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Choosing Music Can Be Hard—Even for Paul Taylor Principal Parisa Khobdeh

Khobdeh dancing Taylor's Speaking In Tongues. Photo courtesy of PTDC

For Parisa Khobdeh, music does more than set the tone for a piece—it's enabled her to connect with movement. And once she joined Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2003, Taylor's body of work deepened this connection. "His choreography showed me the music, the architecture and the space," she says. "I now see the music."

Though she often teaches to recorded music, she prefers working with a live accompanist. "The class is better supported," she says. Whether piano, drums or, her favorite, the cello, live music creates a more engaging experience for the dancers. "We live in rarefied air that we can wake up as a dancer and start our day to live music. That to me is monastic. When you have a musician that's in the room, he's tapped in. His heart beats with yours and a conversation happens."

Photo courtesy of PTDC

As enjoyable as having live music can be, it comes with its own set of challenges. Khobdeh tells an anecdote about a recent trip to Ecuador with the company. A student accompanist was having trouble playing a tempo that Khobdeh requested. "I wanted it more jazzy, and he kept playing the same tune over and over again. We needed more soul and life. He had one recorded beatbox song that we played for everything," she lightheartedly recalls. "We were doing Esplanade to it!"

Dancing with PTDC for more than a decade now, Khobdeh also teaches the Taylor technique and is now finding her stride as a choreographer. Last year she earned a Bessie nomination for work she choreographed for the company. Currently, she's creating the modern-dance solos for dancers at Chamberlain Performing Arts in Plano, Texas, who will compete in the Youth America Grand Prix.

She admits, though, choosing music for choreography is no simple task. "I look at epic pieces of music and it's almost intimidating," she says. "I trust my instincts and follow my heart."

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Courtesy of NUVO Dance Convention

For all intents and purposes, Stacey Tookey is a Disney princess. Her voice is like honey as she waltzes around the classroom exclaiming words of encouragement, she sees the best in all of her dancers from the front row to the back and she's absolutely beautiful. I mean, come one! Who get's to have a kid, hip surgery, years of wear and tear and still maintain eternally lovely lines that rotate into perfection?

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Because range of motion in the hip is ultimately determined by the joint's structure, it is impossible for dancers to increase their structural turnout. Often, though, students do not use what they have to the greatest potential. By maximizing their mobility they will find greater ease within movement, improve lines and, most important, prevent injuries caused by forcing the joints.

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Sitting Stretch: For Stretching Turnout Muscles at the Back of the Pelvis

Sit on the edge of a chair with knees at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor. Cross the right ankle onto the left knee. Lace your hands together and nestle them under the right knee, lightly pressing energy into your hands and toward the floor (though the knee should not actually move). Sit up straight—some may already feel tension here.

With a flat back, bring the belly button toward your legs. Continue gently pressing the right knee into your clasped hands.

Experiment with turning the upper body toward the knee or the foot to stretch different muscles.

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