Dance exercise is a little like restaurant cuisine. It leaps from culture to culture, and the latest extended trend is fusion.
At the year-old Snap Fitness franchise in Longview, a zesty routine is keeping members moving. Nia Dancing mixes the flavors of martial arts, yoga and ethnic folk dancing, with a nod to Zumba's Latin rhythms.
"It has a little bit of a tribal feel," said Patti Rae, the director of the Snap Studio, where exercise classes are held in one wing, with the gym in the other wing. Rae teaches Stott Pilates and senior fitness classes.
"Nia is all about connecting the mind, body, emotions and spirit through movement," said Claire Catt, the certified Nia instructor who leads the class at Snap. The "holistic" approach fits "beginners up to professional athletes," Catt said.
Nia began in 1983, so it's not a clone of Zumba, which was created by a Colombian choreographer in the 1990s.
Californians Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas originated Nia, which initially stood for Non-Impact Aerobics but morphed into its current meaning, Neuromuscular Integrative Action. Nia websites describe 52 moves gleaned from yoga and various dance and martial arts.
YouTube has a slew of videos showing Nia routines; the rapid spread of exercise programs — and need for variety — has spawned an apparent "worldwide Nia community."
Catt, who trained at a 3-day workshop in Portland in December, leads a weekly Nia class on Thursday evenings at the Cascade Way Snap.
Eight people showed up recently for 40 minutes of vigorous dancing and 20 minutes of yoga stretches on mats.
No time is wasted as participants line up and begin to move.
Over the course of the hour, they did seven or eight 5-minute routines, with only a few seconds to grab their water bottles. Some of the movements, such as lunges and stretches, allow for some slow-down during the routines.
There's no chatting in this class, but the mood is convivial and fun.
As the exercises gulped water between routines, Kathleen Molinos of Kelso joked, "No mercy!"
From Mambo to African drums to the gravevine steps of "Hava Nagila" that got faster and faster, the dances incorporate kicks, knee raises, crunches, lunges, and wrist and shoulder work.
Molinos said she settled on the Nia class after shopping around.
"I don't like exercising, but I like dancing," Molinos said. "I work up a sweat here, but I'm not exhausted. There's a lot of energy, but (Catt) doesn't push too hard."
Molinos, 68, voiced the mantra of all fans of dance and exercise. "I love the music!" she said. "We lived for a while in Colombia, and (Latin) music is so happy. It makes you want to move."
When Connie Vydra moved from California to Longview, she found Patti Rae while searching for Pilates on the Internet. At the time, Rae taught Pilates and Zumba at a private studio.
"When she moved to Snap, I moved to Snap, too." said Vydra, who is 68. She said she appreciates the way Nia fuses the strengths of other exercise programs.
"I've had seven years now in Pilates," Vydra said. The Nia class the night before "hit on everything. She's always changing the routines. And stretching and dancing help your brain. ... It changes your whole body. It just gives you a whole feeling of well being."
To the $34.95 monthly gym fee at Snap, members can pay an extra $15 a month and take as many studio classes as they want. So far, the Cascade Way location has 18 classes, including Cardio Kickboxing, Senior Yoga Stretch and Silver Sneakers.
Vydra, whose insurance covers a gym membership, supplements her weight training and elliptical and stationary bike workouts in the gym by taking Pilates, Zumba and Nia in the studio.
A third of the time at the Nia class is devoted to yoga stretches, done on mats. Especially in an evening class, the wind-down is generously timed and finishes off the class like a meal with all the right courses.
As Vydra put it, "Especially if you have health issues, the more exercise, the better."