Terre Pruitt's Blog

In the realm of health, wellness, fitness, and the like, or whatever inspires me.

  • I teach Nia, yoga and stretch! SIX group classes a week!

    Nia: Tues and Thurs at 9 am, Fri at 10:15 am

    Yoga: Tues at 10:30 am and Thurs at 6:00 pm

    Stretch: Thurs at 10:15 am

    Please see my website for details! I sub for the City of San Jose and the YMCA so check my website for dates and times!

    I am also available for private Nia / yoga / Personal Training!

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Archive for the ‘FreeDance’ Category

FreeDance Fridays

Posted by terrepruitt on March 20, 2017

Ahhh, I don’t think I talked about Friday FreeDance.  In November of last year we there were four Fridays.  Two of those Fridays were holidays for SJCity Fit.  So out of the four Fridays in November we were only going to have a Nia class for two of them.  So I had decided that we could do Friday FreeDance.  Now for some people who sounds totally awesome, but for some people it sounds totally scary or icky, as in not fun.  Not everyone is a fan of FreeDance.  I understand that.  Not everyone is comfortable dancing on their own especially in a dance exercise class.  Many people go to exercise classes to be told what to do.  A majority of the students that attend my Nia classes have been dancing Nia for years now, so I knew they would be able to FreeDance for an entire hour.  We did it, and I received some interesting feedback and information.

First of all, I do want to explain that it wasn’t an ENTIRE hour of strictly FreeDance.  I think for both Fridays I started with a choreographed first song.  And I ended with instructions in the last song.  Then the rest of the songs were mainly GUIDED FreeDance.  So there were some suggestions on what to do, but it was left up to the participants to do it in their own body’s way.  And in some case in their own mind’s way.  They might have had to think of what some of the suggestions would be moving like.

I might have suggested that they move as if they are skiing.  With that one usually has to think about it and then do it.  The fun part is, of course, that everyone does it different.  With no clarification as to what type of skiing there is so much room for interpretation.  Someone could be water skiing, some people down hill skiing.  Some people might be cross-country skiing.  And then of course, even with those qualifications it could look wildly different.  That is the fun of FreeDance.

I was very happy that most people liked it.  I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think they would like it and they could do it.  It took me four and half years to feel confident enough in the students love of Nia and FreeDance to do it.  And most people liked it. I am thinking they liked it as a Friday thing . . . I mean, they still like the choreography so they wouldn’t want to do FreeDance for the hour all the time.

There are a few people who wear pedometers in class and the majority of them reported that they got over 1,000 MORE steps in with FreeDance.  One student said she averages about 4500 steps in regular Nia class, but in the FreeDance class she was at 5700.  There definitely is the possibility to get in more steps.  But if you are one who needs instructions more than just a guide you would probably get less steps in during FreeDance.

I thought I had posted about this because I was really happy and excited that I finally did it AND that the class really enjoyed it.  And I was also really excited and happy that many people got more steps in.  I couldn’t find the post I thought I did.  So here.  And if this is a repeat, oh well.

I have been putting in more FreeDance into our routines because people do really enjoy it.  I think I will be doing a Friday FreeDance once a month.  I love how Nia brings joy through dance.

So how would you feel about Friday FreeDance?

Posted in FreeDance, Nia | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

What Do You Mean Nia FreeDance Tool?

Posted by terrepruitt on April 18, 2015

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose,  Nia at the San Jose Community Centers, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex City of San Jose, San Jose Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, PiYoSome of you may be wondering what I mean when I say Nia FreeDance Tools.  Recently I invited First Degree Black Belt Nia Teacher, Jason Alan Griffin, to present a playshop of his creation.  The playshop was him sharing some Nia FreeDance Tools.  I have talked about what Nia FreeDance is before, it is where there is no assigned choreography and we just dance to the music (or not).  But it is not the type of dancing you would see in a club.  It is not the type of dancing that has specific names for the dance moves . . . yeah a cha-cha, jazz square, or a pirouette might sneak its way in, but primarily it is not that type of dancing.  So some of the tools we have to practice Nia FreeDance are the 8 Stages of Nia FreeDance.  And within those stages can be additional tools.

