Marisa Jo Merliss -- From Dance Performance to Performing Fitness
I started dance classes as a toddler. I’ve always wanted to dance. When I graduated college, rather than pursue my nursing degree, I chose to focus on my dancing and became a professional dancer. I danced and performed professionally for years, even though I was dropped during a lift fairly early on in my career and was seriously injured. I had to undergo foot and back surgeries, which ultimately prevented me from participating in a Broadway show. Eventually, it got to the point where the doctors were telling me that ‘yeah, you can dance as long as it feels ok in your body,’ but then they would follow it up with all of the things I couldn’t do, such as the Rockettes or an 8-show-a-week production. So, I started doing regional theater and off Broadway shows.
During the time that I was doing off Broadway shows, I decided to participate in a two-year acting program in order to supplement my dancing with something less rigorous. While studying acting, I was set up with an agent who started sending me out to modelling, tv, and commercial castings.
"I ended up finding a niche in fitness modelling and, through these modeling opportunities, I met so many people in the fitness industry."
The Melt Method and Finding Myself:
However, it was due to an unfortunate event--that put me once again on the road to health and recovery--that I met Sue Hitzmann, creator of the Melt Method. I now do Melt and use it in my own courses and on the retreat program I created. Once I wanted to create my own program and I have created little workout videos and programming for other studios around the country. But now, my main focus is spreading the Melt Method.
With performance, it’s all about ‘me’. It’s about how do I refine my body, my performance, get that job so I can perform. Performing really is the reward. But with teaching and with fitness, you have to take the backseat sometimes. It’s all about your students and creating an experience for them.
"Being a teacher has really taught me how to think on my feet in a different way."You have to be a lot more accommodating to what the students need, rather than what you initially planned. But at the end of the day, the students and their physical progression makes teaching truly rewarding.
Listening To Your Body Language:
When it comes to injury prevention, I always tell people, listen to your body. If you wake up in the morning with a crick in your neck, or something pulls when you bend over, listen to it. Really pay attention when something starts creeping up in your body, rather than waiting for an ‘explosion’ or full on injury to occur.
"I think when things start to go awry for people they start to feel alone."
They start to think ‘no one is experiencing what I’m experiencing,’ or that no one understands what they’re going through. That feeling of isolation is the reason why it’s such an important part of the fitness industry to empower women and to motivate them to keep on their path. So many times they simply won’t show up for a class, or won’t focus on injury prevention, because they feel as though they’re not important. We all have the tendency to put other people first, both men and women. I really wanted to focus on women, since they’re usually the primary caretakers in a family and put themselves last. I want to empower women to take care of themselves and to take time for themselves.
Fitness and FRÉ:
Fitness can be so fun; it can be something fun to do with friends or a social activity. It doesn’t have to be the down part of your day. There are so many different areas of fitness now that there’s something for everyone. I always remind myself how good I’m going to feel after, especially on the days I don’t really feel like getting off the couch. We can all achieve more and reach more people, if we all empower each other.
"There’s room for all of us to support each other on our fitness endeavors, and to motivate one another."
I worked in modeling for a while and was on the verge of retiring, due to my skin aging and starting to look dull, when I found out about FRÉ. No joke, after two months of using the products, my skin was feeling so clean, clear, and vibrant. I had been holding off on doing more test shoots, as I was unsure if I wanted to continue on in the modelling world, but with my skin looking and feeling better, I decided to give it a go. Since then, I’ve been able to continue working as a fitness model. I really do attribute it to FRÉ.
- What are you most excited about in life right now?
- I’m so excited it’s summer, to be honest. It’s been such a cold year.
- Where do you hope to see the world in 5 years from now?
- I hope that there’s a bigger sense of awareness on the impact we have on the planet.
- What’s your favorite aspect of your job?
- Being able to help people in a profound way and getting to travel.
- What’s the hardest thing about your job?
- As in every service industry, you’re constantly giving. As rewarding as it can be, sometimes, you feel stretched in every direction, and it can get a bit overwhelming trying to keep up with everything.
- Who do you admire the most?
- What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received in your life?
- To not get stuck if something is hard in that moment. To realize it’s only moment and it won’t always be this way.
- What advice would you offer to your 16 year old self?
- Stay confident and clear in who you are, and what you want, and to keep an open heart.
- What is an issue that you wish a lot of us would be talking about a lot more often?
- Women’s issues. Women are so secretive about their bodies , but as soon as you start talking about your body, suddenly other women are like ‘oh, yeah, I had that too.’ I just think the world could be more candid about women’s issues.
- What does it mean to be a woman today?
- A juggling act. It’s a huge balancing act between your professional, personal, and family life. There are still some traditional roles that fall on us, it’s a lot.
- What are some skincare tips you swear by?
- Take off your makeup and wash your face before bed, and use an eye cream! Also, use a face mask once a week or once every other week.
- What comes to mind when you think of FRÉ?
- Good people, everyone I’ve been in contact with has been so kind. Also, empowering and giving back.