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Movement Forms

reorganizing-2-022417
Utter confusion.
Complete disorder.
In Physics it’s defined as “behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions.”

Chaos.

The original word in ancient Greek (khaos) meant a gaping void or a vast empty abyss. But mostly, when we use the word now, we’re talking less about groundlessness and more about intense unpredictability, incomprehensible disorder, and absolute confusion.

In Gabrielle Roth’s movement practice of 5 Rhythms, the body goes through movements that follow the patterns in nature.

Flow to

Staccato to

Chaos to

Lyrical to

Stillness.

I was fine with Flow and Staccato. Lyrical and Stillness were totally approachable. But Chaos intimidated me. It felt scary. Teachers warned, “Relax in chaos or get hurt.”

How in the world do you relax into utter confusion?

Chaos is not my favorite feeling and it can’t be avoided. Chaos is part of life. In the routine I’m choreographing*, chaos keeps bubbling up in the music, the movements, even the process. My schedule feels chaotic, too, with much more teaching than usual in unfamiliar settings with unpredictable variables. These days the very world feels deeply unpredictable, teetering precariously on the edge of chaos. I keep reminding myself to relax but…dang.

When I told a friend about all the chaos swarming me, he smiled slyly, “You know about chaos theory, right?”

Um. No. I’m an English major, remember?

In chaos theory, he explained, the utter randomness and confusion is actually a way of reorganizing. Self-organization theories in a wide range of disciplines – from physics and biology to computer and social science – demonstrate that chaos is a way of finding an organic and highly stable order. Let a whole gaggle of things happen higglety pigglety, and new patterns and possibilities emerge.

I’m no scientist. I’ve just told you the sum total of what I know about chaos theory. And yet, as a dancer, this idea of self-organization makes sense to me.

In Nia, we use a huge assortment of movements to train, condition and heal the body~mind. The practice is based on 9 different movement forms and we energize those forms with 5 Sensations of Fitness (Flexibility, Agility, Mobility, Strength & Stability). We take movements at all different speeds and ranges of motion and we take them through the three planes of high middle and low. We use sound and breath to strengthen the core and move energy. We use emotion and expressiveness to enliven movements from the inside out. We use form to gather our collective attention and to break habit. There is also a boat ton of freedom. A Nia class in full swing can definitely look and feel chaotic.

It’s actually one big reorganization project.

All those different movements and patterns and speeds opens new possibilities. I reorganize my muscles: the ones that are tight and sore and the ones that haven’t been used. I reorganize my bones and joints by lubricating them and nudging them into better alignment. I reorganize my mind to pay attention, to invest in what matters most: what’s happening in this precious present moment.

Sometimes the most healing thing we can do is shake things up and allow them to find new patterns. The notion that life is solid and unchanging is an illusion anyway. Why not relax and find a new order out of chaos?


* The new routine is called Love Warrior and I’ll be launching it on March 3 at an event to raise money for 5 Charlottesville refugee families (this is a special event routine and not one I’ll teach in my regular classes). You can get the details here. http://www.susanmcculley.com/special-classes-events/ I hope you’ll come.


If you enjoyed this post, I’m delighted and I hope you’ll share it.

You might also enjoy these two:
Dragonlily (or the Dance of Mobility and Agility)

and
Stability Within Instability

Just the second week into the 13-weeks adventure of the Unofficial Guide to the 13 Principles of Nia and we’re already into a rich exploration of both the body and how we move energy through our posture, walk, voice, dance…and life.

13 moon calendar glif

Part 1 of Principle 2 is Natural Time which takes us from the 13-Moon Natural Time Calendar* to the movement of 13 joints and measure of 20 digits in the body. If you’re interested in following the 13-Moon Natural Time Calendar, you can receive daily emails from my friend and Nia Trainer, Helen Terry, by signing up here.
I also use a great 13-Moon Calendar app on my phone that you can find here.

p2 9MF Rainbow

Part 2 of Principle 2 explores the nine movement forms (three dance arts, three martial arts and three healing arts ~ for more, click here) the energy and essence of which Nia uses to train, condition, and heal the body. Even cooler, we can use that same energy to find balance and ease in our lives.

Below are the playlists from the week with some annotations as to our focus for each piece of music. Enjoy.

In Lakesh**, y’all.

Dance on. Shine on.

Susan sig

* Hey, did anyone decode their birthdate? If so, tell us your galactic signature in the comments below!
** “In Lakesh” is a Mayan greeting that translated to “I am another you.”

Monday, Aug 25, 2014, 1045am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Natural Time

Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes 5:48 Paul Simon (focus on ankles)
All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints 3:15 Paul Simon (focus on knees)
Gulf Breeze 6:30 Eat Static (focus on hips)
Splitting World 8:35 Eat Static (focus on spine)
Papa Dukie & The Mud People 4:39 The Subdudes (base/spine freedance)
Jogando Capoeira 6:20 Beatfanatic (focus on shoulders)
Drive By 3:16 Train (focus on elbows)
Spirit Voices 3:56 Paul Simon (focus on wrists)
Through Cinemas 5:55 Loop Guru (upper body freedance)
Monday, Monday 3:25 The Mamas And The Papas (13 joints floorplay)
Subtle Body 7:02 Wayne Jones (integration)

Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Natural Time

Symbol I 6:35 Children of the Bong (focus on ankles) 25th Century 6:30 Timeshard (focus on knees) Don’t Say 5:47 Deep Dive Corp. (focus on ankle and knee integration)
Blood Stud (Ray Mang Remix) 8:36 MB Disco (focus on hips)
Up In Indiana 4:36 Lyle Lovett (ankle, knee, hip freedance)
Exit Through You 5:52 Big Blue Ball featuring Joseph Arthur, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger (focus on spine and shoulders)
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) (DJ Escape & Tony Coluccio Club Remix) 6:57 Beyonce (focus on elbows)
Spirit Voices 3:56 Paul Simon (focus on wrists)
Airborne 3:48 Rain Perry (spine and upper body freedance)
Sometime Tuesday Morning 4:25 Johnny A. (13 joints floorplay)
Inlakesh 3:58 Lou Rhodes (integration)

Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014, 1055am ~ The Unofficial Guide: The Nine Movement Forms

Wonderwall 4:09 Ryan Adams (focus on Tai Chi)
A Different Space 8:43 Bob Holroyd (focus on Duncan Dance)
Plane Shift 6:14 Loop Guru (focus on Aikido)
More Than This 4:07 10,000 Maniacs (focus on Alexander Technique)
Soullala 4:08 Candy Dulfer (focus on Jazz)
Everything Comes From You 4:42 Big Blue Ball featuring Richard Evans, Joji Hirota, Sevara Nazarkhan, Sinéad O’Connor, Guo Yue (focus on Feldenkrais)
Passion 5:46 Michael Franti (Focus on Tae Kwon Do)
Dawa 4:18 Sacred Spirits (focus on Yoga)
Amaté Adea 5:23 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley (focus on Modern Dance)
Deep Inside 5:06 Kid Beyond (freedance/floorplay of all nine movement forms)
First Impressions 4:08 Yo Yo Ma, Mark O’Connor, Edgar Meyer (integration)

Thursday, Aug 28, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: The Nine Movement Forms

Wish You Were Here 6:12 Bliss (focus on Tai Chi)
A Canterbury Tale 8:41 Dreadzone (focus on Duncan Dance)
Lovers House 4:49 City Reverb (focus on Alexander Technique)
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction 2:41 Devo (focus on Feldenkrais)
City of Light (Reverso 68 Remix) 5:53 City Reverb (focus on Jazz)
Deeper (Into Places) (Silk Spinner Mix) 6:23 Afterlife (focus on Tae Kwon Do)
What I Be 4:45 Michael Franti & Spearhead (focus on Yoga)
Raag Trance 5:32 Biddu (focus on Aikido & Tae Kwon Do)
Release It [Instrumental] 6:27 Afro Celt Sound System (freedance of nine movement forms)
The Memory of Trees 4:22 Enya (floorplay with nine movement forms)
Lux Aurumque 4:16 Eric Whitacre Singers

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT NIA?
For more information about Nia and this rich system of training and learning? Everything Nia is at http://www.nianow.com…

If you’re traveling or moving, you can find a teacher or classes wherever you’re going.

