Artistic director Billy Siegenfeld, who calls his troupe a "jazz orchestra," makes dances by developing a "rhythmic counterscore" to the music he plans to use, then rehearses them without any music whatsoever. These rhythmic counterscores are complex in themselves--incorporating singing and audible breathing as well as percussive moves of the feet, hands, and head--but when they're layered with the classic jazz Siegenfeld favors, the end result is intricate indeed. Fortunately his approach doesn't preclude storytelling or emotion. In his new Settling for Less, the tone is initially disaffected, even confrontational, but evolves into something more friendly and affectionate. Or does it? One of the strengths of this piece is that we're not quite sure. Siegenfeld also presents all three sections of his If Winter, commissioned by the Limon Dance Company but performed here by his troupe for the first time. It too tells a story, traveling from autumn through winter to spring and focusing on one "wacko" character, as Siegenfeld calls her, who sees that spring is on the way when others don't; in the final section the performers become almost clownish, hinting at giddy ballroom dancers and Shakespearean fools. Also new is associate artistic director Jeannie Hill's For Buster, a tap-dance trio paying tribute to James "Buster" Brown, who died last year at the age of 89. Hill, who knew him for the last 12 years of his life, calls him "Mr. Groove"--a description reflected in a piece that swings to the music but not on the beat. Agreeably spare, it's both quizzical and confident. Rounding out the program are several pieces from the troupe's repertoire, all by Siegenfeld: Elling, Sweet: The Healing; Two Gents, Perhaps; Night and Day; I Hear Music; Poppy and Lou; and No Way Out. Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble, 773-342-4141. Through May 11: Thursday, 7:30 PM; Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 3 PM. $15-$25. Note: A company benefit Thursday begins at 6 PM; $25-$150 includes a preperformance reception and postperformance dessert celebration.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/William Burlingham.