I went to my first Nia class last night. I had never heard of Nia until I found this studio. Here is what the class description said:
"Nia is a low-impact, high cardio aerobics program that blends dance, martial arts and yoga with great music. Every Nia class is a fun experience and a great workout. Nia empowers students and teachers to make their own movement choices by offering students a flexible structure they can personally modify to suit their needs. Nia reaches people emotionally, in their hearts, motivating them to get fit and healthy by creating a deep personal desire to explore their potential and love their growth. Fitness, health, well-being, and self-love naturally result from the Nia experience."
Why not? It's free. Sounds interesting enough. So I went. And it was very apparent that my dance background is ballet, jazz, and tap. I have very good control over my body. Nia is NOT a dance class. It involves letting loose and being free-flowing. I thought I was in hippie world for the first ten minutes. "Lead with your knees and move about the room. Do whatever your body feels." And then it became, "Now lead with your hips... your rib cage... your shoulders... your head..." It was very funny to see all of these bodies meandering about the dance floor, limbs flailing, torsoes twisting. My body wanted to dance and to be given choreographed moves, and I felt very silly. The instructor was awesome, don't get me wrong. She was incredibly zen, focused, nurturing, and intense, all at the same time. It took me about 30 minutes to get into the groove of what was happening, and I liked the class more as it got intense and I started to sweat. I couldn't help but think about one of my favorite funny experiences from 2010. Oh, you guys. This is a good one. Please visualize as you read. I would act it out for you if I could.
It was April, and I got a call from SD Repertory Theatre for an invited audition. They had my headshot and resume on file from another audition and thought I was a good fit for a musical called "Storyville" that would be opening in the fall. After a strong audition, I got a callback. I had the requested two songs (upbeat and ballad, both jazzy) and one monologue (provocative and sexual), and I was ready to dance. Songs, bada-bing! Monologue, bada-boom (and I somehow managed to be sexual, and yet, funny enough that the artistic director laughed aloud)! Dance, feelin' good! And then we had to do another dance. An African dance. (Say whaaaa?) The choreographer's exact words were to "feeeeel the beat, feeeeel the rhythm... conjure the spirits from the earth."
There is one thing that you absolutely cannot hide on stage. Self-conciousness. You can't hide anything. It's what I love about live theater. It's intimate. It's live. There are no second chances with directors yelling "cut." You are the character or you're not. I am not an African dancer, and I know I looked stiff, especially compared to the one other person I danced with, a Brazilian belly dancer who takes African classes at Debbie Allen Dance Academy. It's one of those moments where you just say, "Well, I'm here. Give it a go! Fake it 'til you make it!" It was hard, but I had a lot of fun despite my lack of spiritual conjuring powers. Smiling and giggling ensued as soon as I got in my car, and I told Summer all about it on the phone. We both laughed hysterically. I didn't get the part, but I guess I wasn't too bad, because I was asked to understudy three ensemble roles! :-)
I actually really love watching African dance. Have you seen how those dancers move their bodies? It's liberated but controlled, masculine but graceful. I wish I could dance like that. I loved watching Pilin, one of the "Storyville" actresses I understudied, dance. She is an African dance storm to be reckoned with, and she has such strength.
So that is what my experience last night made me think of: the time I had to "conjure the spirits from the earth." All joking aside, Nia will not replace dance or yoga for me, but it was fun. I'll still be going to a few other classes with my free two-week pass.