Nicki Royce, also known as Willow, teaches independently in Dayton, Ohio, and has always been drawn to sensual movement. She feels moving boldly and unapologetically provides freedom in a world that tends to praise smallness and agreeability, especially in women. You can find her class information by searching “Liquid Motion With Willow” on Facebook.
1. As one of our veteran Liquid Motion instructors, you’ve been through the whole Liquid Motion certification process, taking every training program available thus far. That’s an impressive feat! Tell us how you got started with Liquid Motion.
Back in early 2014, while very active and hungry to grow my dance skills, I became struck with agonizing chronic back pain. While in treatment I would do my prescribed Pilates exercises, and after, I found myself exploring floor movement. It felt good, it kept me dancing, but lacked structure. A year later I took a Liquid Motion class in NYC and was hooked. I got certified as soon as the first certification was released.
2. What is your teaching philosophy? Do you have a motto or mantra?
We live in a world that says don’t take up space, be small, be silent, hate yourself, be fearful. But we have the right to take up space, be bold, move and feel freely, and love ourselves. All art is dependent on it. It can be hard to counter those messages, but, be big. Be powerful. Own who you are and own the space you are in.
3. What has been your most rewarding teaching experience?
It’s always an honor to be told someone took ownership of their body, was inspired to create, or felt safe to be themselves due to my class. I especially love when I can witness the transformation before my eyes. Seeing students eventually move closer to the front in class, stand taller, move bigger, dress different, and become a leader to others in the room. Nothing like this really existed in my city when I started, so witnessing the fulfillment of this need I had in myself also get fulfilled in others, really felt like the beginning of a movement.
4. What has been your biggest hurdle or learning experience?
A challenge for me is getting out of my own head and just being present and connected, at times. It’s easy for me to get wrapped up in providing the perfect experience for each class, and I have to let that go to be in the moment fully with others. My biggest learning experience has been paving a path based on my personal values and realize my worth as an instructor and entrepreneur along the way. I think it can be easy as an artist to allow others to assign your value; nobody can do that but you.
5. You’ve created a wonderful student base as an independent instructor. Do you have any tips for others who may want to start teaching in the future?
Fear and doubt love to dress themselves up as excuses. If you have the desire to teach you just have to act on it. Know what you bring, remind yourself often, and continue bringing it. Push through perceived failure. Push even harder on the days you feel like quitting. Know that giving of yourself in this way is very vulnerable, it will change your own dance practice, but it’s insanely rewarding. Also, know your value and make sure you are paid accordingly for your time and expertise. Take risks. Be consistent and reliable. Never stop learning and being open to growth and lessons along the way.
6. What are your goals in your own personal movement journey? Has Liquid Motion had any impact in the way you approach these goals?
I have taught dance for pushing two decades, so my personal goals currently are around rediscovering my own movement practice, exploring, building more style, and simply having fun. I’ve always prescribed to quality over quantity, and Liquid Motion has helped solidify that in me even further. Style, breath, and full articulation of movement are what I love seeing and working on. Liquid Motion has helped me come at all of it in a much more empowered way.
7. What’s your all-time favorite song that makes you want to get Liquid?
I’m music obsessed. The first ones that comes to mind are Liquid Diamonds or Give by Tori Amos. If I’m feeling some kind of way, The Hills by The Weeknd can snap me back to life really fast too.
8. Do you have any hidden talents?
I’m pretty funny. It tends to surprise people once they get to know me since I’m a pretty quiet, observant person most of the time.
9. You are very candid in your social media posts about your personal growth and all the ups and downs that go along with that. It is inspiring to see people being real on a platform that usually lacks true authenticity. How do you think that the dance/pole/movement community can benefit from this kind of approach to social networking?
So many have confided in me over the years about how scary dance is when you didn’t grow up dancing. Pair that with society’s standards of beauty and perfectionism, and it leaves too many not enjoying art, their bodies, or the freedom to learn something new. Knowing of these battles, and fighting my own, I know there’s nothing to gain by pretending I’m immune. When I stand before others to lead I know it isn’t about me. It’s about them, so trying to maintain an image of perfectionism is only going to put an enormous amount of pressure on myself, and discourage those who are observing. It takes courage to start, vulnerability to grow, and persistence to grow skill with an art form. That’s not easy. Giving off the perspective I’m an exception to that formula, when nobody is, isn’t what I want to model for anyone, especially those who need to feel safe with me.
10. What advice would you give someone who is thinking about trying out Liquid Motion for the first time?
I think as an adult, opportunities to play and explore movement can be pretty rare or inaccessible. Our world is also very disconnecting from our full range of senses. Being able to have a safe, accepting space to indulge in these things is truly a gift. So, if you have the opportunity, take full advantage.