First of all as a reminder we do FreeDance to allow our bodies to move in different ways.  To move in ways that are not our normal ways of dancing . . . so if you ARE a ballerina, the idea is to let your body dance outside of the ballet mold.  If you are tap dancer perhaps in FreeDance your feet don’t tap.  It is a way to practice different moves to music and allow our bodies to experience something away from its regular patterns.

There are other reasons and ways a Nia Teacher uses Nia FreeDance, but I am just going to keep this post on the path of tools.  So within the tool box are the 8 Stages as I mentioned.

Now, in the playshop Jason did not mention these tools in association with the stages, but a lot of the tools he shared were introduced to me in connection with the first 5 stages of Nia FreeDance.

So with Stage 1: FreeDance (Catch Phrase: Anything Goes, Movement-Wise) . . . almost all of the tools could be associated with this stage but one that sticks out for me is being silly, acting goofy.  This is super fun and is pretty close to guaranteed to get you to move in a different way to music than you might be used to.

Tools I associate with Stage 2: Being Seduced by the Music (Catch Phrase: Art of Listening) are as it says, being seduced by the music.  So just letting the music take you away.  I imagine most of you have had a song play where you can just get carried off by it.  You can just move without thinking and dance away.

There is also Tempo Change . . . this involves the art of listening because you are listening for the tempo and then dancing against it or with it or faster than it or slower than it or opposite of it.  Just listening and moving to it — in your own way.

There is also a tool that we use called “Forget the music” where you just dance in your own way — period.  People might look at you and wonder what you are hearing because it might look to them as if you are not dancing to the music.  And you could not be.  Perhaps you don’t like the song that is on or you like a different version that you know so your dance is not “to” the music.

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose,  Nia at the San Jose Community Centers, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex City of San Jose, San Jose Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, PiYoStage 3: Feelings and Emotions (Catch Phrase: Pretend, Fake It, Act As If ).   This stage has a lot of tools that connect to it, if you are dancing the “Feelings and Emotions” you act “as if” you are ___________ (fill in the blank with an emotion).  You could be ACTING “as if” you are angry so you stomp around the room.  Or you are ACTING “as if” you are jealous or ACTING “as if” you are happy.  Allowing your body to move in ways that it would move if you were feeling those emotions is a great way to move.

Or you could PRETEND you are playing an instrument.  I always say that I have become the greatest musician since I started teaching Nia.  Or you could act as if you are playing a sport or a child’s outdoor game.  This type of pretending is not sticking strictly to the stage and catch phrase, but it can be connected to it because there is pretending, faking, and acting.

Stage 4: The Creative Source (Catch Phrase: The Real You).  This is where there is no story or no acting “as if”, you are moving with your true emotions.  The tool would be no choreography allowed, in fact the dance is suspended and you are moving in your own way as an emotional being.

Stage 5: Authentic Movement (Catch Phrase: Change!!).  Here is where the tool of changing every two bars comes in.  The movement is authentic.  The real you, nothing fancy just the way your body goes, but changing it every two bars.  Or the change could be applied to directions or levels.  You could dance going one direction and quickly change to go another directions.  Or you could be dancing in the high plane and switch to the low or the middle.  The idea is to CHANGE!

So that is what we mean by “tools”.  Basically ideas of how to move.  There are a lot of tools that can be used, there are so many ways to move.  One of the most fun things to experience is an individual actually practicing these tools and then coming up to me after class and saying what a great workout they received.  Many say they didn’t realize that  FreeDancing could be such a great workout.  That is one reason why we FreeDance . . . it really is a GREAT workout!  Having a lot of tools makes it fun!

Does this give you a better idea as to what the “tools” are?  Does this give you ideas for your next dancing-in-your-living-room session?  Or ideas on how to conduct your next car-dancing moment?

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The Nia FreeDance Playshop Was Awesome!

