Joy of Movement, a nonprofit located in Pittsboro, is anything but your typical dance studio. In fact, to even call it a dance studio is to neglect some of its most important work — the kind that goes beyond physical strength and expression.
“Our mission is to bring healing through movement and that includes music, movement, dance and other various art forms,” said Millie Brobston, a Nia student and Joy of Movement board member.
Walking through the studio doors, you can feel a positive energy in the room. Light streams through the large windows that look out over a pollinator garden overflowing with flowers hoping to grow as tall as the high ceilings of the studio. Nia instructor Kate Finlayson sees the studio room as an integral part of Joy of Movement’s identity.
“Here, the building itself is such a presence,” she said. “There is kind of a sacred energy, the whole way it’s built.”
From one look, it is easy to understand why so many community members feel at ease here. In fact, the connection with the building itself may be what helped Joy of Movement survive all this time.
Lynda Heymen and her husband, Steve, opened the studio at Chatham Mills in 2011. With a few renovations, the room that once contained looms for the mill blossomed into a gorgeous dance studio. The two ran the studio for five years before deciding not to renew their lease. Finlayson said the Joy of Movement community was devastated.
“We couldn’t just let it be chopped up into offices,” she said.
Just like that, the community sprang into action. About 25 people showed up to the community meeting, each one determined to preserve the studio and relationships that meant so much to them.
The group decided to apply for fiscal sponsorship under the Abundance Foundation and, upon acceptance, became a nonprofit organization. According to Brobston, the transition into becoming a nonprofit has resulted in a more mission-driven organization with a solid revenue stream. In addition to receiving donations, the nonprofit rents out studio space to teachers and community members and is hoping to encourage this more in the coming year. The Board is also currently seeking grant opportunities in order to expand their reach, especially into underserved community groups and new demographics. Brobston has enjoyed watching community support grow over the years and hopes Joy of Movement will become an enduring fixture in the Pittsboro community.
Today, Joy of Movement is able to offer an incredible variety of classes to the people of Pittsboro and the surrounding area. These classes include everything from Sacred Sound Sessions to belly dancing and yoga. One of the most interesting classes offered is called Nia.
“Nia is a body, mind, spirit, emotion self-healing practice molded together in a fitness class,” Finlayson, who is one of only about 32 Nia white belt trainers worldwide, said.
The practice blends Tai Chi, Taekwondo, Aikido, jazz and modern dance, to name a few. Finlayson emphasized that Nia is healing on the joints while providing a fun, low-impact cardiovascular workout.
“The key with Nia for me was that it taught me to love my body and I’ve been in battle with my body my whole life … Nia really treats you with respect and so when you’re moving your body, you’re doing it with so much pleasure instead of pain … it’s all about feeling good,” Finlayson said.
Joy of Movement also offers Kindermusik for children and even classes in the healing arts such as Gong Baths.
It is this strong commitment to community development and inclusivity that makes Joy of Movement stand out. Finlayson spoke of the strong bonds formed within her own group of dancers that have brought healing and comfort in times of sorrow and loss, even through cancer treatments and the passing of loved ones. Even the garden reflects the studio’s values of responsibility and inclusion, as it is tended to by volunteer dancers and instructors.
“My son gets a real sense of purpose and belonging, being able to volunteer with the studio and water the garden,” said Maria Howard, an Inclusive Dance instructor whose son has Down Syndrome.
Joy of Movement does not simply accept others into its community. Rather, its members and instructors seek out diversity and actively welcome new members with open arms. Lynda Heymen, who is also a psychologist, has recently endeavored to reach out to women who have been victims of abuse, offering them the potential for healing through movement — the chance to develop their dialectical behavioral therapy skills. In addition to the Nia classes taught by Finlayson which are inclusive for those of all different abilities, there are additional classes designed specifically with accessibility in mind. These dancers of “‘dif’-abilities” emphasize how welcome and involved they feel at the studio. One noted that she always leaves feeling better than when she came, while others highlighted how patient and wonderful their instructors are.
This philosophy of welcoming and community has strongly influenced the organization’s model of having power with one another, rather than power under or power over others. Joy of Movement members and instructors have certainly proved that they are stronger when united with one another in their preservation of the studio and their everyday mutual support.