Riffin’ – Program


11/3 & 11/4 – 7:30-9pm

Rhythmically Speaking is thrilled to return to live, indoor performance at Amsterdam Bar & Hall for Riffin’: A Jazz-Danced Celebration of Human Interaction. As a nod to being able to get back together after an extended period of time away from one another, we’ll be exploring how we humans thrive off interacting with (or riffing off!) not only each other, but also complex rhythms and grooves! In this show, we use our signature groove, interaction and improvisation-based approach to jazz dance to enliven this concept, along with a combo of live jazz musicians led by guitarist and composer Mike Lauer. 



  • Masks: Required at all times except when eating and drinking in your seat/s. Performers, who are all fully-vaccinated, will remove their masks upon entering the stage space to perform, and will put them back on when exiting.
  • Food and Drink: Excellent food and drink will be on sale in the Amsterdam Bar area – please feel free to hop up at any time during the show to order!


Welcome, Folks 🙂

We’re thrilled you are here to share energy with us in a social space again, enjoying live music and dance in celebration of the human spirit! The last time we performed an indoor season show was here at the Amsterdam in December 2019, with our fan favorite CHILL: The Entire Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack, Played Live and Danced! While we hope to bring that show back in the near future (including for new audiences outside of the Twin Cities metro!), for this 21-22 season Fall/ Winter show Riffin’, we wanted to focus in on how we humans thrive off interacting with one another. After a year and a half of spending little to no time with folks outside our own households live and in-person, much less out in beloved public spaces like the Amsterdam, we felt moved to celebrate our shared human status as social animals!

This exploration is all centered around a jazz concept I just LOVE: riffin’. A ‘riff’ is an ‘energetic, often improvised (verbal) outpouring,’ ‘a succinct or witty comment,’ or a distinct variation or “take” on something’ (Merriam Webster). Playing off ‘ripping off’ or stealing, in jazz, ‘riffing off’ means ‘to borrow from and elaborate on.’ In this, ‘riffin’ off’ something or someone is an interactive way of celebrating their ideas and individualities while simultaneously expressing ones own. I dig the jazziness of the subtle nod to the fact that there is a fine line between ‘riffing’ and ‘ripping’ off, and that it is so much more fruitful, artistically and humanistically, to walk the former. One of my favorite things about jazz music and dance is use of improvisation to riff of the ideas and people with whom I’m creating. Consequently, riffing off one another and ideas is a major component of how Rhythmically Speaking approaches jazz dance, as you’ll see in this show. 

In truth, this is how ALL us humans navigate life – improvising our way from one interaction with one another to the next as we weave our way through our experiences. We are excited to muse on this idea with you, enjoying music and movement creation, together and in the moment. Thank you for being here to join in the joy!

JazzLove – Erinn



Given the casual, MCed nature of this production, each of the below segments will be explained in more detail during the show!

Riffin’ Off: A Tune (Christian McBride Trio’s version of Johnnie Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love”)

Riffin’ Off: Movements

Riffin’ Off: Ideas

Riffin’ Off: Space (film featuring dancer Sara Karimi and tune “Backyard Blues” by BrassZilla)

Riffin’ Off: The Body

Riffin’ Off: Rhythms (inspired by Mai Lê and her organization/ approach LayeRhythm)

Riffin’ Off: Each Other

Riffin’ Off: Reverse Engineering (where the movement comes first and the sound comes second)


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To the Minnesota State Arts Board for funding that helped make this possible, Brenda and the folks at Amsterdam Bar & Hall for being long-time collaborators and believers in dance in the bar space, BrassZilla for sharing their tunes for the film and pre-show; intermission and post-show music (head here to buy the album!), and Advisory Panel members Luther Bell, Brian J. Evans, Hannah Elias, Kristine Frank Elias and Kristoffer Olson for all their work behind the scenes helping make dance magic happen.


This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

We acknowledge that our work occurs on the traditional lands of the Dakota people, and honor with gratitude the land itself and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations, including the Ojibwe and other indigenous nations. We also acknowledge that as a company built around jazz and American social dances, forms with African diasporic roots and branches, anti-racism and intersectional justice efforts must also be central in our work. We view bettering these efforts as an ongoing journey, and welcome you to read more about this at our Anti-Racism page.



Chris Bates (Bassist)


Chris Bates, bassist / composer. Solo releases: Red 5 & Good Vibes Trio. Member of McKnight Performer Fellowship winning Atlantis Quartet (’15) & winner of McKnight Composer Fellowship (’99). Red Planet w/ Bill Carrothers April 2017. doublebates.com.

Bill Cameron (Photographer)


Bill Cameron is a Minneapolis photographer loves photographing people.  He specializes in working with local dance companies and their wonderful dancers.

Shane Donahue (Lighting Designer | Technical Director)


Shane has been lighting up the Twin Cities music scene for the past 8 years. You can find him illuminating places such as the Fine Line, First Avenue, the Palace Theater, and internationally on tour with the band Low. He is glad to be back working with Rhythmically Speaking for another fun-filled show!

