Firedance: The Nia “Riverdance” routine.

This is the first appearance of a concept called Athletic Nia. This is meant to be an offshoot of traditional Nia for those who were athletically inclined or were familiar and confident enough with traditional Nia and wanted something more athletic.

I consider this an advanced routine for many reasons.

One is that the way it was presented shows very few Level 1 options. Many of the movements are plyometric in nature (jumping) and would need some modifying for someone who was less conditioned. That alone is a good reason to avoid the routine until having had some movement experience and are comfortable making your own adaptations without a lot of guidance.

The routine requires a great attention to detail, especially because of the repetition of a very quick movement involving stepping on the back foot on the ball of the foot and on the whole forward foot. This quick shuffling-like motion has a lot of pitfalls that a beginning student/teacher may fall into. I have to consistently caution students not to slide or drag their feet and not to pound their feet hard into the floor. It is also very important to use proper alignment in the ankles and feet, which is not something that comes easily to a beginner.

Another thing that contributes to my calling it an advanced routine is that the music is undeniably uplifting and inspirational. It fuels very grand and emotional movements at times and very quick, staccato footwork at other times. It is mostly quite energetic and celebratory so participants tend to match the energy and get lost in the celebration, which causes the less advanced students to lose focus on themselves at the very time when the focus is most crucial.

So it requires an approach that can override the raucous music and remain internally calm and centered. A beginner, or a less experienced dancer can easily become overwhelmed by the excitement and physical challenge that is offered by this wonderful routine, and hurt themselves.

I tend to save the routine for special occasions and workshops, or split the body of work up into small chunks and insert a few songs into a playlist I’m creating for class. And whenever I do have a piece of this work in a routine, I will make a point to discuss these points with my students (especially any new students) before the class begins.


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