Last week, I agreed to participate in The Eleanor Project. Sisters Terry and Jen (a photographer and writer, respectively) want to use the project to change the perception of what is beautiful. As they say on their blog, “We don’t buy into the ideal of beauty pushed by Hollywood and glossy magazines; not when there are so many incredible women all around us.”
This is important to me. Women, even in 2013, are diminished and sexualized in the media and in our culture. Like a salmon swimming up the stream of objectification, I want to absolutely support efforts that highlight how amazing women and all people are beyond superficial appearances. (And besides, I was flattered to be considered. My profile isn’t up yet, but check out who is there – lots and lots of amazing people!)
The Eleanor Project creators ask four questions:
How would you describe yourself?
What inspires you?
What makes you feel powerful?
What is your favorite part of yourself and why?
For days, I had fun thinking about the questions. The first one was the trickiest. I admit it; I really wanted to seem awesome. I wanted to be Eleanor-worthy. I thought about words that I thought described the best sides of me – the parts of me that I love to show to the world. And then I thought about it. The truth is that I am those things…except for when I’m not.
I am, we all are, a collection of personalities: shy and dynamic, passionate and indifferent, confident and insecure, powerful, graceful and clumsy. How would you describe you? What are the things that you’d love to have printed in an article about you and what are the things that you wouldn’t be comfortable owning up to?
The practice of Nia reflects that we’re all a whole bunch of everything. One way Nia reflects this is that the choreography is based on nine different movement forms. Each of those forms has a distinctive personality, energy, essence. Practicing Nia allows me to experiment with my full range of personalities – the ones I comfortable with and proud of and the ones that I tend to hide.
Jazz – Fun, Showmanship & Expression
Duncan Dance – Spirited, Honest Movement
Modern Dance – Playing with Balance, Shapes & Space
T’ai Chi – The Slow Dance
Tae Kwon Do – The Dance of Precision
Aikido – Harmonious Spherical Motion
Feldenkrais – Conscious Feeling of Movement
Alexander Technique – Movement from the Top
Yoga – The Conscious Dance of Alignment
We don’t teach these forms in Nia, we use their energy and essence to transform our movement. All nine movement forms train and condition the body in unique ways. All nine require our focused and imaginative minds. All nine expand the range of movement expression.
I appreciate the humanness of this diversity. We are all a whole bunch of everything. We may make sincere efforts to show what we think are the most flattering sides of ourselves, but rest assured, all of us are all of it: angry, ecstatic, patient, frustrated, dramatic, pensive, frightened, fierce, focused, aimless…you name it and you are it.
The nine movement forms allow me to be who and how I am and to try on different personalities for the benefit of my body, mind, emotions, and spirit. If I come to class angry, I can use the energy of Tae Kwon Do to direct it, or the energy of Duncan Dance to let it go. If I’m feeling emotional, I can play with Modern Dance to exaggerate it, or Feldenkrais to allow in awareness. If I’ve been sitting around eating chocolate all weekend, I might want to engage the fun of Jazz to energize my body, or the consciousness of Yoga to pay attention to sensation.
This week in my classes, I’ll offer playlists that take us through each of the nine movement forms. The invitation is to try on each of the personalities. Ask yourself which seem like familiar friends and which are like aliens. With practice, we can integrate our full range of personalities into our movement and our lives … and be proud of them all.
For fun, please write nine words that describe you in the comments below! I’ll start.