The Journey of a Nia Routine

In jazz, Life skills, mind, modern, music, Nia, Nia Class, Tae Kwon-do, teaching, vocalising on September 28, 2010 at 2:01 am

Each Nia routine has a journey of discovery, adventure, peacefulness, reward, anything the teacher can think of. It is sometimes more subtle and personal to each class participant, and in some cases, like the one I will be sharing, it is very direct and explicitly shared as a story in each song.

Sanjana is the routine I will be using for this explanation.

One of the awesome freedoms we Nia teachers have is to be able to switch out music for our own choices and reasons. I LOVE music and finding new ‘clicks’ to the choreography Debbie and Carlos have created. Sanjana’s given focus is ‘dynamic ease’. In our bodies and in daily life, we strive for the balance between relaxation and stress to keep moving forward, to stay productive and content. For my new journey with Sanjana, I adapted this focus to deal with the area of relationships we have with others and ourselves in our daily lives. I call it ‘listening’.  The sense of hearing with our ears is definitely engaged with the new music, and listening with the body’s awareness and attention to pain/pleasure to promote self-healing is included. An intention of receiving what the body is transmitting through sensation is very important for self-healing. In this explanation, I will list the song title and artist, and then explain the story of the track in relationship to the routine.

Rendez-Vu, Basement Jaxx

As the warm-up, this song is purposely too fast. It is used in half time. The heavy driving beats and bass makes us want to move faster and pulse, but the idea is to feel the fight between our mind’s desire for our body and the choreography. Daily we force ourselves to behave in ways that go against our desires, and it’s important to be aware of our true desires when we are denying them. This exercise helps us recognize what we do want when we have fewer conformities to adhere to. Many of our relationships are ones of duty.

Sure Fire Winners, Adam Lambert

This popular track is used to bounce the energy up from denying ourselves in the last song. Its message is empowering and we all need that empowerment to succeed with our personal goals in life. A positive outlook and belief in ourself can make us, or a negative self-defeating outlook can break us. So having the upbeat, positive message with fun, forward-moving steps, opening the front of the body, creates a dynamic upswing in the journey of the routine.

Te Amo, Rihanna

Here we listen to a story of unrequited love. We ‘skate’ around the room forwards and backwards in a repetitive way, mirroring the patterns we can, and do fall into, in our relationships with others. The movement has a rocking feel that can lull and comfort us with its familiarity, but the continual circular movement around the ‘race track’ puts stress on the calf muscles, and after the 3 minute song we can feel the burn. This can be interpreted as the burn we have felt from the experience of unrequited love in our own lives, or the burn we get when we know we are playing with fire, yet still choose to take the chance.

I’m in Heaven, Universal Funk

This is the fun night out, strutting our stuff, and revelling in our beauty and energy. Having a group of friends to “play” with is incredibly healing. As humans, we are gregarious creatures. Playing is very important for our creativity and vitality. The choreography is playful and frisky with opportunities to act out being tipsy and silly as well as exploring the sensuous sexiness we all possess. Scenes from Saturday Night Fever are used as imagery to add spice and fun to the choreography.

Billie Jean, MJ

Here we continue to elevate the heart rate using the movement form of Jazz to stay with the fun energy of the routine. Using images of dressing-up in MJ style clothes and performing on stage adds a dimension of exhibitionism to the moves. What do we show the world when all eyes are on us? The relationship between our inner, private selves and our social, public self can sometimes be at extreme odds. What would we be like if we came into more balance? If we are normally shy, what do we wish we had the nerve or guts to do in front of a crowd? And if we enjoy being the centre of attention, this is a chance to relish the opportunity!

Thriller, MJ

The same moves were just danced in the previous number using Jazz energy; with Thriller, Modern dance energy is applied, along with Tae Kwon Do, to fight off the zombies and ghouls! But then about 2/3s of the way through, we are consumed by the zombies and become zombies. Here, playing with our relationship to our dark sides is explored. The knee sweeps take us around the room using freedance arms to dramatize our inner demon or zombie! Letting out our “ugly” physically and vocally with the deep voice spoken word, and evil laugh at the end releases other forms of energy that can become trapped due to a lack of safe places to express it!

Air Batucada, Thievery Corporation

This track allows us to feel quick agile movements while swinging our arms or waving them around, almost throwing ourselves off balance. This quick moving choreography can make us think of day-to-day life, running around, getting this and that, meeting here, shopping there, cleaning… the relationship we have with the business of life and how we must get through it in a tireless, upbeat way, can show us many things about our Selves. Playing with up movements with the arms, and then loose dangling limbs expressing fed-up exhaustion, builds muscles and stamina, and then releases tension held in the shoulders… We switch from right to left on our feet after 8, 4, 2 and then 1 count, to mirror how we can be pulled in many different directions and how we can either let it pull us off balance, or stay physically centred and flow easily through the changes in direction.

