All In

2 arms

Did you dance with me at UNM? That picture above is from the UNM studio where I taught from 2003 - 2008. Nell and Erin took promo pictures for me, and Jess came to help be in the photos and dance. That was a really fun day. 

I earned my Nia White Belt in October 2000, so I'm counting this October as my 20th anniversary. I taught first at the Dance Factory where I had found Nia as a student of Carrie Peters. I probably fell in love with Nia at first dance, but I distinctly remember knowing the day we danced Mystere that I was totally all in. The music for Mystere is from Cirque du Soleil, and the moves are complex, lyrical, and joyful. 

When Carrie headed out of town for a weekend, there was no one to sub for her. Though I hadn't trained as a Nia teacher yet, I was eager to try. I spent a weekend practicing Fantasia non-stop. I'd been coming to class in a baggy short-sleeved sweatshirt and purple baggy pants, but on the day of my teaching debut, I realized I had to show up in clothes that showed my body; students had to see how I was moving. Just that, wearing form-fitting clothes, was a challenge.

Carrie was, by the way, a third-generation Duncan dance instructor and graduate student of dance at UNM. She was a fantastic mover and a fabulous teacher. I can't even imagine what students thought when I stepped in to sub. It wasn't long after I'd started dancing that Carrie told us she'd be moving to the Bay Area. There were no certified Nia instructors in Albuquerque. If I wanted to dance Nia, I'd have to teach it. That's how it happened, folks. I fell in love and couldn't be without it.

I was working full-time, teaching reading and writing at the community college, and my kids then were 4 and 5 years old. To become certified to teach Nia, I traveled to Denver to take the first weekend of the seven day White belt training, came home to teach my CNM classes, and then went back up for the second weekend. I took over classes at Dance Factory when Carrie left, and a few students stayed. One student told me he wouldn't be coming to class and that it wasn't personal; I just wasn't Carrie. I couldn't disagree. 

The Dance Factory closed not long after that. By 2001, I had a spot at Midtown Sports and Wellness. I've taught at multiple other places, including Nahalat Shalom. The sound there was funky and the floor was cold and hard, but the spirit in that space was incredible. Less incredible was dancing at a capoeira studio. I had to clean it, especially the bathroom, before every class.  The man who rented the space was growing marijuana in the rafters, something I hadn't realized while I was subletting from him but that made a ton of sense in hindsight.

Our desire for a great floor, dimmable lights, and fantastic sound led a group of Nia teachers to found the first Studio Sway on Jefferson. We literally left blood, sweat, and tears in that space as we built it out together. It wasn't large enough, though, which is how we ended up at San Mateo and Lomas. We've had multiple changes of ownership there. I appreciate the experience I had as a co-owner of Sway, but I never wanted to own a studio. I just wanted a great space to dance. I have that now. We all do. I'm still dancing and teaching Nia, and I'm still all in.

Teaching at Studio Ilo, via Zoom, is a new challenge. Those of you who beta-tested with me in the earliest classes: Thank you so much for your help and then for sticking around! Because those first few classes were kind of terrible. Each class, I learn more about how to do this better. I'm figuring out the sound and my floor and my cues and how to show you what I'm doing. I'm working on the music and the moves to keep this experience fresh for everyone. I adore that Nia is so adaptable and that two decades in, I'm still being challenged and learning. It's exciting. There's no reason I can't be doing this for another 20 years. Are you in?