A Night Out With Nia

When I was hooked on drugs, I lead a double life. It wasn’t a secret life, both halves knew about each other, they just never talked to each other.

When I was hooked on meth, I lead an insular life of psychotic insanity, of chemical-fueled perversion. I withdrew from my friends, family and any sort of life outside – I went to work, got high, went home, got higher, and shut the world out.

Lucia explains Nia, while Maia captures the ‘before’ shot. You can’t tell, but I’m shitting myself here…

Healing, then, means I must engage with real people, and not just through the interface of my Mac or colleagues at the office. That said, it was a colleague who has been at me to join her at her Nia dance classes. I enthusiastically said I would. That was some months ago, and thank GOD Maia has been persistently nagging me to go – because it was bloody awesome!

OK, let’s just get back to reality here: I love to dance – and imagine myself a hell of hot mover on the dance floor, thanks to all the ecstasy I’ve swallowed over the years. It makes you not give a damn what anyone thinks about how you groove to the rhythms – this is crucial to being a good dancer. For some it’s weed, others need a stiff drink or eight to kill the inhibitions – for me, a handful of pills and off comes the shirt and out comes the whistle and off we go! Woooot! But the last time I danced like that was in 2007…

At Afrika Burn in April of this year I got down with the drugged-up hippies in the desert – I stole their thunder and got my groove on. ‘Stealing thunder’ is a term us junkies use to describe the feeling you get when you’re not on drugs but everyone else around you is, and it incites in you the sensation of being on drugs. You’re high, but not on drugs – it’s a kind of mass hysteria, for one.

But Nia is different – a group of five women, and me, in a studio somewhere in Stellenbosch, on a school night. I was VERY nervous about doing a dance in well-lit conditions, sober, without being able to steal anyone’s thunder. Which is why I put it off for several weeks (read: months) before I couldn’t honestly put it off any longer, and tonight, I went. It was probably not wise to eat a three course meal just before I went.  

Our instructor, Lucia, started the class off by telling us we’d be focussing on the pelvis. Well. That was me – sign me up! I was going to dance, and tell this epic story of a class that started me off by focussing on my pelvis. But here’s the thing…much as I may want to write about this musical journey back to my crotch; this rhythmic renaming of me as Pelvis Freshly, the truth is my pelvis and I are not the best of friends. Every now and then I let him have a night out with the boys, but for the rest we pretty much have disdain for each other – he is a needy and overly dramatic part of my body, and sometimes, he stops me from thinking clearly altogether. So to take to the dance floor with him, in front of five ladies, well – I won’t be lying when I tell you I felt nothing  – no feedback from my body from a point about five centimetres below my belly button to about halfway down my thighs. Nada. I may as well have been an amputee, some bizarrely distorted human, who’d had his middle bits cut out, and his thighs grafted to his tummy. It showed in my dance moves when the music started. I imagine Stephen Hawking would have recommended I sit this one out.

Music is a powerful thing though. After a few minutes of lugging my steak-laden torso across the dance-floor and back – perhaps because of a lack of oxygen (I was breathing THAT hard!) – I started to care less about what I looked like, and started to sway the old arms – well, like I just didn’t care. Music does that, you know. True story. Every now and then I’d miss a beat and go left while everyone else went around – but no one was watching, no one cared. They were undulating to their own ecstatic world of rhythmic being. And I let go a little bit more…

Swooping arcs, gyrating hands, tapping feet – sweating, feeling, moving – breathe! Aaaah! And slowly the little voices stop laughing, the imaginary critics stop pointing, and all you do is…feel…feel the beat, breathe, move, step, stop, turn and glide – reach drop movemovestepslideturntapsweephipstepaaaaaaaahhhh! And there it is…the deep breath, the warm glow and deep, deep satisfaction of stepping in time, feeling the rhythm intuitively and knowing that in your chest your heart pumps in time to the beat.

We fall, in slow, tumbling arcs to the floor and the plane of experience pivots ninety degrees – we’re no longer  dancing on the floor, we’re moving through space – we’re held on a wall of our own personal sound by the gravity of self, and self-expression – close your eyes and drive up with the music; slow and pull the tones into your lungs with each breath, exhale and push out into the cosmos and feel the tingle that says “YES! Yes, very definitely I am alive and I can feel and I am here and …” SILENCE – the words stop and all there is, is breath and sound, tingle and movement, arc and the stretch until arms, back and legs ache…slowing until sound ceases, rhythm stirs less and less – stills, stops. Breathe.

This is Nia. This is the intimacy of music as it is on an elemental level – unaided by stroboscopic displays, abetted not by drugs but by natural endorphins, admittedly not as powerful as meth, but then, I am so much more pleased to have a real feeling, a living feeling, a healthy one and one that I want again, more of…soon!

I have an inkling that my journey back to life is about to take on a whole new musical bent. Time to get creative again, work with Maia and Mike and Les and Neil and take this story into sound, take this life into the beat, make the heartbeat one with the music.

Perhaps I need to sound less like a tripped-out hippy – but right now, I don’t care what you think – I’m on a high, and no cop is going to take this feeling away, no Nia Anonymous group will deprive me of this. It’s real. It’s good.

It’s me.

Nia? Done! Hot and sweaty and loving it. The voices even stopped for a while. See you at the next class!

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12 thoughts on “A Night Out With Nia

  1. Go for it, get over your two left feet (they'll be there for the first few minutes – always are) and enjoy – and then let me know how it went!

  2. Thanks Phil! Missed my second class last night, but am now firmly booked and taking fellow dancer with tomorrow evening, so cannot wait! More posts to come!

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