This story is for anyone who’s in pain, dragging, maybe feeling physically limited for one reason or another.
“Sometimes you have to heal your own self,” Nancy Arenas tells me in our recent interview. “You have to do something that inspires you.”
For Arenas, that something was and is dance. She’s over the moon about it. Heck, by the time we finished speaking I was ready to do some jamming.
A native of New York who now resides in Albuquerque (with a Florida stop in between), the 57-year-old Arenas set out to heal herself and did. In her Aha Moment Tour video in 2010, she says, “I consider myself an ambassador for dancing for your health.”
In that video she also described the trouble she had with her elbows, wrists and arms and how limited her range of motion was. Plus, she could hardly pick up anything.
“I couldn’t raise my arms up above my breast line,” she tells me. “I had some torn ligaments in my wrist. I don’t know what happened. It was painful.”
Living in Albuquerque since 2006, Arenas had pursued physical therapy and then started taking ballroom dancing and beginner ballet. The former appealed to her because “they stretch their top half when they move” and the latter was because “they use their hands high above their head and across their chest.” Two to three weeks into it, her hands were going above her breast line and up.
By 2008 she had become chapter president of USA Dance in North Central New Mexico and was well on the road to ambassador.
“I started realizing dancing is very helpful in keeping not only your body but your mind in shape,” Arenas says.
She began to look into something that would increase her range of motion and found Nia. According to its website, Nia is a technique that “brings mindfulness to your dance movement experience leaving you energized, mentally clear, and emotionally balanced. Nia cardio-dance workouts combine 52 simple moves with dance arts, martial arts, and healing arts to get you fit in 60 minutes … Nia is practiced barefoot, non-impact, and adaptable to individual needs and abilities.”
Arenas made it her own and conceived Dancing with the Bars, what she calls “the same concept as Nia but adding my therapies from over the years.” She’s had students who struggled with back pain or balance and has seen them improve with the program. She can’t help but exude enthusiasm over her own progress and the progress of others in this holistic practice.
Part of her feel-good demeanor is geography. She left her native New York to see her disabled daughter through college in Florida, but once she graduated Arenas knew she wanted to move on.
“I decided I would search out the New Mexico sunsets,” she says wistfully. “Living here, it spiritually speaks to you. The sunsets are what I came for, but that’s not to leave out the sunrises.”
Arenas tells me she “wears many hats” there, in this place she loves and treasures. There’s the day job at the New Mexico Dental Association. Then there’s her life as a non-denominational minister. And her role as host of what she calls Fusion Tea Dance, which takes place midday because of her fondness for high tea back in New York City.
“There’s tea, coffee, and lemonade,” she says. “I cook and bake. It’s like light brunch.”
She also writes children’s books. She’s been a vegan for two years, “another part of my transformation health-wise.” She describes the joint pain she once had and the symptoms of fibromyalgia that have gone away.
“Some days I wanted to stay home and cry,” Arenas says.
No more. Now it’s not just for her. She wants to help people understand the power of dance.