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Dance Program Initiatives Lead to International Scholar Exchange

Two fourth-year dance students from the Arts Academy at Turku University of Applied Sciences in Turku, Finland, are visiting Northwestern.

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February 2, 2009 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Two fourth-year dance students from the Arts Academy at Turku University of Applied Sciences in Turku, Finland, are visiting Northwestern University during the 2008-09 winter quarter.

Saana Ojala and Mirva Vaananen are undergraduate students doing research at Northwestern's Dance Program, courtesy of the "Memorandum of Understanding" between Northwestern and the Arts Academy at Turku University of Applied Sciences. The memorandum was the result of several years of work in Jump Rhythm Technique taught at Turku University by Northwestern Dance Professor Billy Siegenfeld.

Siegenfeld met Ojala and Vaananen in 2005 when he first taught the technique at their university while serving as a Fulbright Senior Scholar there. The two students became interested in learning the approach, an innovative system of dance training that Siegenfeld created.

In addition to observing Jump Rhythm classes, Ojala and Vaananen will perform in Siegenfeld's "You Do Not Have to Be Good," a performance for Danceworks 2009, and will also serve as both interns and junior company members with Siegenfeld's Chicago-based performing-teaching company, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project. They will perform with the company in its lecture-demonstration at Northwestern's Josephine Louis Theatre on March 7.

Ojala and Vaananen will perform with other Northwestern dance students in Danceworks 2009; performances begin Friday, Feb. 27 and continue through Sunday, March 8. Thursday through Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., while Sunday performances are at 2 p.m.

Jump Rhythm Technique, Siegenfeld says, is a "rhythm-first" approach to movement learning that transforms the dancing body and scat-singing voice into high-energy, emotionally focused percussion instruments.

Ojala and Vaananen hope to take their experiences at Northwestern back to Finland, where they would like to eventually teach Jump Rhythm Technique either at their university or private dance schools after they graduate in May.