There is something very powerful about being in a class where everyone is doing the same move. Not identical as the goal is in a traditional dance performance, but each person doing the same move in their own way.

It is a wonderful component of Nia that encourages everyone to dance from whatever level they are currently, so that everyone can participate, whether they are overweight and out of shape — like I was when I started Nia two years ago, or svelte and athletic, which is (closer, at least) to where I am now.

It is a celebration to find a fitness form that encourages self-exploration. Through the diversity of movement styles: dance (modern dance, jazz and Duncan dance), martial arts (T’ai Chi, Aikido, Tae Kwon Do) and healing arts (yoga, Alexander Technique and the work of Moshe Feldenkrais), students have the opportunity to inhabit and be transported into a magical world.

Imagination is encouraged in Nia classes. In one song I am a graceful and fluid ballet dancer, in another I am saucy jazz diva: I am a star! I am strong and fearless with martial arts moves, composed and serene with yoga moves, integrated with Alexander Technique.

It is also a celebration of different facets of being: sometimes I want to be graceful and feminine, other times I want to be athletic. One moment I am serious and composed, the next I am playful. Nia gives an outlet for all these expressions and it stretches me to go into places that I probably wouldn’t explore on my own: it gives permission to be ungraceful, play with being off balance or making shapes that aren’t always ‘pretty’.

What is really interesting is that this play acting spills over into other parts of your life. Nia calls itself a life-style practice as well as a fitness practice. How so? Ask yourself,  were there any times in your life you can remember ‘taking on’ attributes of what you were doing? For example, when I was a dancer, I wore dance workout clothes and carried myself like a dancer. When I was doing yoga people commented on how serene I was. With T’ai Chi it was all about feeling energy flowing in my body.

With Nia, it took me longer to find the connection, and perhaps it is different for everyone, but I find Nia greatly expands my sense of self, with attributes from yoga (composed, grounded, balanced and serene), dance (grace, fluid, playful) and martial arts (strong, fierce, alert, but it can also be balanced and gentle.) 

It results in an increasingly well balanced person, one who is able to express their emotions, who is joyfully ‘dancing through life’ and that is something worth celebrating.

© Deborah Redfern 2011. All rights reserved.

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