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The Thirteen Principles of Nia (a 13 part series)

Principle Four:

"Anything goes movement-wise. Let go of structure." 

from the exercise book The Nia Technique

Commentary by Julia Desmond,
Certified Nia Instructor

Free Dance is one of my favorite parts of the Nia Techinique.  I have observed, as both student and teacher, that this principle seems to give students the most trouble. I too found it intimidating at first.  I was afraid that people would think I looked stupid and as a result I felt awkward, but overtime I ceased to censor myself, became seduced by the music and learned to move in my own way. When I fully give myself over to free dance I feel exceptionally free, light hearted and emotionally moved in a positive way for a few minutes and I carry that feeling with me for the rest of my day!

The first tenant of free dance is anything goes, and Nia truly means anything! As a teacher, I will never comment, criticize or attempt to modify a student’s movement. The second goal is to be seduced by the music. This means to truly listen to each song, you will find that you relate to each song differently and as a result move in quite different ways. The next step in the journey of free dance is to tap into emotions and feelings. Feel free to pretend to move with a given emotion, see how feelings such as anger and joy change your body’s response to a song. Once you have acted an emotion see if you can tap into that authentic feeling and witness how true emotions influence dance.  Don’t let yourself get stagnant, dancing the same safe move over and over.  Change you movement frequently, eventually you will run out of old standbys and be forced to find your own authentic movement.  Finally: Do not judge or censor yourself!!  Free dance is not about dance steps, it is a path to authentic movement. Witness your progress and let free dance fill your spirit. It truly is amazing when you feel free to fully participate.

To my class: When I witness you all attempting free dance I am amazed at the results although the class is only 5 months old! The result is incredibly organic with you all moving as one being –sensing the music-while each person moves in their own individual way. You are all truly amazingly beautiful and I am honored to share this Nia journey with each one of you!

Commentary by Allison Frederick
Nia Studio owner/operator

FreeDance is the time to push aside some of our inhibitions and rediscover the free spirit inside each of us.

A workout routine with a free dance portion? What is the reason for that? For me, free dance during Nia has always been a little odd. Why am I dancing in the morning and without a glass of wine in me? Each class I muddle through this portion of the routine. I do enjoy losing myself in the beats of the music and eventually my body follows my mind as I sway, stretch, or actually dance. It all depends on my mood and that is exactly the point of free dance – anything goes. I met one lady during my Nia teaching training who said she took the “anything goes” literally and she would leave each time free dance started to go to the bathroom or read literature in the lobby.

So, if there are some people who feel self-conscious about the free dance portion of the routine, why do Nia teachers keep it in? The philosophy of Nia is to reestablish the connection between our mind – and in this case we might say our “mind police” and our free spirit which often hides in a tiny corner somewhere in our body. Our mind police tell us that we are busy people with a lot of responsibility and there isn’t time for us to dance or express ourselves freely. If we are going to exercise we should do something practical like jumping jacks or lunges. 

Our free spirit may still have a voice but it is often trampled on by the governing mind police. Nia is one hour, given to yourself, to push the mind police aside and discover and hear your own free spirit. free dance is the perfect opportunity for you to listen to your body and do what your body wants to do. This is probably a big change for most of us.

To help you dust off your free spirit, the Nia Technique offers keywords, or what they call “pearls.” These are words you can say to yourself during a Nia routine to trigger your mind and body into a particular movement or emotion. If you feel awkward during free dance, trying keeping some of these words in your mind: anything goes, pretend, no judgment, no thinking, change, or creativity. Try using one of these keywords whenever you feel awkward and want to quit. Does is shift your mood? Does the word help take you to a better experience? Sure, there are a few people who are very comfortable with this part of the routine. They look graceful and happy as they float around the room. For me, I consider it a journey and with each new experience I can feel my body lift as I improve my ability to stifle the mind police.

More articles on The Thirteen Principles of Nia

Principle One:  The Joy of Movement
"Joy is the primary sensation you should seek from all movement. If you momentarily lose joy, tweak your movement until joy again arises." *

Principle Two:  Natural Time and the Movement Forms
"All of your Nia movements are done in your own personal, natural sense of time and include movements and energy from nine classic forms." *

Principle Three: Music and the BBC System 
"Nia is practiced to the sounds and silences of music, using an eight-beat counting (BBC) system (1 - and, 2 - and, 3 - and, 4 - and, 5 - and...) to organize the movements." *

Principle Four:  FreeDance
"Anything goes movement-wise. Let go of structure.

Principle Five: Awareness and Dancing through Life
"In Nia, you become aware that every movement in life is a dance and that every movement can be used to self-heal."

Part 2 of Principle Five: Dancing through Life

Principle Six: The Base - Feet and Legs
"Your feet are the hands that touch the earth, and through your legs they carry the energy of the earth to your whole body."

Article Coming Next - Principle Seven: The Three Planes and Three Levels
"Every movement can be done within three planes - low, middle, and high (or as you will hear in class, Level One, Level Two, Level Three) - and can be done with three different levels of intensity. Mixing the three levels and three planes creates a wide repertoire of movement choices. Transfer body weight along a Smile Line, moving from low to middle, to high. Use three levels of intensity to vary your rate of exertion."

*Nia Principle descriptions are taken directly from the fitness book "The Nia Technique: The High-Powered Energizing Workout that Gives You a New Body and a New Life" by Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas

If Nia sounds like something you would like to try, we invite you to take your first Nia class for free. Simply fill out the request below and we will send a coupon to you. Our Nia fitness classes are offered in Castle Rock, Colorado. 
Castle Rock Nia Fitness Studio is located 15 minutes south of Lone Tree, 20 minutes south of the Denver Tech Center, 20 minutes west of Parker and 10 minutes north of Larkspur, Colorado. Our convenient, off-the-highway access (Just off I-25 and Exit 184) makes it easy to get to our Nia classes
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