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NiaSeattle, Alive, Aligned and Thriving

By Sarah Love, with contributions from Randee Fox and the Nia Seattle Community 


“Collaboration brings with it a spirit of peace and oneness, both of which I hold in high value. Collaboration with my Nia colleagues has brought more joy, peace, ease, and pleasure into my life in and out of Nia classes.” – Susan Tate, Black Belt Nia Teacher

Get Together in 2014!

It only takes one person to reach out and get a group together. Soon more people start talking and moving and before you know it a group expands and gets connected. Here are some stories and tips on how a Nia community grew in Seattle.

Jason Alan Griffin was the first Nia teacher to launch classes in the Seattle area in 1996. By 2001 there was a small group of teachers ready to grow the Nia program. Today there are 40 teachers actively teaching in the community. Their first website,, was built ten years ago by Randee Fox and was recently updated by Sarah Love. The website and draws the Nia Seattle community together as a force.

Here are NiaSeattle members telling their stories on the power of community and collaboration followed by some ideas and insights to grow your Nia Community!

Nia Pajama Party, by Sarah Love, Blue Belt Teacher

The first song I ever taught was in front of seasoned Nia teachers at a pajama party gathering. I was so nervous and being a person who tends towards perfection, it was easy for me to find fault with my ‘performance.’ I was surprised to find the teachers so welcoming. They were kind and supportive and made me feel as though I could teach. That support continues to this day.

In return, I wanted to insure that the group stayed together. In the corporate advertising world where I deal with national and international clients, it’s essential to find ways to keep the brands top of mind. In doing so, the work can be hectic and chaotic. I’m very good at setting up systems to make the work load flow while maintaining happy clients.

I’ve brought these skills to NiaSeattle by initiating meetings, bringing in the concept of the Core Team, putting together an advertising program and being ready to help out wherever I can. NiaSeattle feels like family to me – one I care deeply for. The skills I’ve learned in Nia also translate into the corporate working world where the office has grown more harmonious over the years and the boss can relax enough to take a vacation and not worry about the business falling apart.

Business Guru Grows Nia, by Randee Fox, Nia Faculty Trainer and Black Belt Nia Teacher

When I arrived on the scene as a freshly trained White Belt early in 2004, I was lucky to be able to share a 30-year business and management background in retail, design and journalism and also as a college art professor and equestrian educator. 

At that time we had twelve Nia teachers in the greater Seattle area. I knew that if we all, figuratively and literally, were ‘on the same page’ aligned and organized, we’d have a better chance of success both independently and collectively. So I donated my time to help create our first website and volunteered as a community leader, helping out where needed.

Having a diverse group of Nia teachers on our website and as well, ‘showing up and teaching together’ at our two (Spring and Fall) yearly Jams over the past ten years, has opened up many wonderful teaching opportunities for everybody. As we grew through many changes we adopted the motto, “collaboration, not competition”. Staying connected and harmoniously aligned has helped us all create and grow both independent and collaborative Nia businesses – addressing the needs of the diverse population of the greater Seattle area.

Naomi Scher, Green Belt Nia Teacher

After recently moving to Seattle from Boston, Nia was a vital force in easing my transition. As a fellow Nia instructor and long time dancer, I felt welcomed by an active community of dancers and movers! I was inspired by the level of commitment my instructors had towards their students' Nia practice as well as their own. A year later, I am once again teaching Nia. I have gratefully received much encouragement and support from a community I now call my own.

Sherry Riddick, White Belt Nia Teacher

I’m a new teacher and have had many positive experiences with the Seattle Nia community that has encouraged me in my teaching.  The atmosphere of collaboration and cooperation has helped me launch myself into the role of Nia teacher.

Emily Dolan, Blue Belt Teacher

Working collaboratively is such a delight. When I first started teaching, Nia Seattle folks told me that we didn't need to compete. That having more Nia meant that there would be more Nia! A good thing for everybody!  And it keeps the energy positive. We announce each other’s classes. And we attend each other’s classes. When we get together for an event, it feels like walking into a party where I know, and am excited to see, everyone there.

Jena Hennessey, White Belt Teacher

I feel supported. When we join together (special co-taught classes) we know we are part of something larger than ourselves and magic happens. When we share students we all have more and they see there is diversity in unity.

Vicci Kane –White Belt Teacher

At the 2011 NiaSeattle Annual Fall Jam in Seattle I was introduced to the community as one of eight of the first class of locally trained White Belts (by Trainers, Randee Fox and Jill Pagano -  their first White Belt training) much like a brand new baby! Cheers of joy and proud laughter filled the dance hall. We were literally embraced by the NiaSeattle teachers with such support and Joy. From that day on this loving community of teachers has helped me become a better Nia teacher and a better person as well.

Melanie McFarland, Blue Belt Nia Teacher

Nia Seattle's collaborative spirit has renewed my faith in connecting with others. Seattle is not the easiest town to get to know new people. I've even heard a term for it: the Seattle Freeze. So I had no faith in finding another community here. But this Nia community not only proved me wrong, it made my life more joyful. We share opportunities on every level, whether professionally, spiritually or just opportunities to have fun together. That kind of community connection strikes me as incredibly rare in this city, or any other large city for that matter.

How Seattle Grows Nia

First, where do we teach? The list has been endless and is continuously growing from community centers, dance studios, martial art studios, YMCAs, the University of Washington, health clubs such as West Seattle Athletic Club, Thrive Community Fitness, private classes at workplaces such as Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, a Seattle community dance studio where five Nia instructors teach called The Dance Space and privately owned Nia studios like The Center for Movement & Healing and Blue Heron Ranch.

Seattle also offers specialty classes at senior centers, seated Nia classes for the elderly population, Nia for cancer survivors and classes for teenage girls and has offered classes on the Tulalip Reservation for children. Upcoming next summer is the first Nia and Horses® White Belt Training with Randee Fox. Several teachers have worked with domestic violence victims and one teaches Muslim and Arab women in her private studio. The full schedule of classes can be found on and

With two Faculty Trainers, Randee Fox and Jill Pagano, offering the White Belt Trainings in the greater Seattle area, there are always new White Belt teachers coming into the community. As new teachers come in, they constantly support one another in learning routines and teaching together. Randee and Jill have opened up evening times in their studios for new teachers to collaborate and teach together to the community, a perfect way to start. Other seasoned teachers in our community are also available for mentoring new ones.

Organized around the concept of a Core Team, biannual Jams and other events are executed elegantly and joyously. The Core Team is an equilateral group of five volunteers, volunteering for one year, that includes the managerial positions of Meeting Mobilizer, Community Communicator, Money Maven, Web Wizard and Jam Juggler. Their mission statement is: to see everybody moving with joy. From Bellingham to Olympia with Seattle in the middle, they have the foundation, which gives them the stability to grow out from center.

To complete the cycle, after spending several years teaching Nia in New York City, Jason Alan Griffin is back in Seattle and is the current 2013 Jam Juggler. On November 2nd he coordinated 13 teachers who braved a windstorm for the 20th Nia Seattle Fall Jam. Twenty-two others from around the Puget Sound also braved that storm to dance with us.

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Appearing in the Seattle Nia picture above: Heather Riley, Wendolyn Rue, Sarah Love, Randee Fox, Susan Creighton, Stacey Baunton, Tricia Noreus, Sue Campbell, Melanie McFarland, Eron Hennessey, Todd Klinkma. Jason Griffin, Monica Dahl, Angela Halsey, Louise Cassell, Sandra Caldwell, Susan Tate, Beck Paffrath, Jena Hennessey, Shea Marsh, Emily Dolan, Sandi Vetter, Vicci Kane