Meet Melain Blue and Cory Crawford, the creators of Rizzmic, a new and different fitness program that pairs familiar American music with authentic dance styles. The two women formed their company, Blucor Productions, one year ago in Maple Valley. Their dance fitness format quickly caught on, and there are now 26 certified Rizzmic instructors. Twelve of those instructors are teaching classes here in Washington state, and others are spreading the style as far away as Boston and Minnesota. The mission of Rizzmic is to create a fitness-focused community that is free of judgment, competition and self-criticism.
What are your backgrounds?
Melain: I was a professional singer throughout my 20s. I started singing in front of large audiences when I was about 8 years old. I did private vocal training and got into instrumentation. I shifted from that into more of a family mode. When I got pregnant, I decided to do something that would keep me home with my kids.
Cory: I was a gymnast growing up, and then I was a jazz dancer and did ballet when I was really young. When I got out of gymnastics, I decided to become a mime and took mime training for 10 years. I also got to do some hip-hop dancing. I loved combining the arts and bringing music to life, and the way that you feel music.
Why did you decide to become fitness instructors?
Melain: I really missed music and performing, so I started dabbling in belly dancing, and then I discovered Zumba. My mind is always working on taking things to the next level, so I couldn’t help but become a Zumba instructor.
Cory: I saw a lot of women our age were going through life changes. They were having children, some were getting divorced. Some of them weren’t as happy as they once were. I really just wanted to help women realize that it’s OK to give yourself an hour a day to work out. That’s why I got into the fitness industry, to help women take care of themselves.
How is Rizzmic different from Zumba, Jazzercise or other dance aerobics?
Melain: Zumba is all Latin and world rhythms, with four movements per rhythm. So there is a lot of repetition. All of the songs have very similar choreography. We don’t repeat. Rizzmic is athletic. We pull straight from professional dancers and history for authentic movements.
Cory: Yes, you’re getting a workout, but this is dance. Because we use a variety of dance styles, there’s something for everyone. You could go from an intense rock song to a cute jazzy song.
What are the different dance styles in Rizzmic?
Cory: Charleston, disco, hip-hop, ’60s go-go, country, rock, Lindy Hop, modern jazz and many more. There are several substyles within the decades and especially in hip-hop. We have a total of about 20 different dance styles represented in Rizzmic. There is something for everyone; this has never been done before, not this way, not in fitness.
Why dance instead of another type of fitness?
Melain: There’s something very uniting and uplifting about music and movement. It pulls your mind, your heart and your body all into one act.
How did Rizzmic start and spread?
Melain: I’ve always had trouble fitting into women’s circles, but in these spaces, with the music on and all of us moving together, all of that goes away and there’s this community of wide-open hearts and smiles, and I love that. As I was attending Zumba class, I would find those moments, and I started looking for what was consistent about them. Almost every time, it was when people said, “Hey, I know this song!” or “Look what we’re doing. I saw that on Footloose!” That’s where I branched off of Zumba. I thought, what can I do with songs we all know, and fill a whole class with that experience? I wanted to create that judgment-free, childlike environment.
Cory: The roots of Rizzmic are in Dance Fusion, a series of American dance routines created by Melain. When Rizzmic was born between the two of us, we both were teaching classes at gyms and community centers, as well as a free class at her church. As dancers and other fitness instructors saw what we were doing, they wanted to be a part of it and signed up for trainings.
You choreograph all the routines together, yet you each have very different dance styles.
Melain: Choreography isn’t easy. You have to mathematically tear apart the music and rebuild it. And you can tell when it doesn’t work, because people are tripping over their feet. