Nia Story: Moving on Stage
By Madeline Holly-Sales, Charlottesville, VA
October 2013

My friend, Anita was the first person to notice that Nia had changed my relationship with my body while performing. When Berto and I first began performing as a duo, I limited my body movement to gripping the mic with one hand and using the other to play a shaker. My feet were firmly planted on the ground and I felt safe . . . I had something to do with my hands and that somehow felt less vulnerable, less open. It’s only very recently that I have become interested in vulnerability and able to see it as a way to live fully, express authentically, and continue to grow.

I joined the gym and discovered Nia in 2006. I loved it. Great music selections, dancing with room to express individuality, and cater to the needs of your own body. Low lighting. Thank you, I think I will go to the gym more often! I really felt like Nia tricked me into exercising longer because it felt good! Imagine that: exercise that feels good! I loved having my attention drawn to different parts of my body (toes, shoulders, hips, etc.) and the challenge to articulate different joints, and feel the contrast of flowing movements and sharper ones. Mmmm. And free dance. I’m a big fan of free dance. A part of my spirit craves that little window of time to simply follow where the music leads. Otherwise, I like the repetition and explorative function of choreography. That’s when those little ‘a-ha’ thoughts slip through. My body and mind are focused on following, opening, loosening and then — boom! — a mini epiphany slips through the cracks.

After about a year of frequenting the gym more regularly, Anita said, “Ever since you’ve been doing Nia I can see a difference in the way you use your body on stage.” Hmmm. I hadn’t thought about it, but yes! I allowed myself to move my hips to the sambas and wiggle my shoulders in response to the music. I was more comfortable in my body!

I am thankful for the body awareness and connection that Nia has brought to my life — both personally and professionally. I’m still pretty contained on stage and I’d love to feel even more comfortable with movement and stillness. The door has been opened. I just need to continue to practice walking through it.

Madeline Holly-Sales is a vocalist and music educator. She and her husband lead Beleza, a group combining the musical richness of North and South America. She has been taking Nia since 2006.

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