Posted by terrepruitt on April 9, 2015

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose,  Nia at the San Jose Community Centers, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex City of San Jose, San Jose Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, PiYoAt the end of March (2015) there were two Special Nia Events in Campbell, California.  They were special for a lot of reasons.  One reason being is because a visiting teacher was going to be doing them.  It is always special when someone who does not live in the area comes and shares their talents.  Another reason is because the Nia Class is a one-of-a-kind-creation.  The visiting teacher created the routine and was going to lead us through it.  ANOTHER reason, they were special, was that one of the classes was a workshop or a playshop as we like to call them in Nia.  And it was also, the creation of the visiting teacher and it was something that I think anyone that dances Nia can benefit from.  Another reason they special was they were the first Nia Events that I produced.  Produced meaning, when I heard that the Nia Teacher who created the Playshop was coming to my area I contacted him to invite him to do these events.  I secured the location, I created marketing material, I promoted the events (as I am sure you have seen, I posted about them often), I worked to get participants to the events, and I worried about how it would all turn out. So, two special Nia Events.  I have posted two separate posts (What Did Frankie Say? and Dancing, Learning, Posting, Editing) about the Nia Class that was held on Friday, March 27, 2015.  This post is about the Playshop.

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose,  Nia at the San Jose Community Centers, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex City of San Jose, San Jose Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, PiYoThe Playshop on Saturday, March 28, 2015 was a playshop regarding Nia FreeDance.  In a Nia class, there is normally choreography.  Nia Headquarters and the training staff create Nia Routines.  There are Nia Routine DVDs that Nia Teachers purchase.  We learn the routines and lead our students through them.  We have a lot of freedom with our classes.  We can follow the routines “exactly” or we can play with them.  We can create our own routines from a mix of Nia Routines or we can take the Nia choreography and add it to other music.  Or we can create our own routines with other non-Nia music.  But with almost every routine there is FreeDance.

FreeDance is where there is not specific choreography.  You are not told exactly how to move.  Now, I have heard the creators of Nia express very different opinions on FreeDance.  I heard one of them say in the past that FreeDance should ALWAYS be guided and the other one say that FreeDance can just be free.  So . . . there are different opinions on the matter.  I think that in keeping with the Nia White Belt Principle #4, Nia FreeDance does not need to be guided because “Anything Goes . . . movement-wise”.  But FreeDance in an exercise class is a challenge to many people.  There are many reasons as to why people cannot or will not just move their bodies in their own way in an exercise class.

This playshop was brought here to help people with that.  Many of the tools (ideas) Jason shared were covered in the Nia Intensives.  So if you have not attended a Nia White Belt Intensive or Nia Blue Belt Intensive, they would be new to you.  They are GREAT!  And they were the reminder and push I needed to pull them out to use them.  The most valuable things he shared with me though were not necessarily the guiding ideas, but more about how the individuals in class can be left to be.

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When I see people in my class not moving or seeming to struggle with FreeDance, I take responsibility and blame myself for not getting them to move with my suggestions and guidance.  But he brought up some very good points that I will now take to class and practice just letting those people be where they are, at that moment, in class.

Although I will still strive for the “When Harry Met Sally Moment” of wanting people to look at us and say, “I’ll have what SHE’S having.” I will also take into consideration that they could very well be doing my suggestion, but it looks different to me than I would do it.  Or that they are just not in a place to FreeDance.  Could be a case of Natural Time.

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose,  Nia at the San Jose Community Centers, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex City of San Jose, San Jose Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, PiYoI learned a lot.  I had a lot of fun.  I am excited for Jason to come back again!  This video and the video on my website are the same song.  As I only stopped participating one time to video.  The videos are at different times so they are a little different.  Also shown here are a few of the pictures I took during the Playshop.  I took more pictures during the hour Frankie Say Nia class than I did during the 3.75 hours of the Nia FreeDance Playshop.

There might be one more blog post about this, but we will see.  These are the extent of pictures and videos.  Enjoy!

