WHAT IT IS
In the most basic, technical sense, Nia is a dance class based on 52 moves divided into three parts of the body: the base, the core and the upper extremities. You might have foot movements like relevé and “rock around the clock,” stances like sumo and cat, step combinations like cha-cha-cha and “fast clock,” a kick (how about a knee sweep?), a few pelvic movements (circles and hip bumps), a mix of arm movements (punches and elbow strikes), and even finger movements like finger flicks and creepy crawlers.
In a more theoretical sense, Nia is a practice based on 52 principles that are taught through a series of belts — White, Green, Blue, Brown and Black. In each belt (except for Green, which is optional and focuses on the craft of instructing others on Nia), 13 principles are taught, each with one focus and one intention (e.g., the focus of the White Belt is physical sensation, and the intent is to know your body).
Naturally, the Black Belt is the most intriguing. According to its description on Nia’s official website (www.nianow.com), it “invites you to let go of all you know and enter the River of the Unknown, a place of infinite and endless creativity.” Of course, how you actually achieve this is only known by someone who has already mastered the Black Belt; the final 13 Nia principles are revealed only during the training, and afterward, Black Belts are sworn to secrecy.
At its very heart, Nia is a practice founded in sensations of the body and awareness of the mind and revealed through dancing. Really, really fun dancing.
The 52 moves on which all of the routines are based — the rhythms, the philosophy, the focus on natural time, all of it — are infectious. Once your body gets a taste of feeling that good, you get hooked. It might be the promise of great exercise that gets people in the door. But it’s the mental, spiritual and emotional components that keep them coming back for more.
It’s also a hard habit to kick when instead of hearing “No pain, no gain!” barked at you during class, you hear words like “Breathe, and be inspired.”