First up: ZUMBA
This is essentially Latin-based dance moves and music... the first time I tried this out I felt so utterly stiff, I can't (read: "don't!") wiggle my hips that way, ugh, so I went through the whole class essentially doing masculine/dynamic moves because that was pretty much all I knew.
After a while I started to remember the routine for each song, and once I learned the moves, I could kinda relax into them a little bit more... but the overall spirit of the class is pretty controlled: "these are the moves, in this specific order, if you don't follow them then you are out of step with everyone else and you might just end up lost!"
See these two vids for examples of Zumba songs/routines (shot right here in the Springfield IL YMCA Walnut Room! No, I'm not in the crowd, this was a few months before we joined):
Compare this with NIA:
See the difference in energy? See the smiling faces? See the fluidity in movement?
One of the key elements to Nia is to learn the move, then DO the move, and then energize the move ... play with it ... enjoy... feel the joy in movement...
It was only after starting Nia (or, to be more specific, after I started taking Nia classes with a lady who also does bellydancing!) that I slowly gave myself permission to 'play'... and that has translated back into more fun Zumba for me, because while yes I keep up with the 'expected' routine, I usually throw in a lot more hand movements... I make it a point to follow my hands with my eyes when we're going those "two steps to one side while punching/punching out" moves, for example, or not caring about how I might look as I try to swivel my hips around as I pretend to salsa, LoL!
A RELATED ASIDE: There is also a Hip-Hop class that's pretty good. It's MUCH better than Zumba in its energy; each song being much longer, with lots of repetition of the same set of movements so it's easier to get through the learn-do-energize sequence within each song. My only beef with it is it's such a crowded class I can barely see the instructor and therefore struggle to get the movements down (and I'm not a fan of crowds!). So I've been skipping the last few weeks of this... maybe I'll gather the energy up again this weekend? :p
In the meantime, I find Zumba more than I Nia, but *only* because I can only catch a max of 2 Nia classes a week, while Zumba is available almost daily at the Y ... but Nia is slowly infusing me: I find myself starting to dance through life, adding arm and hand movements, even swaying my hips, as I walk around the apartment, as I go through my massage class, and before you know it I'll be the crazy lady dancing in the street? LoL!
If you have the opportunity to experience a Nia class, please do so! :) Here in Springfield Terri tries to hold a free class for first-timers every month or so, and/or your first class is free, so you can experience what Nia is all about. I hope to see you there!