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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-wedgeThoughts about the Jump Rhythm shows at Stage 773

Thoughts about the Jump Rhythm shows at Stage 773

One audience member wrote, “Jump Rhythm, you bring such an important, necessary, life-giving energy to dance in Chicago.” Another wrote, “There was life in the dances! It was wonderful!”

It is so helpful, so truly reassuring to read comments like these. One of the things we work hard at in Jump Rhythm is trying — when rehearsing a piece — to make it all feel like a slice of life. We focus on making the movement and vocals not only rooted in instinctive, urgent human behavior, but, to audiences, feel like credible expressions of that behavior too.

I’ve always loved the dancing that, like the best spoken-text theatre or cinema, is a revealer of any of the “mad, sad, glad” human emotions and their thousand variants. I’ve always loved how feeling, when funneled through sharply-etched rhythms, can be the primary engine of dancing — can in fact be the primary clarifiers of every single rhythmic-dynamic moment in the performances audiences see.

Knowing how magicians like Astaire made dancing look so natural, look so deceptively “everyday” (even though the dancing he in particular did is perhaps some of the most rhythmically and dynamically fluent dancing that’s ever been done), we’re committed to honoring and expanding upon the tradition of dance-and-music-making he was a part of. Jump Rhythm loves working at being a vocal-rhythmic-based movement-theatre that gives off the energy of being sharply alive. We embrace using what we do as a way of, as the great acting teacher Meisner said, “living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.”

After the Sunday show, another audience member — who took with us a workshop in swing-dancing based in Jump Rhythm ideas — came up to me and said our show reminded her not only of the movement part of the workshop but of a movie excerpt we screened. It was of Astaire doing the “I’ve Got My Eyes On You” scene from Broadway Melody of 1940. He doesn’t just dance. He picks up objects like sheet music and a woman’s compact, plays the piano and knocks out taps against it while twirling on his stool, sings at two different tempos, turns the compact case into a ball and juggles it, jumps up and off furniture, and so on. He does all that in a succinct few minutes, seamlessly transitioning human behavior into danced behavior and then back again, all for the purpose of expressing “I’m nuts about you.” His dancing, such brilliant, rhythmically nailed dancing, is not just “dancing.” It’s a sparkling example of, as Michael Kidd once said (describing what he was trying to do in his own choreography), “human behavior and people’s manners, stylized into musical rhythmic form.”

I’m grateful these audience members chose to share these reactions. They inspire me to keep at it as much as my own love for this work does. Jump Rhythm works at fusing motion and voice-sound into revealers of real life — life in all its oftentimes frustrating messiness and, as oftentimes, heart-warming joyousness. So post-show remarks like these help because they say that for some we’re doing what we’re dedicated to doing — touching the feeling-core in people; even making some of them — as I remember my parents saying Astaire made them want to do — want to use their own bodies and voices to express outwardly what they feel deeply inside themselves.

Thanks for reading,

~Billy

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