Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shiny Ropes

Just about a month ago now, I received an email from a woman named Shazia Islam.

Enter personal growth opportunity and confidence booster.


The subject header on the email was 'Re: Nia Community Dance Jam on Sunday!'.  I didn't remember anyone named Shazia, so I figured it was related to the Nia Jam and fundraiser I held for Good News Toronto last month.  

As is my habit, I prioritized this message on the urgency/importance matrix as low urgency/low importance. I came back to it hours after dealing with what now, in hindsight, seem like non-issues. Isn't that always the way?

Turns out she responded to a message I had sent to my Nia peeps - those who have taken classes with me and who are part of my mailing list (a universal shout of gratitude to those of you who read my newsletters that are sent to you with love <3).

In her email,  Shazia introduced herself as someone who had taken a few classes and had spoken to me about her voice disorder.  

I remembered that as a remarkably special happenstance. If you have read my blog posts, or are part of my community on Facebook or Twitter, you might know how important it is for me to be open about my life. I am extremely transparent about  my life with bipolar disorder in an effort to reduce stigma. So when someone has a similar approach to self-full truth-telling-and-spirit-honoring, I know there is a subterranean-slash-ethereal connection.

Anyhow, Shazia (a writer/playwright/journalist, singer/songwriter, actor, and teacher) explained that she was performing a one-woman cabaret at a conference this summer. In addition to her monologue, she would sing some of her songs, but for one song in particular she wanted to be able to dance it for her audience.

And she was asking me to help her.

My initial reaction? "I'm not a choreographer, I'm a Nia teacher"!

Sure, I can (and have) Nia-fied lots of tunes sufficiently to teach them in a class. In fact, a few years, back, when my lovely singer/songwriter friend Alex Hickey were both at Hillside, I had the honour of teaching Nia to her music as she danced along side me!

Yet, what Shazia was asking me to do seemed HUGELY beyond my capabilities.  As I listened to her song, Shiny Ropes,  I realized that she was asking me to accompany her beautiful words and voice with something very personal. Expressive movement.  I wondered how I would be able to respectfully honour her creation and meet her intention through movement.

I suppose this challenge was pushing my "emotional comfort" limits.   Being in, around, and through any sort of emotionally intense experience has long been a place of growth for me.  And Shazia's story and song struck me in deeply rich, dark, yet hopeful space.

As it turned out, Shazia and I worked together quite beautifully. She taught me about pairing emotion with movement in a way I was ready to learn.  I learned about the message being communicated when I move.

And I grew a little more into the comfort of using movement to convey emotion. I know this opportunity allowed me to be a better Nia teacher.

Thanks for sharing your story and such a personal experience with me, Shazia

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Jenn,
    Thank you so much for the positive and inspiring post! I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working with you and discovering how powerful movement can be, when words fail us. I hope I can do the wonderful choreography you put together for me justice!

    I immediately thought of you when I decided I wanted to do a dance to the song. I wanted you to be a part of this because I remember how I felt after your NIA classes at Joy of Dance and the JCC. I just appreciated the positive energy and empowerment you gave me, and I wanted to take some of that with me to Vienna.

    Thank you again and I look forward to seeing you soon AND working with you in the future :)

    Love, Peace, and Power,