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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