Please share your comments.  Please ask if you have any questions!
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Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose,  Nia at the San Jose Community Centers, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex City of San Jose, San Jose Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, PiYo

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose,  Nia at the San Jose Community Centers, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex City of San Jose, San Jose Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, PiYo

Posted in FreeDance, Nia | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Dancing Free

Posted by terrepruitt on February 19, 2015

Do you ever just dance?  You might be one to turn on the music and start dancing.  Perhaps you have a favorite song you like to dance to?  Or you might be one who breaks into dance spontaneously.  You could be in the house and a song comes on and you don’t even really think about it, next think you know you are moving to the music.  Perhaps you are one that is so gusty or you just don’t care so you dance in the aisle at the grocery store.  Music moves us.  It is easy to dance to a song we like.  Sometimes we “can’t help it”.  We just burst into a dance.  But dancing without choreography in a dance exercise class?  No one telling you exactly how to move?  Just move to the music?  Without having consumed any alcohol?  It is a concept not easily grasped by many.  It is a concept that we practice often in a Nia class.  We call it Nia FreeDance.

As I mentioned dancing without choreography in an exercise class is a new concept to many.  Moving without having a structured plan doesn’t sound like exercise to many people.  Some people are very resistant to Nia FreeDance because of this reason.  Some people cannot understand how you can “get a good workout” without having a structured plan, without moving the same way over and over again.  The way we have been programmed to exercise includes repetition and structure.  It includes traveling in a straight line from point a to point b, it includes being told how to move.  So just moving without any idea of what comes after the present movement is vastly alien to some.

Yet, I have people who actually let go and try it.  Those who push beyond their own skepticism and doubt come up to me and say, “Wow!  I am sweating.”  Those who let the music move their bodies without thinking about it have said, “Who would have thought that I would have gotten such a great workout?”  Some realize, “I might be sore tomorrow.”  They MIGHT be sore the next day because they moved their bodies in ways that their bodies are not accustom to moving.

Nia FreeDance is there to help stimulate movement creativity.  So if you do it with full abandon you might end up with muscles that talk to you the next day.  Your body will have moved in new and different ways.  So Nia FreeDance is not the dancing you would do at a club or a dance lesson.  It is just free movement.  Yes, some of those cool club moves or patterns you learned in dance class sneak in because we dance what we know.  We think about it and move in that way.  But there really is more to FreeDancing.  It might have a pattern for a moment, it might have structure for a moment, but it moves away and comes back.  It is free.

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose,  Nia at the San Jose Community Centers, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex City of San Jose, San Jose Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, PiYoTo assist with FreeDance and to deepen the practice there are eight stages that can be a guide, because as I said, it is not necessarily an easy thing to do.

Stage 1: FreeDance
Catch Phrase: Anything Goes, Movement-Wise

Stage 2: Being Seduced by the Music
Catch Phrase: Art of Listening

Stage 3: Feelings and Emotions
Catch Phrase: Pretend, Fake It, Act As If

Stage 4: The Creative Source
Catch Phrase: The Real You

Stage 5: Authentic Movement
Catch Phrase: Change!!

Stage 6: Witness
Catch Phrase: Interfere…Judge…Not! Observe

Stage 7: Choreography
Catch Phrase: The Accidental Click

Stage 8: Nia Class
Catch Phrase: Levels 1, 2, 3

The catch phrases have changed slightly since I participated in the Nia White Belt Intensive in 2008, but it is all basically the same.  The catch phrases give you a clue as to what the stage is for.  All the stages help you to FreeDance.  You can dance each stage separately or combine them in any fashion. Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose,  Nia at the San Jose Community Centers, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex City of San Jose, San Jose Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, PiYo The idea is just to give you something to help get you moving and then give you something to keep you moving.  Moving in new and different ways.  The new and different active body, mind, emotions, and spirit.  FreeDance is one of the key things that makes Nia unique.  If you click on the stages above you will go to the post that I have posted for each stage.

