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They've Got Rhythm

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I saw the dance troupe Jump Rhythm Jazz Project perform for the first time last spring and was so taken I went back a few nights later to see it again. The program opened with artistic director and principal choreographer Billy Siegenfeld and his longtime partner, Jeannie Hill, in a romantic and humorously barbed song-and-dance version of "Night and Day" that took Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire into new territory. I didn't want that piece to end, but, despite a few too many moments of group rushing to and fro, everything that followed proved to be equally intriguing. Siegenfeld, a professor at Northwestern University, thinks of dancers' bodies as percussive instruments and has developed a technique based on that idea that leads to irresistible, surprising work. Reader critic Laura Molzahn has written that Siegenfeld "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." The stories don't all end happily, but the overwhelming emotion they elicit is joy. Jump Rhythm Jazz Project performs Sunday, November 16, at 4 on the main stage at the James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts at the College of Lake County, 19351 W. Washington in Grayslake. Tickets are $25, $24 for students and seniors, and $12 for kids under 12. Call 847-543-2300.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/William Frederking.

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