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Aug 25

DeAnn Rossetti

Tanya Harrison: Rizzmic Instructor Comes Out of Her Shell

Posted by DeAnn Rossetti

Dancing Rizzmic with Tanya Harrison is like having a weekend in a luxury health spa; a refreshing way to reinvigorate your body, mind and spirit. “Rizzmic is more than just a work out, it’s a way to impact people’s lives in a positive way,” she said. “It’s being happy with yourself and having fun while getting healthy with a warm and accepting group of people.”

Surprisingly, Harrison wasn’t always outgoing enough to be a Rizzmic instructor. A Seattle native, she grew up as a shy and empathetic child who wanted to take care of all the animals and children around her. “My mother was always worried about me being traumatized by pets passing away,” she said. “But I knew that I wanted to help people feel better, even as a little child.”

While attending Tahoma High School, Harrison realized that if she wanted a family, she’d have to put aside any dreams of becoming a doctor. She opted for nursing degrees instead, getting her associates and bachelors degrees in short order. She’s been working as a nurse at Harborview Hospital in Seattle for the past 11 years.

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Despite her warm and caring ways, Harrison struggled with shyness throughout her childhood, and in junior high school discovered that her love of music and movement could help her come out of her shell. “I discovered drum and bugle corps and color guard in junior high school, when I was learning to play the clarinet,” she said. “ I decided to become involved with the Seattle Imperials color guard because I’d always enjoyed dancing and gymnastics as a child, and I was drawn to the synchronized movements of color guard.”

After marriage and the birth of her two children, Harrison felt the need to stay active, and starting taking dance classes at the University of Washington. Following that, she joined Fusion Dance Company on Capitol Hill, where participants danced every style from ballet to tap and jazz as well as African and Brazilian choreography. “So when I found a coupon for a Dance Fusion class taught by Cory (Crawford, co-founder of Rizzmic), I thought ‘this is right up my alley!” Harrison said. “I enjoyed Rizzmic so much that I made it part of my routine, and I started to see the health benefits right away.” Harrison notes that she’s lost 40 pounds since starting Rizzmic, and is much happier as a person. However, Harrison was uncertain she wanted to take the next step and become a Rizzmic instructor. “Cory approached me and asked me to become certified (as a Rizzmic instructor), but it was so far out of my comfort zone, I said no,” she relates. “I knew that I could dance, but when you’re in a dance company on stage, you don’t have to talk to people, they just watch you tell a story, and express emotion without talking.” 

Yet Cory persisted, and after seeing how contagious the happy feelings of Rizzmic had become, Harrison relented and decided to challenge herself to become confident as an instructor. Harrison and her fellow fledgling instructors not only had to learn the many and varied dance routines, they also had to learn to “cue” participants on what moves were coming next, and to adapt movements from low to high impact, to meet the needs of all sizes and shapes of Rizzmic participants. 

Harrison’s first Rizzmic class split her teaching time with her best friend Stacey Cierkowski, a fellow instructor she’d met while carpooling to one of Rizzmic’s themed dance events. “I did half and she did half, so we only had to do eight routines each,” she recalls. “Plus, since we’d been in training together, it was great to have that support and have time to built our Rizzmic arsenal.”

Nearly 3 years later, Harrison is one of many instructors teaching all over the US. She’s also AAFA certified in group fitness. “I teach Saturday mornings at 9:30 am at Thrive, but there are actually six of us teaching Rizzmic there nearly every day of the week,” she said. “It’s been wonderful watching the Rizzmic community flourish, with something I’m so invested in taking off and being successful.” 

Now that the former introvert just wants to get out there and hug Rizzmic participants, Harrison tells people she’s never met to come to class and enjoy the benefits of dance exercise. “I tell everyone to get in there and do it, because once you try Rizzmic and feel all those positive vibes, you’ll never want to quit.”