"Do Nia instructors ALWAYS come skipping into class?"
On New Year's Day, 2011, I attended my very first Nia class, and my life of dance phobia came to an end. I had no idea what I was stepping into, but with encouragement from my movement mentors, Kelle Rae Oien, Loretta Milo, Helen Terry, Beth Pelton, and a certain 8 year-old named Morgan, I've happily managed my embryonic stage of dancing.
It was Nia's dynamic emotions that were my personal challenge. Happy-angry-sad was my emotional palette. Emotionally, I was dancing only my face. I am a photographer and my subjects are largely artists, yogis, dancers and children. Still, I was surprised when an idea came to me during a FreeDance session in my Blue Belt class. The idea came fully formed: Capture Nia dancers unencumbered by gravity, in mid-air, expressing the widest possible range of full-body emotions.
The following 12 months were dedicated to the largest photo series I have ever done, titled: Emotions In Motion. Conceptualizing, testing, logistics, road trips, photo shoots and processing conspired in the most compelling way to move the series to fruition. Three thousand miles and three thousand images later, the photo show debuted at my home studio, BodyMoves, in Coralville Iowa. Since then I have taken the show on the road, returning to StudioNia in Santa Fe, NiaMoves in Houston, and Soma Ranch in Montgomery, Texas. Joy In Motion, Boulder will be the next showing, and that will complete the circuit of locations where the original photo shoots took place.
Each step along the way was a long walk off a short plank, but I was not the only one taking risks. Really, why would anyone show up for a guy from out of town with a camera and a trampoline? The dancers in the series self-selected themselves, breaking out of their everyday routines, and made time to appear at the studio. Not only that, when they arrived at that stage, they arrived at an edge, maybe a fear of the trampoline, the camera, their own self-image, and that became something we worked out together. But, ultimately it was their decision to turn and keep their street face on, or go real. And, of course, I was on that same stage, showing up for myself, and also meeting strangers. It was, for all of us, a pop quiz of personal history, edges, emotional palette, treasure, talent, and passion.
We all seem to know people who are not ready, or seemingly unable, to show up for themselves. The Emotions In Motion dancers are not in that group. In the months I spent in intimate contact with these images, I was already celebrating the courage of these dancers way before the first pixel ever got printed.
The Emotions In Motion series does not show off my photography skills. It celebrates what each dancer brought to the 'stage' on that special day, exactly as happens in every Nia class. When Mind, Body, Emotion, and Spirit converge, it ignites the moment. That moment has a fractional half-life, but the power of that joy is contagious. It lingers: it changes everything. We discovered, 80 dancers and I, that split-moment of pure authentic expression: so filled with truth that others can be inspired by it, miles and months away from the magic of its occurrence. I noticed something else during the period of the photo shoots. No matter how they arrived, each person left the shoot feeling good about themselves. I believe it had little to do with the camera or the trampoline.
Emotions In Motion is a heroic presentation of these courageous, talented, passionate dancers. Not poised and pretty, but alive and beautiful! Like a Nia class, Emotions In Motion must be experienced in person. I have such gratitude for these new friends, appreciation for the never-ending inspiration of their dance, and for their precious moments.
I thank them for showing UP and stepping IN.