Exploring Nia For Singers

One year ago, I took my first Nia class. Nia entered my life at a time of great need. As a 20 year-old, musician and student I had entered into a pattern of self-doubt. I was disconnected from my body, I felt stressed, anxious, and insecure in my abilities. Thanks to Nia, I stopped listening to the noise of “You can’t” and started saying, “Yes, I can!”  Seeing the impact this change had in my life, I became glued to the joy and healing that comes along with dancing Nia. Not only was Nia helping me in my daily life, but I also saw it benefiting me in school and in my growth as a singer.

I study vocal performance at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. While practicing and performing, I began to notice myself incorporating the Nia Technique. I began to gain more focus in class, in the practice room, and on the stage. My mind-body connection was strengthening, and breath became my best ally. I learned to seek pleasure in life, in movement, and in song. My desire to share this tool with other singers quickly developed. Nia was changing my life and I suspected there to be other music students who would benefit from it as well. There was a need for Nia at my University.

Last spring, I received a Fund for Undergraduate Scholarly Experiences (FUSE) grant to begin the project, “Exploring Nia for Singers.” In July of 2015, I took my White Belt toward certification and two weeks later began teaching Nia once a week to music majors at my school.

Nia is a wonderful practice for singers for several reasons. First, the development of the singing voice is unique because a singer cannot separate themselves from their instrument. To most efficiently use their internal instrument, a singer must develop a connection between mind, body, and breath. Through Nia’s teaching of the base, the core, and the upper extremities, singers learn to understand and embrace their body’s most natural and healthy postures. Each singer is encouraged to be in constant communication with their body, noticing signals of pain and pleasure through their movement. By being aware of the body and breath, singers can find their natural alignment, which will ultimately inspire a safe and effective sound.

In addition, Nia teaches singers to say, “Yes!” to trying, to exploring, and to playing. Through the practice of free dance and improvisation, singers allow themselves to be creative and limit the analysis of their choices. Nia encourages a playful spirit and an accepting attitude. Singers are also taught to use positive self-talk throughout the class. Practicing positive self-statements can help singers gain confidence, take risks, and overcome performance anxiety and perfectionism.

With Nia, singers vocalize as they move. In order to vocalize while engaged in a cardio workout, one must be connected to their breath. By doing this, singers treat their voice as any other muscle that needs exercised and stretched. Vocalizing while completing a Nia workout trains the performer for singing with stage movement.

Singers who participated in the “Exploring Nia for Singers” project said that, thanks to Nia, they learned to be more kind to themselves. Mind-body awareness helped improve their posture and more easily identify and relax areas of tension. One singer said the environment of a Nia class is inspiring and makes her feel safe to experiment with new forms of movement.

Throughout the semester, I saw beautiful growth in myself and in each of the singers who danced with me weekly. I am so grateful to my University, professors, peers, and the Nia community who supported my project. I plan to continue my growth with Nia for Singers in the future!

Grace Kolbo is a Nia White Belt and soprano. Grace studies vocal performance at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where she received a grant to begin her project, "Exploring Nia for Singers."

Photo by Bruce Thayer