Thursday, May 26, 2011

From Zumba to Nia

Sometimes, life's little cancellations are just what we need. You know, the ones where you're cruising down a Seattle street and see the "Road closed" and orange detour sign right before you come an inch from slamming into it. And you're annoyed, because that road you were going to take was the most efficient for your commute, but the detour winds you down along the waterfront, opening up before you a panoramic view of Lake Union from a park you didn't know existed. You pull off the route and park your car in the gravel, barely fast enough to scramble out the door and out onto a wooden bench in the park, beside the smooth calm of the lake. A front row seat and a moment taken that you didn't realize you desperately needed, to catch your breath and open your eyes.

As silly as it may sound, that happened to me tonight at the gym. I skidded into the reception area of my athletic club to check in for my Thursday night Zumba class - a high energy, cardio salsa and international dance class - and barely missed the words on the small chalkboard, announcing, "Zumba class cancelled tonight." My face dropped.

I looked at my Zumba friend next to me, "What? No Zumba...?" I didn't know what to do. I wasn't mentally prepared to stay and bore myself on stationary workout equipment. Turning to leave, she suggested we try out the Nia class instead.

I debated silently, though my face certainly didn't hide my lack of enthusiasm. "Uh... Nia? Have you actually done it before?"

"Yeah, once. It's not too bad. Let's try it."

My only impression of Nia was peering in on a class of older ladies, middle-aged granola ladies, young hard-core yoga ladies, dancing in flowy shirts and hippie pants, a blend between tai-chi, ballet, and a zen-like free-for-all. Not exactly Zumba. Not exactly in my comfort zone. But I felt like dancing, and curiosity won out.

So we took our shoes and socks off and waited in the back of the cozy studio, in front of the mirrors. The teacher came in, welcomed us to the class, and briefly explained that Nia is a compilation of three different types of martial arts, modern and jazz dance and some other types of movements I'm not familiar with.

The music invited us in, slow and rhythmic, enchanting, beckoning. Self-consciousness shed off like a discarded garment in a warm room. My eyes closed and I let my body lead me wherever the music danced. Eyes opened, and I saw myself in the mirror. Tightened muscles gradually loosening, limbs flowing in graceful femininity.

"Feel the joy of movement," our teacher instructed. My arms and hands, legs and toes, understood it before my mind did. The mind can be a little slow, but it caught up. Muscles and mind relaxed into the freedom of joyous movement.

Turns out, I didn't need high-impact, energetic routine tonight. I needed barefoot, graceful, creative, spontaneous, joyful, free.

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