The Unofficial Guide
to the 13 Nia Principles
~ Practical, Nia-or-Not Applications for EveryBody
Principle 4 – FreeDance
Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:
FreeDance is one of the underlying foundations for exploring the body and self through Nia. It ignites your desire to learn more about who you are – and who you can be – by encouraging you to move differently, listen to music more intimately and deeply connect to your emotions. The eight stages of FreeDance provide a safe environment where you are encouraged to be yourself, feeding your mind and body’s appetite for discovery, expression, spontaneity and improvisation.
Adaptability is one of the best indicators of physical, mental and emotional fitness. To limit yourself to specific patterns and repetitive habits is to limit the conditioning your body, mind, emotions and spirit can receive from every choice and action you make. FreeDance stimulates creativity and movement variety, which is key to conditioning your body and nervous system to handle the stresses you encounter throughout life (adaptability). This is why FreeDance is such a powerful technique of conditioning the whole self.
8 Stages of FreeDance
FreeDance is an eight-stage process designed to stimulate movement creativity. Each stage provides a unique form of stimulation.
Stage 1: Freedance ~ Anything Goes Movement-Wise
Stage 2: Being Seduced by the Music ~ The Art of Listening
Stage 3: Feelings and Emotions ~ Pretend, Fake It, Act As If
Stage 4: The Creative Source ~ The Real You
Stage 5: Authentic Movement ~ Change!!
Stage 6: Witness ~ Interfere…Judge…NOT! Observe.
Stage 7: Choreography ~ The Accidental Click
Stage 8: Nia Class ~ Levels 1, 2, 3
Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:
Of all the principles, Principle 4: FreeDance might seem to have the least application to everyday life of any of the thirteen. Even though it is explicitly a principle about dance and implicitly one about creating body-centered choreography, it is actually one of the principles I use the most day-to-day.
All eight stages of FreeDance have practical application, but for the Unofficial Guide, we’ll focus on Stage 1: Freedance, Stage 5: Authentic Movement and Stage 6: Witness.
Here’s my unofficial take on these: Lose yourself. Redefine Your Self. Find Your Self.
Stage 1: Freedance ~ Anything Goes Movement-Wise
Stage 1 of the eight-stage freedance process is simply Freedance! Simply body-centered, sensation-driven movement. The key to Stage 1 is to move more and think less. Allow yourself to expand beyond your habits and to focus on how the movement feels rather than on how it looks. If you find yourself thinking, “Am I doing this right?” or “I look silly doing this,” just take a breath and move in a way that feels good.
Unofficial Practical Application of Stage 1 (Lose yourself):
Stage 1 helps us reconnect with the basic wisdom and intelligence of the body and lose the images of how we think we’re supposed to be. Let go of thinking and allow the body to move in ways that feel good. Stage 1 is an opportunity to break habit and expand how we do what we do. Your body loves variety and loves you to trust that it knows what it is doing without censoring or curtailing its impulses. How often do you sleep less (or more) than you need, eat more (or less) than you need, ignore physical pain or discomfort, wear/say/act/be what we think we’re supposed to? Stage 1 invites us to lose “supposed to” and do what feels right. Lose your small self so you are ready for…
Stage 5: Authentic Movement ~ Change!
Stage 5 of FreeDance in some ways is an extension of Stage 1, except in Stage 5, we consciously change our movement and “go shopping” for new and radically different ways of moving. Find a movement and repeat it for two bars then change. Every two bars, see what your body (rather than your mind or imagination) comes up with. Pretend you are shopping for new clothes and you find some that you think “Yikes! No way I could wear that!”…THAT’S what Stage 5 is about. Really stretching where we can go.
Unofficial Practical Application of Stage 5 (Redefine Your Self):
There’s an old riddle: What the most powerful force on Earth? The force of habit.
Funny as that may be, it’s frighteningly true. It is amazing how strong my patterns of movement, thought and emotion are – and how limiting those habits can be. Stage 5 is designed to help us break habit and expand our potential. Redefine Your Self. On a practical level, Stage 5 reminds me to change things up and do things differently. If I tend to drive a certain way to the gym, make certain things for dinner, or respond a certain way to criticism, Stage 5 invites me to shake things up and redefine my Self. The problem with habits is that after a while, the way I do things is the ONLY way I can do things. Habit becomes compulsion. Stage 5 says, take the back way, make farro salad with tahini sauce, and laugh next time someone tells you look terrible in that dress (even if that someone is you).
Stage 6: Witness ~ Interfere…Judge…NOT!! Observe
Again, Stage 6 is a natural extension of Stage 5. Stage 6 helps us build the awareness skill to observe how we do what we do. Stage 6 is about witnessing ourselves. And this is the first and most powerful step in changing habit. It’s not about getting cross with myself for shutting down when I am criticised, it’s about noticing that I do. Stage 6 is less “Oh crud. I did THAT again” and more “Wow, would you look at that?”
Unofficial Practical Application of Stage 6 (Find Your Self):
I can’t change what I do and how I do it if I don’t know what I do and how I do it. I also am unlikely to change, if I criticize or judge what I’m doing and how I do it. The point here is to increase your intimacy with your own habits and patterns rather than to have opinions about them. To find Your Self. Stage 6 helps me notice the effects of certain food and drink on my skin, digestion and sleep. Stage 6 shows me how attached I am to control in some circumstances and relationships, and how painful that attachment is. Stage 6 shows me that when I am irritated or annoyed, that I am low on resources and need care and compassion. Stage 6 helps me find my Self.
Principle 4 and Stages 1, 5 and 6 in particular have helped me make the biggest most positive changes in my life. So, FreeDance both in and out of the studio: Lose yourself, Redefine Your Self, and Find Your Self.