Dance for Joy

Whoever coined the slogan, “No pain, no gain” has never taken a Nia class. Developed in the 1980s as a no-impact, barefoot alternative to then-popular aerobic routines, Nia has gained an enthusiastic response from happy—and sweaty—participants. Perhaps that’s because the goal of Nia is, according to founders Debbie and Carlos Rosas, “fitness via the pleasure principle.”

If you observe a Nia class, you’ll know what they mean. To an outsider, it can look a bit loony, as participants of all ages dance wildly to tribal-beat music. The Nia Technique incorporates elements of modern and jazz dance, martial arts, and yoga into a class that’s part choreographed action, part free-form movement. Once in the trenches, though, you’ll quickly forget about looking silly and find yourself skipping, freezing, flailing, and yelling along with everyone else.

Beyond the fun and the solid aerobic workout, adherents say they appreciate the focus on self-expression, healing, and developing mindfulness. Maria Skinner, dancer, brown belt Nia instructor, and manager of Yoga & Nia for Life in West Concord, Massachusetts, says Nia has increased her mobility, flexibility, and agility. But beyond those benefits, she cites a greater awareness of the present. “My mind is quiet for more time than it used to be,” Skinner says. “As a result, when I am in Nia class, I can be in the movement, falling in love with myself, body, mind, and spirit.” For additional information, visit