AR-160619938June 12, 2016 at 5:00 am |

Studio energizes knowledge through movement
—Photo by DAVID GUNTER Blissa Nizzoli, left, and Brietta Leader are ‘artistic partners’ in the new Embody Center for the Healing Arts in Sandpoint.


Feature correspondent

SANDPOINT — Anyone accustomed to walking through the front doors of the former Common Knowledge Bookstore building will be a little disoriented as they cross the threshold of its new occupant.

Now called Embody — Center for the Healing Arts, the interior has been transformed from a catacomb-like matrix of tightly packed bookshelves to a bright, open and inviting studio. Where an office once stood, a Zen-inspired area acts as the anteroom for an 1,100-square-foot room that seems to simultaneously enhance energy while soothing tension.

“It’s a completely different space now,” said Blissa Nizzoli, who runs Embody in what she calls an “artistic partnership” with Brietta Leader.

Both women have a solid history of teaching dance classes for Nia enthusiasts in the region. The new studio has all the right attributes for that endeavor, with its spring-loaded floor and rich wood surface, further adorned by twinkle lights defining the perimeter and silks hung gracefully from the ceiling.

But Nia classes are only part of this story, as everything about Embody has taken on a larger aspect. The class roster now includes offerings such as Gentle Nia, Nia and the Chakras, dance conditioning, yoga and belly dance, plus beginning and intermediate djembe drumming classes with Ali Thomas and a WildCore movement class taught by Leader.

While Nia is still a mainstay at the studio, both instructors felt a need to build on their dance experience and explore new creative vistas.

“It was time,” Nizzoli said of the partnership with Leader. “We needed to move ahead with our vision.”

In brief, the big picture these women share involves nothing short of a true mind-body connection, where learning isn’t just internalized through cerebral channels, but activated by movement. Nizzoli already uses this technique at Embody, where a workshop and seminar room adjacent to the dance studio handles matters of the “head” before handing things over to the “heart” to become fully integrated and understood.

It is, she explained, a powerful marriage and knowledge and spirit. In addition, the interrelation is rooted in the Embody name.

“Once we get knowledge in our bodies, we’ve got it,” she said. “Movement really embodies it — and embodying is power.”

Along with the dance space and workshop classroom, the future footprint of Embody will feature two treatment rooms and an ADA-approved restroom, currently under construction. The business, Nizzoli pointed out, is being built out in stages.

“Every week, something shifts and grows toward our ultimate goal, which is to build a community here and network in that way,” she said. “I hope to have people congregate for meetings, workshops and lectures and I’d like to see more classes and more teachers.

“In the biggest picture, I’d like to see it become a cooperative,” she added. “It’s a lovely idea, that shared vision.”

People in the movement classes already have positive things to say about the sprung floor — a concept originally developed in dance halls where people would spend hours on the floor — because it is gentle on the joints. The room itself also has a gentleness that settles the spirit.

“A lot of people have come and told me, ‘I just enjoy being here,’” Nizzoli said.

Once the treatment rooms come online, Nizzoli plans to incorporate her studies in the healing arts as part of Embody’s offerings.

“I see it as a vehicle for taking my own shamanic teachings and sharing them on that level,” she said.

Although it would be tempting to assume that this new center has its eye on an exclusive audience — those interested only in things such as movement and the healing arts — Nizzoli sees a wider range of possibility. The Sandpoint Senior Center is right across the street, she noted, and the surrounding neighborhoods are filled with families that could benefit from having Embody close by.

Imagine seniors loosening up in a yoga class, for instance, or kids enrolled in the Children’s Dance Performance Camp that starts later this month.

“I want us to be a community hub,” Nizzoli said. “And we’d like to do classes that give people the tools for centering mind, body and spirit.”

Embody — Center for the Healing Arts is located at 823 Main St., in Sandpoint. For more information, call 208-304-3143 or find class schedules and instructor bios online at