Ann Christiansen and Nia – two halves of the same whole. Five questions for Ann about how she personally lives, experiences and teaches Nia:
As a former professional athlete you are used to giving your all and being drilled. How much of a role does this play in Nia?
That’s the great thing about it – there is no compulsion in Nia, no-one has to punish themselves to an unreasonable extent. The focus is always on the joy of movement. Nia has several levels of intensity at which we can dance – Level One, Two and Three. Every lesson I teach is an invitation to my participants, my attitude is ‘Hey, feel and decide for yourself how far you want to go “today”; what level you are at’. I love the principle of “less is often more” which you can experience at Level One. On the other hand, I also encourage athletic participants to make powerful, dynamic moves. Those who know and can choose from all three intensities not only have more when fun when dancing but also gain more control over their bodies.
Why are you teaching people Nia today and not swimming or fitness?
Nia is a positive life path, a way to develop your own personality. It’s about enjoying life; harmony; getting to know yourself and feeling what’s going on inside – and growing spiritually and physically while doing so. When we talk about the positive effects of Nia, we shouldn’t forget that there’s also the aspect of physical fitness. It makes you stronger, slimmer, more attractive. I’m not talking about the perfect figure that you can train at legs, bums and tums sessions. The way we move in Nia allows us to feel harmony and beauty at the end of the hour. People who do Nia feel attractive and move attractively – and that means that they also look attractive.
When did you realize ‘Wow, Nia is perfect for me!’?
Oh, I remember it well. A girl friend took me to a session in Stockholm. I felt out of place – terrible panpipe music started up and I was wearing the wrong clothes. But at some point the trainer said we should try a move, push ourselves up from the floor and fall in the air. It struck a chord with me. It reminded me of how I always used to push myself off from the edge of the pool when I was a swimmer. That was the moment at which I felt for the first time that there was also a place for me in the world out of the water; that I would also be able to find a good move, a good life for myself on the ground. From then on I was hooked!
How do you incorporate your knowledge as physiotherapist into your trainings and Nia lessons?
Nia also includes elements from yoga, tai chi, the Alexander technique and the Feldenkrais Method. In other words, a range of healing, relaxing positions or moves come into play during dancing. In order to make it easy for participants taking part in Belt trainings or at sessions to achieve this, we use what we call “pearls” in Nia. They are images to make the moves easier. When I tell the dancers to turn themselves into a feather or a robot they can imagine what I’m talking about immediately and translate it in their own way. Obviously this also stimulates creativity but the best thing of all is that these images automatically allow you to discover the right moves for you. It’s magical.
Have you been particularly touched by the story of any specific pupil?
The dancing and development of every single pupil touches me. Each one of them is unique and wonderful. Over and over again I see how much my participants surpass themselves; how they not only become stronger or fitter but also more graceful, self-confident and softer. Or take better care of themselves. Seeing that is without doubt the best moment for me.