Where did my Dance go?

Where is my dance? Where is my Dance? Where is MY dance?

Before I formally stepped onto the Nia path I danced for myself. It kept me sane-ish and my body from becoming totally mutinous as I taught fitness forms that were unsatisfying, uninteresting, inorganic and downright dangerous. Some of my dance came from shapes my body had been willing to receive from outside sources. Some of it came from my imagination. Most of it came from my heart and my body’s unceasing desire to express what I could not express anywhere else.

Two or three years ago I noticed that when I brought free dance into my Nia classes I felt restless; searching and frustrated. It was unsatisfying, dry, contrived, and separate – as though I was pulling away from myself in these moments. I’m still in this place to some degree but I’m beginning to understand how to move through it.

I sense, deeply, the importance of moving in a way that has not been structured, designed and fed to me by anyone else. The importance of movement that has not been processed through someone else’s body before I get it (think baby bird). As far as movement is concerned, we are never baby birds. We danced in utero and unless restrained, we continue to move organically has we continue the functions of life.

School constrains the dance. Adults constrain our natural dance with the premise that it distracts from learning the “important” things. We are taught to go against our nature. There are no options here. Our joy has squashed, our spirits broken and our bodies battered in order to make us “productive adults”. “Productive” for what? To continue the cruelty? To produce more “productive adults” who will tell me “my parents spanked me”, “our teachers hit us” – “and I turned out just fine” in defense of physical violence as a method to regulate and control behavior in children. It is not our children who need more “discipline” – it is us, the adults who need to become more present to our parenting. Spanking is easy – punishment is easy – growing loving, responsible, sensitive, strong, courageous adults who take responsibility for their behavior and understand their emotions and who they are – time consuming, energy consuming conscious work.

I’ve been teaching Nia since 2003 and feedback on free dance has been intermittent. There are some who perceive Nia as nothing but free dance. Generally my experience has been that those people may “try” a class long enough to – maybe – to get through song 1 before proclaiming that Nia is not for them and exit, never to return. The truth of the matter is that they have not experienced Nia at all and their decision is not based on accurate information. However, it is the best they can do in that moment. That is all I can ask.

I bring free dance into my classes every class these days. That wasn’t always the case. Since there are some routines that have no free dance designed into them there would be periods where there was little, if any free dance. After I learned and embodied those routines, I added free dance in.

Currently I’m getting a fair amount of regular feedback on free dance. While I rarely use the word in class, I purposefully include windows for free dance in almost every song in most classes. The exception is for a group who is new to Nia. The free dance is there, but it is my intention to offer it in a more subtle way so that the group has a foundation – an understanding of what they are doing and what to expect. An invitation to trust – me, but more essential – themselves. Then I throw them off the cliff!! I’m really kidding here, though I have students who readily throw themselves off every single class.

For a country constantly touting freedom, what we’re creating is conformity at the expense of health, wellness and happiness. Terror at the very idea of moving in a direction that has not been pre-determined and sanctioned. Paralysis at the very consideration that we do something that strays from the herd.

I witness students, from time to time, standing stock still, brow furrowed as the rest of the class is moving in some semblance of “their” way. As a teacher and human being, I give my students permission to be in the place of not-knowing-what-to-do and – doing-nothing. It’s part of the process.

To know, we have to first know that we don’t know.

To know who we are, we first have to know that we don’t know who we are. To know how to move in our design, we have to first know that we don’t know what that design is. Not knowing leaves us open to discovery. To think we know how things work, how to do this or that – is to close the mind to fluidly learning the new, the authentic.

Where’s my Dance? Mired in what I know. Wedged into obligation. Bound in habit. Constrained by fear of failure. The irony, is that in order not to fail, I have to slip, push pull, tear and release the layers that exist between where I am in this moment so that I may return to my dance. I alone stand in the way.

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