Dalit Harel, Atzmon, 02.01.14
Dalit is a Nia teacher and dance therapist; she lives in Atzmon in Misgav. We’ve met to talk about Nia, joy and inspiration.
Which words or feelings come up when you think about Nia?
Grounding, pleasure, breath of air, expression, movement, fun, healing, need…
In what way Nia influenced your life?
During every class I sense the connection to the ground; to me it means a lot being connected to the base, to myself, to the situation. I’ve found the fire of movement, of expression, of dance; for a long time it was inside me, but didn’t come out in that way. I was always dancing but not like this.
I used to be a social worker and a dance therapist, and while living for some time in the States I was contemplating how to continue my studies. I remember a conversation with a friend who told me then: “you should have fire in your eyes, you should wake up in the morning for creation, you should be a dance teacher”. I told her I would never be a dance teacher, which I still think is true. I don’t teach or train, but share an experience of movement that is emotional, physical, mental and spiritual. Another friend told me about Nia; I went to a class and immediately knew that this is it. I started the Nia teaching program a week later.
Nia was like a gift to me; it’s the fire inside me that comes out in every class. As if the energy of my life is present there. Even after dancing the same dance a thousand times, I still find pleasure and interest. Every time the focus is different, and it leads to something new. Sometimes I have no idea what will happen at the class – I prepare a playlist, a dance sequence, and allow the inspiration and creativity to lead the way.
What inspires you?
Anything that reaches inside inspires me, like music, poetry, books, dance performance, nature. Sometimes during a class somebody’s dance would inspire me. It doesn’t have to be pretty, when something comes from within it illuminates. This spark is inspiration.
What music do you listen to and how do you choose your music?
I listen to a lot of Nia music that comes with routines. The latter resemble a kata – a sequence of movements organized around a theme with matching music, so that the songs are connected like building blocks around a unifying spine. There are many routines that one learns as a body of work. Nia music is the base, and there is the music that I bring: Leonard Cohen, The Beatles, Queen, Israeli music etc. For the classes I choose and mix various songs, not only something that people would like to hear or what I would like to hear. I seek the connection to music which is my tool to play with.
What do you like most in your work?
Dancing, of course; sharing the experience of movement; listening to the music and getting to really know it even when there is no immediate connection, that’s the challenge. I love seeing how Nia connects between people; it’s a wonderful feeling being in that open space, loving the movement, accepting ourselves and others. That’s what I hope to convey to my students. Everyone carries some baggage in their bodies; one can be with it but still allow herself to sense the joy of movement. This state of mind follows me through my everyday life and remains an essential tool in my work. It doesn’t matter the state I’m in, the music or the group, when I do Nia I’m totally there, dancing and experiencing the joy of movement. The group gives me feedback and vice versa, and each time the energy of the group takes a different direction. There is no way to control it; therefore, it’s so fascinating to see what evolves in that space.
Have you witnessed changes in people that do Nia?
Sure. People that were shut inside suddenly open up. I think that free dance is difficult for some people; one goes through a process of letting the music come through and not concentrating on only copying the movements. Some people never made sounds, and suddenly you can hear their voice – that’s important. Also working with the center helps those who are less grounded: there is a lot of grounding in Nia through movements that originate from the martial arts. I believe that movement and life correspond. Being closed or stuck in movement often indicates a blockage in some other areas of life, and opening up in movement will, invariably, have a wider impact. It happens all the time; one only has to pay attention.
You were one of the first Nia teachers in Israel. Can you tell about how it started?
I think I was the second teacher so at the time Nia was quite unknown in Israel. At the beginning I was naïve. I got an amazing gift; Nia filled my life with movement, happiness and fulfillment. Since I was very enthusiastic wanting to pass this gift to others, I expected everyone to love it, but it was an illusion. After teaching for some time at the country club in Misgav, I realized that Nia appeals to people that are open to their body and soul, to their creativity, those that choose to commit to the route of joint exploration. Now I understand that some people like it and some don’t, and I respect that.
Starting something new in the North of Israel probably wasn’t easy.
Contrary to expectations, it wasn’t very challenging. People in the small communities are much more connected, so the rumor spread very fast. At the beginning there was much excitement, and about 50 people came to my class which quickly became three classes that continue until today. All in all I teach 10 classes a week in the North. There are people that dance with me from 2005, some stop for a while and come back.
You’re learning all the time, what would you like to be when you grow up?
I want to be the best I can. Even if I’ve already done the Nia belts, I’ll do them again and become better at what I do. I’d like to find a way to reconnect to the therapist in me, that part weighed heavily on me in the past. Now, through focusing, my therapeutic part slowly comes back. Today I’m open to receive it and find a way to connect everything. I’m looking for the balance. I’d like to continue and expand my work with a group and introduce Nia to other therapeutic environments like the work I recently began with medical personnel and patients at the Rambam Hospital.