Nia, which is a dance fitness practice, often focuses on "freedance" movement; that is, dancing in a way that feels amazing in your body. Sometimes this matches with the music; many times, it doesn't. It's pure movement, pure pleasure, and sometimes it can be tough for me to really let go and get into the movement: I try to choreograph my dancing, strive for symmetry, and do other type-A stuff that lessens the pleasure. Sometimes, freedancing is nothing more than sitting on the ground and flexing your fingers: hell, if it feels good, just a gentle sway can be a freedance. Really appreciating the way muscles slide over bone, how fascia creates support, how breath energizes the whole body. It's amazing, but it's also tough. It requires mindfulness and nonjudgement — how often does that come naturally?
While I was taking my White Belt a couple months ago, we did a lot of freedancing. And there was a moment, when the Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes song "Time of my Life" was being played, when I got legitimately teary-eyed. This surprised me: I've never loved Dirty Dancing, and I generally roll my eyes when that song comes on, but in the moment, it struck me in a very real, raw, emotional place. It was unexpected, and very vulnerable.
Part of this is rediscovering my longstanding love of electronic music. Since I first heard "Block Rockin' Beats" at the age of thirteen, I've loved computer-driven music. Sure, I can get down with some guitars, but I'll always love Robyn and Fever Ray more than some arena-rocker or pop star. And Nia often thrives when there's a solid foundation of easily-followed beats. But it's not just Nia, and it's not just electronic music: one of my favourite images of my boyfriend is him singing along, at the top of his lungs, to his favourite ska songs on a tiny, sweaty dancefloor in one of our favourite bars. It's my parents stomp-dancing around the cottage after a wine-fueled dinner, fists pumping in the air to my dad's favourite song. It's my sister twerking in my living, just because she can.
I'm excited to be a part of a practice that encourages people to feel good in their bodies, and to move to music that makes them feel good, too. I love Nia because it's transformed by body, but it's also made inroads in plenty of other areas of my life: my music tastes, my ability to be mindful, my ability to choose joy. It's transformative.
Doing Nia has allowed my relationship with music to evolve. I've become more aware of my body as I move through space; I've become more confident in my own particular brand of booty-shaking on any given dancefloor; it's helped me forge emotional connections to the music I'm listening to; and it helps me focus on how to lead other people to move, as well. I love beats — I always have — but I'm starting to think of them like clothing hangers: convenient places to hang a particular move, or feeling, or expression of joy.
And I can't deny, I'm excited to build playlists for dancing. Should I lead with some GusGus? Cool down with Massive Attack, and get the blood pumping with A Tribe Called Red? This stuff feeds me.