Nia has shaped my body and my life for many years creating changes in my awareness and my physical form and offering me many gifts of knowledge beyond what I believed possible.  One gift that I did not expect was that Nia has helped me define my understanding of beauty in a deep way that has empowered and enriched my life and the way I see the world.  

Debbie Rosas defines beauty as "a sensation of wholeness. It is not confined to a certain look, age or size. Beauty is inherent to every body. It is something you claim for yourself."  The invitation to claim beauty as a sensation is a choice point that Nia students have in every moment.  We choose this sensation through our awareness and connection with our bodies.  When you make the choice your unique spirit shines through and pure beauty transcends your body.  It is clear to observers and breathtaking to see.  To the dancer it is a glorious mixture of sweat, pleasure, and union with the movement and music that creates wholeness.  At that moment your soul or essence is made visible, transcending the physical form and illuminating your life-force. This animates the beauty within and makes it universal for all to witness.

Compare this definition to the traditional view of beauty as a goal to be achieved through altering the appearance and making changes to the body.  This separates us into who does or does not fit our tribal view of beauty.   When I measure myself on this standard am I the right weight, age, color, or shape to be considered beautiful?  It is a superficial analysis and yet has a hold on the collective psyche that holds back the emancipation of the spirit and separates us.

When I look at photographs of famous people considered “beautiful,” I see a form that may or may not be pleasing to me, but I rarely see the animation of life force that I see in the photos in the Nia gallery.  Those faces, bodies, shapes, and people of all ages are glowing with an illumination from within. There I see true beauty; a beauty that unites and honors the human spirit in all its diversity.  This beauty can never shame or separate me from my body and from others different from me.  On the contrary this beauty connects me to others.

I was once honored to witness this illumination in an intensive.  One participant, who had polio as a child, was enraptured by the music in her FreeDance solo.   As she moved to the music in her own unique way, her head was thrown back and the expression on her face was ecstatic.  Her body dipped and swayed and twirled, a once impossible achievement.  All of us watched with tears in our eyes as witness to her dance.  Later she revealed that FreeDance moment was life changing. She stepped in and claimed her freedom, life-force, and her birthright to beauty. Nia changed her life and all of those who witnessed her transformation.

Claiming your individual beauty is as easy as saying “Yes!”   Yes!, I am beautiful, Yes!, I am ready to reveal my inner self to the world and Yes! I claim my unique aliveness.  As I step up to this challenge of claiming my beauty, I see the beauty of others, and our connections, not our differences, enrich my life on the dance floor and beyond.