FREEDANCE – Soul Tree, Oka

This is a freedance for the soul. Whatever we need to dance out, we do here. Move through the three planes. Get on the floor. Jump in the air. Move with fluidity and grace. Move with our ugly and awkward self. Use the music to move. Listen to the body. Cultivate the way we converse with our Self. Are there sore spots? Do some movements feel bad or healing? Pay attention to the Self. It’s all about YOU (ME).

Rise, Flobots

We use Tae Kwon Do energy in these blocking and punching patterns. Hearing the lyrics talk of rising up together and being strong together and fighting for what is right, brings a sense of camaraderie. The relationship of the group/tribe for support is powerful and accessible to us. Empowerment brings the tribe together in support of each other. We CAN succeed and we will have support. Feel the strength in the blocks and power to say No! or Yes! And sense the muscles in the core while punching, and realize a punch is also a pull. At the same time as pushing something away we are taking something in. Life is always a two-way street.

COOLDOWN/FloorPlay – Out of the Mist, Jami Sieber

The Spirit of the Earth Continues, Cybertribe .

Both songs here are used for the 5 Stages of Self-healing. We walk around performing a self-check for pain, tightness, etc. And then move through the 5 Stages. About ½ way through the last track, we end the fifth stage and walk re-checking for changes in sensation. Being in an honest relationship with ourself can only lead to health and peace, and by giving time to listen to our body, we open communication pathways that allow us to move forward. The end uses the same motions we started the routine with, feeling the movements fit comfortably with the music and sensing the natural flow that wasn’t present when we last performed the movements. A sense of relaxation and well-being can be felt when we are in the right flow of energy in our lives. Turbulence comes and goes, and we must roll and rock with them, with the comforting thought that it will calm down and end eventually. It is important to keep a feeler out for that peace and flow, so that when we come near it, we can choose to immerse ourselves in it while we can.

Each Nia class participant will have experienced a slightly (or hugely) different hour during Sanjana. And this is the beauty and magic that is Nia. We share in music and movement, but we differ in how we interpret both of those elements (magic). A Nia class is so multileveled, and can be accessed at any level, deep, superficial or somewhere in the middle. The choice is always up to the student. If we need the deep soul-searching in the dance, it is available. If we only want the sweaty, strength and agility training of the fitness portion, it is available. The Journey of the Nia Routine allows for growth on any spectrum, and all Nia participants should understand this. And that is why I decided to share my personal journey of Sanjana (to new music) with you.


PS: I linked all the songs I could find on YouTube so you could have a listen. However, not all tracks are there.  Enjoy what you can!

  1. Hey Kirstie, this is an amazing collection of tunes to consider! Thanks for sharing your work and the “story” of your clicks! SO dear….


  2. Hey Kirstie, did Sanjana using MJ’s two songs. The beats/min were too fast for me. I like to demonstrate the technique in a way that is ergonomically save. I failed miserably at attaining this at my 9am class, so I switched back to the original at my 10:45 class. I guess I need more that one weekend to tweak that Kata at that speed. WIll keep at it as I loved the music and Halloween is coming around the corner. You know what’s funny… I did the similar Zombi Freedance within that song without knowing that you did the same. It just calls for it eh? Did you do the Thriller hands too? I invited my ghouls to rip off some flesh with their claws. Then we ate it. It was hilarious and much more athletic in my first class, but I was still able to then flavour the second class with the old music in a way that I have never done before. YEAH we did that releasing haunting laugh at the end too even after Omid… those ladies must have thought I was nuts, but it just came out AND they went along with it

    • Yay for zombie freedancing! And yes! I did do the Thriller hands with a bit of Lady Gaga, Bad Romance arms! As for the BPM being a bit quicker, I hear what you’re saying. When I was going through the music, these two MJ tracks clicked for me, but the steps are closer together and snappier, so that’s how I manage it – keep it close to the core.
      Thanks for your feedback, and I love that we are on the “same train”!

  3. Hey Kirsty,
    This is such a great and detailed account of your exploration. Way to go! Thank you for sharing.

    Martha xo

  4. Hey! I just got a song to swap into Air Batucada that rocks my EVERYTHING and it fits in perfectly with the listening relationship focus! Your Love is my Drug, Ke$ha! So fun! Try it out!

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