I am very excited about the Special Nia Class and Nia Free Dance Playshop that I am producing next month.  So I have been thinking a lot about FreeDance and how great it is.  This post is a result of my excitement and my attempt at getting people excited and curious about FreeDance.  Reading about it is one thing, but getting up and actually DOING it is another.  These are the stages used to deepen your practice, but they are not what we will be covering in the Playshop.  As the flyer states, we will be learning Jason’s tools for FreeDance!  I hope you will join us!

Are you a dancer?  Do you break into dance?  What is the current hit that you can’t help but dance to?

Posted in FreeDance, Nia | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Anything Goes Is The Tagline For The First Stage Of FreeDance

Posted by terrepruitt on July 5, 2012

Nia is both a dance exercise and a life practice.  Kind of like yoga.  You can go to a class and get the exercise you want and have it end there or you can learn about its principles and take them into your life.  There are levels of the practice.  Nia has chosen to use a “belt” system as their levels.  Instead of just having numbers or names, they have assigned belt colors to the levels.  There are five levels; White Belt, Green Belt, Blue Belt, Brown Belt, and Black Belt.  The intensives to gain the belts can be taken and enjoyed by people who aren’t teaching. Each belt has 13 principles, except Green. Green does not have its own set of principles because green is the belt level that is actually designed specifically for teachers and helps them hone their teaching skills.  It delves into the 13 principles of the White Belt.  The White Belt’s principle #4 is FreeDance.  FreeDance as a practice has eight stages.  I have posted about eight through two.  This post is about stage one.  Stage #1 of Nia’s 4th White Belt Principle is Freedance – Anything Goes (movement wise).

While you are dancing any movement is great if it is authentic movement.  With Nia there is choreographed moves, but within the patterns of movement there is the ability to freedance.  Also with many routines there is sometimes just freedance where we are allowed to dance free to the music without any choreography.  Stage one:  Freedance, anything goes, allows us the greatest of freedoms.  You can dance using the wall, the mirror, a chair, the floor, or a ballet barre that might be in the room.  You can dance fast, slow, high, low, or in the middle.  Anything that you sense your body wants to do to the music.  It is up to you.

The idea with freedance is to just let the body go.  Don’t think about it.  When you think about it often comes the judgment.  Sometimes the judgment can interfere with movement, especially if it is judgment along the lines of, “Oh I must look silly doing this.”  “Oh that probably isn’t pretty.”  “Oh, I am not graceful enough to spin.”  “Oh, I need to do this or that.”  This is all inner dialog that clogs up the muscles and their movements.

Freedance also, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, in not club dancing.  We are NOT just bouncing or undulating to the beat, we are moving to the music.  We are moving our bodies towards as pleasurable sensation of health and well being.

Freedance is also not patterned dancing, we save the patterns for our choreographed movements.  Freedance is just free.  It is spinning twirling, diving and whirling.  It could be hopping or dropping.  It really is whatever your body does.

Freedance is not easy.  It takes practice.  It is not easy to just be on the floor and not think about how you are going to move and just let your body go.  It is a challenge.  But once you can stop thinking and talking in your head you will find yourself moving to the music.  Sometimes you might even notice that you are moving in a way that you didn’t think about and it is really amazing to have that sensation.  But don’t think too much, just keep moving.

I would like to invite and encourage you to make some space in your home or if you are so inclined find a space to dance outside . . . find a space turn on some music and just dance.  Let yourself go.  Let yourself be free.  Allow the time, space, frame of mind and spirit to freedance.  Remember, anything goes!

Wahoo!  I have to add that in the middle of typing this up I secured another class to sub for the City of San Jose.  So exciting to be able to share Nia through the city!  Yay!