Ben Erlich (Drummer)

Ben Ehrlich is a drummer, composer and educator based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who specializes in jazz, blues, rock, avant-garde and all forms of improvised music. Ben can be heard frequently throughout the twin cities jazz scene as a part of the Graydon Peterson Quartet, Charlie Lincoln Quartet, Will Kjeer Trio, and countless others. When he is not playing or teaching music, he enjoys cooking and spending time in nature.

Doug Hooker (Dancer)

Doug graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Dance. He has had a variety of professional performing opportunities, including with the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum & Bugle Corps, the Broadway show Blast! and the Dancing People Company, and locally with ARENA DANCES, Threads Dance Project, Shapiro and Smith Dance and Collide Theatrical Dance Company.

Amy Jones (Dancer)

Amy graduated from Luther College with degrees in Theatre/Dance and Management. She has performed concert and commercial work in Minneapolis and NYC and has worked with Noemie LaFrance, Alternative Motion Project, Stuart Pimsler, Morgan Thorson, The Mystic Dancers (Herb Johnson), among others. She is the Listings Manager at Dance Media and is a pilates instructor and aerial fitness teacher-trainer. 

Sara Karimi (Dancer – Film Only)

Sara Karimi is a dance artist based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A graduate of the University of Iowa (BFA in Dance Performance, BA in English), her professional dance career has taken her around the globe touring nationally and internationally. She has danced with 10,000 Feet Dance Company (Colorado), Kayle + Co. (Los Angeles), The Architects (NYC & Philadelphia), Borealis Dance Theatre (Minneapolis, MN) and with freelance artists Salia Sanou (Burkina Faso/France), Valerie Madonia (ABT and Joffrey Ballet), Caroline Richardson (National Ballet of Canada), and Pat Taylor (Jazz Antiqua/LA), among others.  She is a founding member of Concerto Dance and is currently a company member with Threads Dance Project (since 2015) and Rhythmically Speaking (since 2018). 

Mike Lauer (Arranger | Music Director | Guitarist)

Mike is a Minneapolis-based guitarist, arranger, composer and band leader with a degree in jazz guitar from Minnesota State University Moorhead. Lauer is the Director of Music at Central Lutheran Church in Elk River, and can be seen playing live with Justin Ploof and the Throwbacks, the Monday Night Jazz Group and with various other accomplished artists in the Twin Cities area. 

Erinn Liebhard (RS Artistic and Executive Director | Producer | Choreographer | Dancer)

Erinn is a dance artist (MFA University of Colorado Boulder, BFA University of Minnesota) making opportunities for people to experience the reflective and connective power of groove through performance and education. In performance (besides RS!), she’s a member of Afro-Brazilian company Contempo Physical Dance and performs as entertainer “Nerdette” for Saint Paul Saints Baseball. In education, she is an active residency artist, a Teaching Artist for the Cowles Center, and is on faculty for Muhlenberg College (PA), St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, Winona State University, and Zenon Dance School. erinnliebhard.com.

Andrew Long (Saxophonist)

Andrew is a woodwind instrumentalist living in Saint Paul. He pursued classical saxophone studies as an undergraduate and is now expanding his musical vocabulary to the ends of the earth.

Ben McGinley (Videographer)

Kathleen Pender (Dancer)


Kathleen Pender is a performer, dance educator, and arts administrator with a B.A. in Dance from St. Olaf College. She teaches for the Northfield Arts Guild and Young Dance, where she also works as Program Manager. She has performed in works by local choreographers Erinn Liebhard, Suzanne Costello, Gretchen Pick, Julie Warder, Taja Will, and Pat Taylor/JazzAntiqua (LA), among others. She has performed in several Rhythmically Speaking productions since 2013 and has been a member of the Rhythmically Speaking Cohort since 2019. Kathleen is currently pursuing certification in Massage Therapy at Northwestern Health Sciences University. Kathleen is passionate about community and relationships cultivated through movement exploration, education, and performance.

John Surber (Dancer)

John Surber is a professional dance artist and teacher out of the Minneapolis/ St. Paul area who graduated Cum Laude from Gustavus Adolphus College with a B.A. in Dance in May of 2017. John started dancing in college, training primarily in modern, and dabbling in the areas of jazz and hip hop. John has performed with Rhythmically Speaking, Arbeit Opera Theatre, 16 Feet, Kinetic Evolutions and the Christopher Watson Dance Company and 8:20 Dance Company. johnsurber.wixsite.com/johnsurber.

Crissy Tolson (Dancer)

Crissy Tolson has worked with numerous Twin Cities companies and artists such as Rhythmically Speaking, Alternative Motion Project, Loom Lab, Borealis Dance, Pedro Pablo and Laura Selle Virtucio. She is also a founding member of Painting the Room, a Minneapolis based music/dance/text improvisation group. Her performance has been highlighted by the Star Tribune: “She commanded such presence… articulating emotions with precision …downright terrifying”. Off the stage, she’s co-produced and directed three shows for the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Crissy holds a BFA in Dance from George Mason University and recently went to Amsterdam to study improvisation composition under Katie Duck.


:: Click HERE if you’d like to support us beyond the price of your ticket ::

:: Follow Us!: Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | eNews ::

:: Take our Audience Survey – this information helps us improve our inclusivity efforts and secure funding that helps these shows happen! ::

Thank you for joining us for Riffin’!