Erin Curren was looking for some new dance offerings in Portland back in 2007 and discovered Nia. Nia is a fusion fitness class that blends three major movement forms- martial arts, dance, and the healing arts. There are guided, choreographed steps, and then free dance mixed in to each hour long class. Nia began in the early 80s on the west coast and has made its way here. Rather than a high impact aerobics class, Nia involves fluidity and organic connectivity- so this physical workout is also a mental and emotional one.

I spoke with Erin to ask some questions about Nia, and after hearing her passion for this form I can not wait to try it! The class is great for people who are new to dance or reluctant to take a traditional dance class. Nia is more about the sensations of the body from within the dance, rather than what it looks like on the outside. There are seven cycles to the class, including a warmup and a cool down, and the teachers have required trainings so that they can keep students safe while moving. Some people wear workout clothes, some wear sparkly tops- and almost everyone is barefoot, to strengthen feet and improve balance. Students range in age from 30s-80s, but everyone is welcome.

The benefit of the more structured parts of Nia is inviting more balance to the moves. There is a conditioning benefit of using one’s intrinsic and extrinsic muscles in a systematic way: if you tend to favor your left or right side, you’d do that in a free dance without even noticing it. In Nia you’re asked to do things in a balanced way so you use your nondominant side, which leads to change in thinking and movement patterns.

The music used in Nia is made specifically for Nia, so musicians are paid to create music that is licensed just for this dance. Erin describes it as a “soul stirring blend of world rhythms and beats.. very rich music, layered and stimulating.” You can stream some of it and listen here:

Erin, who has her black belt as a Nia instructor, teaches classes in Cape Elizabeth, Westbrook, Topsham, Brunswick, and sometimes Augusta!  Her schedule can be found here (on her facebook events, I see THREE more classes this week- get thee to one soon!):

I met Erin during a PechaKucha talk, an organization she leads in Portland. You can see both of our talks at these links! :

Kate Beever

About Kate Beever

I am a board-certified neurologic music therapist and owner of Maine Music & Health, which provides services and consulting to healthcare and arts agencies throughout the state.