Interested in teaching or deepening your practice? Check out the Nia White Belt Training http://www.nianow.com/white-belt. There is one planned in Richmond next month and lots of other places, too.

Principle 2 (Part II) – Nine Movement Forms…in nine nutshells

The Nine Movement forms invite us to use our posture, walk and voice to communicate clarity and receive with openness.  Use their energy and essence in class and in life.

Tai Chi for grounded relaxed power

p2 9mf tai chi

Tae Kwon Do for emotional strength and confidence

p2 9mf tae kwon do

Aikido for blending and redirecting energy

p2 9mf aikido

Jazz for expressive playful fun

p2 9mf jazz

Modern Dance for creative choices and possibilities

p2 9mf modern

Duncan Dance for childlike, authentic ease

P2 9mf duncan

Yoga for alignment of mind and body, restoring balance

p2 9mf yoga

Feldenkrais for slowing down, reconnecting internally

p2 9mf feldenkrais

Alexander Technique for creating space and grace with consciousness

p2 9mf Alexander

The Unofficial Guide
to the 13 Nia Principles
~ Practical, Nia-or-Not Applications for EveryBody

(Wondering what in the world the Unofficial Guide is and why I’m writing this series of posts? Click here!)

p2 9MF Rainbow

Principle 2 (Part II) – The Nine Movement Forms

Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:

In traditional fitness, choreography is constructed by changing steps and patterns frequently, presumably to hold students’ interest or challenge them. In Nia, we use the energy of the [nine different] movement forms [from the dance arts, martial arts and healing arts] to emphasize specific and unique feelings and sensations. Thus, Nia approaches choreography from an energetic point of view; we repeat the same step and pattern, but change the movement form in order to change the energy. This allows us to stay with the same pattern for longer periods of time, giving both teacher and student time to deepen their connection to body sensations and form. When choreography stays simple, people can feel and express themselves more playfully [and, I would add, in a more healthy and integrated way].

For the official scoop on all nine movement forms, click here.

Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:

The first part of Principle 2 is Natural Time. Which I’m sure you know about since you read about it, right? As you know, then, the 13-moon calendar is based on a 13:20 code that recognizes the natural cycles of the Universe. Which sounds a bit woo-woo and highfalutin but actually, 13:20 is right there in your bones: the human body has 13 major joints and 20 digits.

The second part of Principle 2 is a natural extension of the first. Part 2 of Principle 2 addresses how Nia trains, conditions, and heals this 13:20 body using the energy and essence of the nine movement forms. In a Nia class, we can do any movement in these different ways, each affecting the body differently. For example, a front kick executed with Tae Kwon Do energy is going to emphasize strength, power and stability, while the same front kick executed with Alexander Technique will focus on lift through the crown of the head, length in the spine and an graceful, easeful alignment. As we practice, any movement can be infused with the energy of any of the nine movement forms which offers both teacher and student enormous freedom within the form.

This is all excellent and juicy-good, but even if you’ve never done Nia, you can use the energy and essence of the nine movement forms in anything you do. We all have our style and habits around how we approach the world. Take a look at the descriptions of the movement forms (or even better, move them), and you will notice that some come easily and feel familiar and others feel awkward and strange.

Notice which movement forms you tend to gravitate toward and then explore the ones that are outside your habit. By exploring all nine of movement forms we have access to a broader range of options for approaching anything. Especially if my habitual way isn’t working, the nine movement forms give me options for another approach.

Me? I tend toward Jazz and Tae Kwon Do. The energy and power of these two movement forms is great for some things but in lots of situations and relationships, they work about as well as wearing a red sequined dress to a funeral.

For example, if I have a daunting pile of work to do around the house, instead of powering through it Tae Kwon Do style, I can choose to take the Tai Chi approach of mindful, relaxed grace or use the creative possibilities of Modern Dance. When I’m talking to my step-kids, instead of being my Jazzy expressive self, I might choose a Feldenkrais approach by slowing down and reconnecting or tap into the harmonious, circular flow of Aikido.

There are lots of ways to move through the world. The nine movement forms give us more options to explore what energy might serve each situation, each relationship, each moment best.

nia mover 1Last 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.”

Well, amen.

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.

The Nine Movement Forms of Nia are:

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.

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