Posted in FreeDance, Nia | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Being Seduced By The Music Stage 2 of Nia FreeDance

Posted by terrepruitt on June 26, 2012

I have posted before about the 13 Principles in the Nia White Belt.  The fourth principle, FreeDance, has eight stages. I am working my way backwards posting about each stage.  This post is about second stage:  Being Seduced by the Music – The Art of Listening.  In the second stage of Nia FreeDance the exercise we perform is stillness.  We keep our bodies still while we listen to the music.  We allow ourselves to be seduced by the music and practice the art of listening.  When listening to a song that is not familiar or doesn’t have that “get-up-and-dance” beat it is not so difficult, but when the song is one that makes every part of your body want to move, when it is familiar, or one you love it is not easy sitting still.  It is not easy to sit with a tall spine that does not gyrate to the beat.  But when we do practice the art of listening with only our ears we might hear sounds we had not been aware of before.  While we are listening the idea is to name instruments and sounds that you hear.  Sometimes you might not know what you are hearing, either you don’t know the name of the instrument or it isn’t really an instrument at all, so you can give them their own names.  For instance something might sound like rushing water or trash can lids.  I know a Nia teacher whose husband is in a band and she is familiar with a lot of different instruments and the sounds they make.  She is very good at naming them when she hears them.  Me, if you look at my bars you will see a lot of spaceships.  There is a sound that I think of as a spaceship so I use that symbol to signify that sound.  I HEAR a spaceship.

This stage might sound a bit like RAW, where we are Relaxed, Alert, and Waiting while we listen to the music, but it is not.  Our bodies might be in the same position, of a lengthened spine and a relaxed state but in RAW we are just listening without opinion or too much thought.  We have no inner dialogue so there is no naming of sounds.  In RAW we are just waiting to receive.  With Being Seduced by the Music we are practicing the art of listening and naming what we hear.  We are engaged in the music even though we are not moving.

For me this stage of FreeDance might even produce a few pearls.  It could be that I don’t know the instrument so I think of what it sounds like which allows us to move “as if we are sloshing in mud”.  Or it could be that the sound just makes me think of a certain movement such as “throwing your arms in the air with a burst of sound”.  While I might not be purposefully trying to think of pearls with the seduction I just let my mind flow.  If there is a dialog then there is, if not, that is fine.  I just let the music flow and I listen giving names to this sound and that sound.

Listening to the music without giving it dance or without it allowing to move us in dance allows us a deep relationship with it.  We are not imposing our own ideals onto it as we move or we are not interpreting it, we are just letting it in.  We are just listening.  With that we learn about it.  We hear things we might have missed while floating about the space.  It is nice to be able to have that connection with the music.

Stage two of FreeDance, Being Seduced by the Music – The Art of Listening is just another toy in our toy box that Nia has given us to play with to become better teachers and better dancers.

Have you ever been sitting still listening to a song you have heard many times before and heard something you hadn’t heard before?

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Act As If – Pretend – Fake It; Stage 3 of Nia White Belt Principle #4

Posted by terrepruitt on March 10, 2012

I have posted about Nia FreeDance before.  Nia FreeDance is meant to encourage creativity.  In Nia routines sometimes we have entire songs that are FreeDance.  Not all routines have an entire FreeDance song, but all routines have at least one part as FreeDance.  The one part could be that our feet have choreography and our arms and hands are free to move.  The creativity is released.  As the 4th Principle of the Nia White Belt it can also be used as a tool to help a Nia teacher learn a routine and/or explore his or her practice.  The principle has 8 stages.  The third stage of FreeDance is Feelings and Emotions with a catch phrase of: Pretend, Fake It, Act As If.  This is the stage where you pick an emotion and you act it out.  This is not the same as stage 4 where you draw on the real you and you act out a story you have experienced, this stage is pretend.

The idea of stage 3 of Nia FreeDance is to pick an emotion, a feeling and then act it out.  Pretend you are feeling that emotion at that moment.  This would be practice or play outside of a class setting where you are doing a routine.  So when using this tool as a way to grow and create you aren’t even expected to dance.  The exercise is to pick an emotion act it out for a bit, then pick another emotion.  Acting and explaining the feeling with your body in an exaggerated way.  If it helps create a story in order to fake that emotion.  It can be somewhat fun because normally when you are angry you probably would not throw yourself down on the floor and kick and scream, but when we are pretending to be angry and acting “as if” you can.  You can throw an angry punch.  You can run and jump for joy.  You can do anything you would like and since it probably wouldn’t be something you would be “allowed” to do in society it tends to spur creativity.  And this creativity gets your body moving in news ways.  It gets your heart pumping.  It gets your blood moving.  It gets your joints juicy.

