Nia, the dance exercise that I teach, is a great cardio workout. Classes are fun and full of energy. To become a Nia teacher one must take the White Belt Intensive. It is 40+ hours of intense learning, discovery, play, dance, reading, listening, moving, sitting, and so much more. A person that is just interesting in learning more about Nia as a practice may also take the intensive. One does not have to have the intention of teaching to participate in an intensive. In the Nia White Belt there are 13 Principles. These principles are what teachers and practitioner use to expand their Nia practice. Working and playing with the principles actually help bodies to move “better”. Nia is a body centered exercise so these principles actually help us move our bodies. The fourth Nia White Belt principle is FreeDance, this principle has eight stages. The list of the eight stages is in my post Nia Class – Levels 1, 2, 3 – FreeDance Stage 8. The fifth stage is Authentic Movement – Change.
Nia is “about” many things. One thing Nia is about is Authentic movement. Our dance is not a performance. It is not meant to be pretty. It is meant to allow us to move in our own body’s way. The idea is that we will move in our own body’s’ way and we will move as we need to move. With freedom and authenticity we will be working our bodies as they each individually need to be worked. Yes, we do have specific steps in a kata or song. But everyone’s body does the steps maybe a little differently — to their own body’s ability. With practice the body will be able to do the steps and the moves in the Body’s Way, moving the way the body was actually designed to move.
With authentic movement we are letting the body move to the music in its own way. We don’t think of how to move it, we just let it sense the music and it moves. If one is practicing the Nia White Belt Principle #4, stage 5, then the authentic movement is done for two bars, two measures of how we count our music. After two bars change the movement. Do this for each song. The idea is that after a few songs the body will have gone through all of its “normal” movements. You will have danced out all of your movement tendencies. You will have danced all of your bodies patterns and your body will seek new moves. Your body will do things it does not usually do. You might be one that often moves your hips a lot, but after a few songs and continually changing the way you move your hips you might realize that you are out of hip moves, so your body plants your feet and you end up kicking up one leg at a time. Maybe kicking is not part of your typical dance move repertoire. Maybe once your legs start kicking your arms start punching. And this was not thought out or planned it just seemed natural. Leg kick, arm punch.
So the idea is to exhaust the normal and journey into new territory. If you have never done anything like this I want to warn you, you might be a little sore the next day. If you are a booty shaker and you change to a “how-low-can-you-go-er” you will feel it the next morning. If you always keep both feet on the ground and you start kicking or even just doing knee lifts to be different, your body will remind you the next day that you did something different.
If you let your body just dance to the music and switch it up, your body will give you great feed back on how you have never moved your foot/arm/head/butt/ankle/knee/whatever-you-moved-that-was-new the next day. You will go to move foot/arm/head/butt/ankle/knee/whatever-you-moved-that-was-new and probably sense it. This information will help you learn your movement tendencies and you can learn what new moves might help you improve your body’s movements.
Try it! Put on some music and dance with Authentic Movement, then change. Keep doing this through at least five songs and see where you end up. See what new moves your body comes up with. Ready? Go!