Soma Summit 2012 - featuring The Men of Nia

Horses won't eat leeks.
Soma Ranch is a Nia haven created by Helen Terry in Montgomery Texas. It’s a good drive from Houston; maybe 45 minutes. But once I start to settle into the ranch I always feel very at home thanks in large part to the gracious hosts, Joe and Helen Terry. The studio is very clean and spacious with light flooding in from a wall of windows. There’s a comfortable lounge area with a big water dispenser and chocolate, health bars, sea weed and other snacks snacks available for purchase on the honor system. Inside the 16 person dorm is a far infra red sauna. The kitchen serves three very healthy meals a day and is also well stocked with a wide variety of snacks and beverages for those who choose to raid the pantry. Out on the ranch, there are a few horses and a whole bunch of donkeys and one dog, Phelps, to oversee us all and make sure we're all herded.  It is a playful, spirited, Nia sanctuary that I thoroughly enjoyed being in this year as much as I did last year. Which is to say: a lot. 

Helen’s triple threat started the weekend. We did 5 Stages over and over again to the soundtrack of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album, while the Wizard of Oz movie was projected on the wall. I would have enjoyed the synchronicity purported to be present, but I was so involved with being Embryonic that I wasn’t watching the screen. Helen had timed it so that each transition of stages coincided with the music, so there was enough synchronicity for my liking. We ended up doing the full 5 Stages about six or seven times through.  Then the album started over and we spent the next 45 or so minutes doing a 52 Moves class to the Dark Side of the Moon.  And once that was finished, the album played through a third time and we did Helen’s fantastic choreography to the classic Pink Floyd album. 

We had done just the Nia class to the album last year, and this was one of the things that was so inspiring to me. Upon my return home after last years experience, I set out to steal her choreography and create my own Rock N Roll Nia class.  As I did her class with her this year, I realized that I didn’t steal her choreography at all. I hadn’t remembered it as well as I thought I had, and I ended up choreographing a completely different experience for my ROCKIN routine

Rolf Erickson
The next morning, after breakfast, Rolf taught an enlightening workshop that was designed to help us communicate with our bodies on a deeper level.  As I told Rolf afterwards, “I wasn’t aware that my body had so much to say to me.” Rolf has a delightful way to being when he teaches. His limbs seem to go on forever, and he moves almost like a spider with such ease and precision. And he energetically infuses his moves with wonderment and fascination that is completely infectious. After his session, I felt like I had truly honored my body and learned lessons from what it had to say. 

Bill Stewart
After lunch, Bill Stewart taught his session on Sacred Livelihood and the role that playing has on being creative and truthful in your life. The climax of his playshop for me was when we broke into three groups and each group had about three minutes to come up with a way to tell a story. The actor in all of us came out as we presented three very different stories in three very different styles. Bill then concluded his session with his Divo routine (Debbies Diva routine set to Rock N Roll music). Another example of me attempting to steal some of his songs. He taught the routine last year, but the songs that I thought I was copying from him ended up being nothing like his. I’m glad that he and Helen were inspirational to me, but I was also thrilled to learn that I had truly made all of the choreography my own. 

After dinner we had another session.  This one was Philipe and Sabine teaching us Life as Art.  A breathtaking session indeed. An evocative movie called was Ashes and Snow was projected on the wall as we walked as slowly as we could from one side of the room to the other. Of course that’s not all that happened, but the whole experience was so spiritually charged that many of us, despite having moved for about eight hours that day, were unable to sleep that night due to being so spiritually stimulated. 

That night, I stayed up late in the kitchen and some of us were playing around with the hair clippers. I had the crazy idea that I wanted a happy-face carved into the back of my head. So it was done. 

Now I can smile at people from both sides at the same time.
Kevin VerEecke
The next morning, Kevin taught a very thoughtful session on body alignment and healing through correct usage of the body in 5 stages and the 52 moves. I’ve been teaching anatomy and kineseology for about 20 years, so it’s hard to impress me these days by teaching that stuff to me.  But Kevin’s visceral demonstration of muscles and application of his knowledge of our body’s way to the art and craft of Nia, did impress me and actually made my body feel incredibly light and powerful. He taught a truncated Nia session as part of his playshop. I think he was taking it easy on us because after lunch, we were going to do the Men of Nia jam, and that promised to be very high energy. 

teachers for the Men of Nia Jam, 2012
The jam didn’t break its promise. Kevin started off the jam with an epic warm up from the Fumi routine and Josh Barthelot and Steve, a longtime student of Helen’s, both nicely eased us into the Get Moving section with Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ and Lionel Richie’s ‘Zoomin’’ respectively. Philipe then took us to the next level with a couple of selections from the Aya routine. And Bill took his turn using ‘Satellite Rodeo’ and doing really fun movements that made me feel like I was roping a calf. The jam then took an intermission break from all the masculinity as Sabine taught an Emergence song called ‘Just for Joy’ and Helen taught to Prince’s ‘Kiss’. I then took the microphone and taught two songs from my Rockin’ routine, ‘Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo’ by Rick Derringer and ‘Highway Star’ by Deep Purple. And Rolf helped us regain our composure by cooling us down with the wonderful Leonard Cohen song, ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’.  Helen then spent the next thirty minutes or so, capping off the experience with a community movement and honoring session that was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend. 


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