The following interview features Nia Teacher Alexandra Collas, who first began practicing Nia in 2006 when she was finishing graduate school at the University of Western Ontario. She is currently living in Lima, Peru, where she owns Peru Flow.
Nia HQ: How did you end up in Peru?
Alexandra Collas: I am Peruvian and moved to Canada at the age of 18. After living abroad for 12 years, I never thought I would come back... until last year when I decided to become an entrepreneur. I always yearned for home, even though I am a traveler. I thought of Peru as a great possibility to reconnect with my roots. I also had a desire to give back to my community. Teaching Nia, Dance Our Way Home and Yoga for children in Peru was to be my start, and hosting retreats would be the next step. I visualized a business, a retreat home, somewhere in the mountains, and began creating my business plan. The move was not easy, but I knew I had to come back. I can say that my decition came out of an instinct, an intimate love for following my dreams and for rising up to a challenge.
NHQ: Tell us the story of how Peru Flow came to be.
AC: The idea of Peru Flow had been in my mind for a while. As a teacher, I began to integrate movement into my academic classes, and then, outside the space, I taught Nia to young girls and teenagers at the YWCA and UofT. The joy the classes brought to my students, and the fun I had in the classes, began to nourish my capacity to believe in the possibility of making my passion my work. All of a sudden, people would say: "You should start your own business; it would be great! You are very talented." I took the compliments but thought that I had more to learn to get to that big stage. It took me many years of work to believe in the possibility of starting my own business, but once I felt ready or more than ready, when the desire to follow my dreams became bigger than I could handle, I surrendered. And here I am. Once in Lima, I asked my best friend if she could help me find a name for my business. Peru Flow came to us as a connector of many things. We see Peru as this beautiful place where I return, where I can bring people, where I can teach. We see the word "Flow" as our generous engine of continuous movement.
NHQ: Are you the only Nia teacher in Peru? If so, what does that mean in terms of challenges and opportunities?
AC: Currently I am the only Nia teacher in Peru. This is a great challenge and a great opportunity. Being the first of anything brings along a lot of responsibility. When my critic comes out, I try not to take myself too seriously. I remember that, yes, I will try my best to represent my mentors and teachers in the most professional way wherever I am at the time. Every day is different. I also remember to reaffirm my belief in Peru Flow and all that it has to offer, when I promote my work. I've learned that the most important thing is to draw in humour and laughter to my space. I've learned that practice is what will make my classes amazing. It is the magic and the connections that I co-create with my students that makes the difference, and helps me remember why I love Nia. If people can sense my love for Nia and movement, and can also fall in love with Peru Flow, then 80% of the job is done. I want to participate in bringing people together to dance and understand the benefits of the classes Peru Flow offers. This is an opportunity of growth for myself, the project and everyone involved.
NHQ: What is your Nia vision for the next ten years?
AC: My Nia vision for the next ten years is to spread the joy. This sounds simple, but as we know, it requires great skill. This means inner- and outer-work. I work on manifesting my truth. I know that one of my life purposes is to spread the joy of movement. I've learned so much already from my first Nia class five years ago. I am very thankful. So many things have changed for the better since that moment for me. I can only live in the present and work on my skill every day. My vision is to grow with Nia, to keep my doors open everywhere I go, to be involved with the Nia community, to love and to dance.
NHQ: What do you wish everybody knew about Nia?
AC: I wish everybody knew about Nia! I wish everybody knew how healing, powerful, fun and transformative it is to develop body awareness. I think that the skills Nia teachers learn are applicable to every aspect of life. I know, from my personal experience, that my life changed with Nia. Once I walked into the White Belt, everything changed for me. Nia opened up me up to new learning possibilities. From Nia came more Yoga, and from more Yoga came Dance Our Way Home. I feel like the learning path is never-ending and full of marvellous revelations. I want to teach Nia. I want everybody to know how wonderful it is to be in their bodies.
NHQ: How would you describe your teaching style?
AC: When I teach, I work on being an engaging, passionate, empathetic, joyful co-creator. Every class is different, and understanding that is key to relating to my students. I love to play with my students, to provide a safe and loving space for them to move joyfully and freely. I love working with children because I can bring my inner child out. I love working with teenagers because I can bring my compassionate side out. I love working with women because I truly believe that we are a force. We are a spiraling and mysterious force. I would say that my teaching style is versatile just like me! I love to travel, to learn, to meet and re-meet spaces. I'm curious and bubbly. I love to show myself honestly to my students, and it's been proven over time that people truly appreciate that honesty. I make a point to show how appreciative I am for my students' time with me. I make the most of my time and work to remember that every day is different. I co-create with my students. Some days are good and some are better but, I work on being present.
Image credit: Adriana Kouri