Martha Graham once said “Nobody cares if you can’t dance well, just get up and dance.” No class embraces that statement more than Nia.
Nia is a conscious movement practice that integrates energies from dance, martial arts, and somatic awareness. Based on modern dance, Nia, which stands for Neuromuscular Integrative Action, combines dance with yoga, taekwondo, and other styles to develop mindful movement. It uses basic positions focused on the base, core, and extremities in different sequences so that no class is alike. As teachers Julianne Corey and Norie Mozzone put it, “Nia brings music and movement together to create magic.”
Julianne Corey has been dancing Nia for 22 years and started teaching a few years later. She started dancing ballet when she was three years old, but didn’t like the strictness of the discipline. Having thought that dance was limited to a performative movement, Nia opened up her way of thinking to dance as a holistic movement, focused inward rather than out. “The first time I took a class at Nia Headquarters studio in Portland, OR, one of the fellow students was wearing a T-shirt that said ‘Dance Ugly and Drool.’ That has always stuck with me because I’d never before considered that dance didn’t need to ‘look good.’ But it should feel good. And in order to know what feels good, we have to allow ourselves to feel,” she says.
Norie Mozzone, Julianne’s co-teacher, didn’t come from a classical dance background. Twelve years ago, she was at a gym doing a “boring exercise” when she says she saw a class where all the women had big smiles on their faces. “I wasn’t sure what the class was, I just knew it was unusual to see women looking like they were having fun and feeling good at the gym,” she explained. She has been dancing ever since.
Julianne and Norie’s Saturday morning class has a warm, welcoming atmosphere where students are encouraged to explore different movements and dance like nobody’s watching. With music as diverse as the styles explored, Nia class goes through some simple movements and multiple pieces mixed with free dance periods. Students move around the entire room, shifting vertically, horizontally, and laterally to flow around the space. As one student put it, “Nia gives me the freedom to move as I please.”
The Nia teachers and students group recently named themselves the “Joy Collective” to capture the feeling of their movement. They continue to grow and learn from each other. As Julianne and Norie say, “Nia welcomes Every Body. Every age, size, shape, and ability. People who have never danced and people who have been dancing since day one. All you need to step into a Nia class is a desire to do something new. And have fun.”
So next time you have a free Saturday morning, come join the Nia class and share the joy and energy of a non-performative, free movement class. Nia is held at 10 a.m. every Saturday at the Dance Complex.