When I first moved to Chicago I was insatiably hungry to see what the local dance scene was all about.Â I went to every show I could, and that first year I went to see eight different shows during Dance Chicago.Â I probably saw twenty or thirty different companies that month, but one stuck out for me thanks to their rhythmic sophistication, the humanity of the work, and the use of dance to tell a story.Â That company (as you’ve no doubt guessed) was Jump RhythmÂ® Jazz Project.Â I knew of them through having seen Jeannie Hill perform a few years earlier, but had not seen the company nor met Billy Siegenfeld.Â I saw them perform a few different pieces that month, but my two favorites were Poppy and Lou, a sweetly sentimental piece that made my swoon, laugh and tear up, and No Way Out, a piece that took the New York of the 80s and 90s and put it on stage.
It’s fifteen years later and I am honored and amazed to be able to say that Jeannie is a sometimes employer (at her awesome Point Tap Festival… Check it out!), Billy has become one of my dearest friends and mentors, and I am making my Jump RhythmÂ® debut performing my favorite piece of theirs!Â How lucky can one guy be, indeed!
There have been many pleasures associated with working on this piece, including the learning process with some of the fabulous dancers of the company and the unbelievably great tap dancer Kirsten Uttich, from my own company.Â I also loved learning a bit of the core Jump RhythmÂ® technique.Â I now am beginning to understand how the company’s aesthetic is shaped by the technique.Â It is fascinating, it is meaningful and it is deep.Â Finally, working with Billy as we cleaned the piece has been, as expected, a master class in clarity of intent and rhythm.Â It has also, not surprisingly, been incredibly fun.
To have this opportunity to bring the Chicago Tap Theatre and Jump RhythmÂ® Jazz Project families closer has been a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime experience.Â I am so thankful to Kirsten (Kiki) for joining me on this journey.Â I am thankful for the time and energy all of the Jump RhythmÂ® dancers put into helping us with the choreography and pulling everything together.Â I am thankful for the time spent with Jeannie in the rehearsal space as we learned the piece.Â And I am indebted to Billy for this opportunity to dance one of the true masterpieces of late-20th Century choreography.
Mark Yonally is currently the Artistic Director of Chicago Tap Theatre, one of the most critically well-regarded companies in Chicago. Mark has developed a national and international reputation as a performer, with solo performances in Chicago, Kansas City, Albuquerque, Amsterdam and Paris. He has been blessed to have Sarah Petronio, Dianne Walker, Bill Evans and Billy Siegenfeld as mentors.