Music for Class: Modern Beats

Posted on March 9, 2009 by

As founder and artistic director of Jennifer Muller/The Works, Jennifer Muller has been a force in modern dance for 40 years. At age 15, she was already dancing professionally with one of her mentors, Pearl Lang, in the Pearl Lang Dance Company. And after graduating from The Juilliard School, Muller spent nine years as principal dancer with the José Limón Dance Company before becoming associate artistic director of the Louis Falco Dance Company.

Today, Muller has developed her own personalized technique, which she describes as a “polarity technique” that contrasts a relaxed and grounded plié with an extenuated and energized “up.” Her approach is holistic and brings both control and freedom to dancers, while her interest in Eastern philosophy and Chinese energy system concepts (forms such as Qigong and Tai Chi) not only influences her technique but also makes up the core philosophy of her company.

With music in mind, Muller says, “My choices reflect my eclectic taste, travel the globe a bit and are different in texture. I have come to prefer using CDs rather than live accompaniment for the variety and energy that they provide and the fact that they stir the spirit at the same time.” Here are some of her favorites. DT

Artist: Boyz II Men
Song/Album: “Al Final del Camino (Spanish version),” Cooleyhighharmony

“This is one of my favorite choices for grand pliés. The song brings out the heart and spirit of the dancers and takes them past doing an exercise into a deeper, more personal approach to dancing. The English version is good, but I love the Spanish version with its interesting spoken bridge.”

Artist: Simone
Song/Album
: “Iolanda,” Desejos

“I have used this song for stretching exercises for many years. It is just a bit unusual and has a very calming atmosphere. The Portuguese adds a seductive quality. Also try the song “Eu Preciso de Vocé.” It has an extraordinary atmosphere—very moving, if a bit sad—but watch out for the rubato.”

Artist: Ashkaru
Song/Album: “Must Give Back,” Mother Tongue

“This is a fun choice for fast degagés or any fast feet exercises. It is lighthearted and gets those feet moving.”

Artist: Dr. Didg
Song/Album: “Sun Tan,” Out of the Woods

“This is one of my top 10 CDs—an old standby and trusted friend. It is so versatile, energetic and good for many different types of exercises, like tendus. The Australian instrument, the didgeridoo, is unique and adds a surprising element.”

Artist: Jamiroquai
Song/Album: Bonus Track—#13 on the CD Traveling Without Moving

“I use this track for small jumps. It has energy and gives that extra lift to the dancers’ elevation. I adore almost everything that Jamiroquai does. Many tracks work for barre exercises, but this one is unsurpassed for moving across the floor. It has fantastic propulsive quality and lights a fire under the dancers. Also try the CD High Times, which has two of my favorites: “Corner of the Earth” for light and quick frappés and “Runaway” for rond de jambe en l’air.”

Photo courtesy Jennifer Muller/The Works

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