I used this stage not too long ago as the focus of a few of my Nia Classes and it turned out to be very interesting.  So within the class setting we actually danced our pretend feelings and emotions.  We continued on with the routine we were doing at the time, but we added our “act as if”.  So it altered our movements a bit.  We allowed ourselves to follow the emotion so as we were dancing steps and hand movements might have been changed, but we still danced.  As I said it was interesting because my class did not want to act the “negative emotions”.  Some had a difficult time with some of the ones we deem as “negative” or ones that go against one’s normal self.  We danced:  keeping a secret, letting a secret go, happy, loopy, light, jealous, worry, love, angry, masculine, annoyed, bashful, brave, calm, childlike, guilty, fearless, and more.   We tend to assign negative and positive, but they just are . . .I think that we can look at an emotion and or a feeling and it can be neither, but as we live with it it could become one or the other.  If we let it affect us in a negative way, then maybe it can be perceived as a negative emotion?

The Embody and Share portion of the Nia White Belt Manual states: “Emotions are energetic responses to our experiences. We must learn to deal with our emotions to keep ourselves free and unblocked.”  So my thought process is, that if an emotion “blocks” us or causes us stress then we consider it negative.

People didn’t like the emotions they felt were negative. There was a tendency to not pick them from the list I had displayed.  But I think they are good for exploring movement.  So it’s fun to play with them all.  Remembering it is pretend, we are faking being (whatever the emotion is that we chose), we are pretending.

Well, what do you think?  I invite you to make a list of emotions and feelings, then put on some music.  Pick an emotion/feeling from your list and move to it.  Stay with it until you are ready to move on and then pick another one from your list.  Do this for a few songs.  You might be surprised at your movements.  You will probably be able to create ways to move that you didn’t realize.  When you are not thinking of your movements it allows your body to release and —- ahhhh! —- movement creativity.  Go ahead, you can do it.  Let us know how it goes!

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The Creative Source – The Real You – FreeDance Stage 4

Posted by terrepruitt on February 9, 2012

In Nia we have FreeDance.  FreeDance allows for so many things.  One way we FreeDance is we dance to the music with no choreography.  We let our bodies sense the music and allow it to move us.  When we let our body move freely without thinking and without judging it is a great workout.  Many of the Nia Routines have songs where there is no choreography and we just FreeDance, and many of the routines have choreography in addition to FreeDance.  Our feet might have set patterns, but our arms and hands are free.  Or our arms and hands might have the pattern and our feet are free.  Many combinations of dance, choreography, and body parts.  Nia FreeDance also has stages.  A Nia teacher can call upon these stages for many things.  The stages in FreeDance are used for learning a new routine, they might be used as a focus in a class, they might be used for a playshop, we have many options.  In Nia FreeDance the fourth stage is The Creative Source – The Real You.

With this stage during the White Belt Nia Intensive I participated in, we were instructed to remember a situation and tell ourself the story of the situation and allow ourself to feel the emotion of that situation.  We all walked around the room telling ourselves a story.  Some of us talked out loud, some of us were silent.  All of us used the emotion the story evoked to move.  Our movements might not have been considered a dance by some, because in this stage we are not necessarily dancing.  We are not moving our bodies with the intent of dance, we are allowing the emotion from the story to move our bodies.  Depending upon the story it could appear as if our movements were a dance.  Yet, since we do “dance through life” in Nia, all of our movements are a dance . . . just not the typical dance.  In this stage we are not intent upon dancing.

The purpose of FreeDance is to the purpose of stimulate movement creativity.  So we use the stages to assist in that.  So using a story and the emotions along with the story can really allow for movement we might not have thought to bring to the dance floor.  Some stories we use to practice stage 4 might be happy, some might be sad, some might be filled with anger, whatever the story and the emotion it is what moves us.

