of exchange — is something you, as (we hope) a member of one of our audiences!, can do, even with the smallest parts of your self, your hands, your breath, your eyes.  We invite you to see our somewhat raw-looking, un-”elegant” dancing which prioritizes the expression of rhythmicized Energy over beautiful Shapes as a language that can feel to you as it does to us — as simultaneously the most primitive, the most grace-giving and the most person-to-person-conecting language of all.

We hope you will re-consider yourself as a spontaneously dancing person (which my mother would approve!) rather than as a rarefied Dancer.  For that is our main goal.  Not to underrate our efforts:  you’ll be seeing choreography that has required hundreds upon hundreds of hours (and in the case of our revivals years upon years!) of fine-tuning — especially to make its complex rhythms look like they’re naturally-occuring phenomena like birds flying in a flock.  It IS a creative process which, coming from the inside of the choreographer, can most often feel (to this choreographer at least)that it will never get done and, like the body itself, will always be subject to the Law of Imperfectability.  Still, the choreography, the staging, the scat-singing, the word-driven texts, are all meant to come across as a language you can not only understand but will alert you to the moiling presence of that beautiful thing living inside all humans which can open all of us, when shared through communal rhythm-making, to another person:  Energy.

So, our intent in these shows is that the pieces in it are for everybody.  In accord with my mother’s point of view about looking to the inside of a person for who they are, it is for everybody by intent.  It is, because if it’s ever been your good fortune at any point in your lives to let go of your too-many-added-up tensions at a party or on a sports field or just in the privacy of your living room (or wearing your earbuds) when music you love is blaring full-blast, you are taking the first steps toward the common humanity we try to fill our pieces with at Jump Rhythm® — the first steps toward not just being like that magical “Everybody” world-peace advocates talk about, but toward becoming, as the writer Sharon Hoyer said of what we do at Jump Rhythm®, “every body.”

All of us in the company are feeling so grateful to share these pieces with you during these two weeks of our big anniversary.  We are trying, as best we can, to move the way we feel all humans are meant to move when they are feeling most “themselves,” free of all those stultifying “preconceived notions” of how we should look, as my philosophical mentor Mabel Todd would have it.

May we give you, in as clear language as we can, our flaws — those energy-driven, grasping gestures that most identify us as the human animals we are, in desperate groping need every now and then of a few answers to the great unknowns.  May we stumble and careen and career and whirligig for you with all the unthoughtabout deliciousness any of us feel when we’re at our most childlike and animal-like and wondering.  May these be reflections back to you, even in a small way, of what you may have felt or will feel again, whenever your own inside-felt energies are making you feel at your most alive.

Thanks for reading,

Billy

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