In the intensive there was all types of movements when we practiced this stage.  There was stomping, jumping, running, rolling, skipping, punching, kicking, screaming, laughing, smiling, frowning . . . . all types as you can imagine would occure with a group of people with many different stories.  As stated this is a tool to awaken different movement.

When we dance I think that we have a tendency to move in the same pattern.  We might move in different patterns to different types of music or different beats, but there might just be a handful of different patterns.  When we are challenged by using the different tools of Nia, when we practice and play with the eight stages of FreeDance we move in different ways.  Sometimes muscles that don’t normally get to join us in our dance come alive.  They are happy to be allowed to join in on the dance.

Using different muscles than we normally do in our dance fuels the creativity even further.  When you let go and FreeDance you will be surprised.  Here I invite you to try this fourth stage of FreeDance.  I suggest choosing music without lyrics.  Sometimes lyrics and interfere with FreeDance when trying to practice specific stages because lyrics can sometimes compel certain movements or emotions.  So music without lyrics allows for you tell the story and listen to your body’s response to the emotion.

Well, what story are you going to tell?

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Authentic Movement – Change – FreeDance Stage 5

Posted by terrepruitt on January 14, 2012

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!

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Witness – Do Not Interfere or Judge. Observe. — Nia FreeDance Stage 6

Posted by terrepruitt on January 10, 2012

I think this is one of the most difficult stages of Nia FreeDance.  And there is a reason they are numbered one through eight, and I don’t know why I started my postings about them backwards, but when I’m done they will still be here and they will tie together. On its own Stage 6 is a powerful tool, but it can also be applied when dancing Nia FreeDance stage one (FreeDance) and five (Authentic Movement).  Stage 6 of Nia FreeDance is witness.  We witness our movements.  While we are dancing we acknowledge how we are moving.  We observe our tendencies.  We observe our structure.  We are witness to all that our body can and can’t do, yet we do not interfere.  We just let go and move.  For many Nia FreeDance is a challenge because we are set free to dance without structure, we are set free to move as we sense the music.  In stage 6 we do so — move without structure and as our own body senses the music — without interfering or judging.  We are to just observe.

While you are dancing and witnessing, interfering would mean to change what you are doing maybe because you judged it to be a certain way.  As an example, say you heard a specific stand-out beat in the music and your body sensed it as little hops so you started hopping.  As you are hopping you start thinking and judging, you think, “Why am I hopping?  I must look silly.  No one else is hopping.  I should stop.”  While there was witnessing (YAY!), there was judging (not yay.) and then as a result interfering (not yay.).  Movement was changed because of a judgement.  Movement was changed not because your body sensed something maybe a new move from the music it was changed because you judged.  This is what Nia FreeDance Stage 6 is about witnessing but NOT interfering or judging.

Even if we observe our tendency to do the same type of move over and over.  This witness does not have an opinion, it just observes.  If you are dancing just stage 6 of FreeDance then you just keep going.  Observe, don’t judge or interfere.  Now is not the time to change.  Just dance.

This is not an easy stage.  It is not easy to witness, just observing and not judge or interfere, but this stage is a huge eye-opener.  This stage can tell us many things about our dance and our bodies.  We can see our tendencies and our comfort zones.  We can learn our strengths and weaknesses.  We can embrace the sense of self.  This stage is not easy, but it is powerful.  It is a great tool in the Nia tool box for both a Nia Practitioner and a Nia Teacher.

So while you are dancing in the shower, in the kitchen, in the living room — wherever it is you get to truly dance — try stage 6 of Nia FreeDance; Witness – Do Not Interfere of Judge.  Observe.  And see where this takes you.  See what you learn.  You could learn things like, you don’t allow your neck free movement,  your hips don’t get to dance, you are always bent at the knee, you can do a great shimmy, your hands are like graceful birds . . . . so many things.  What have you witness in your FreeDance?

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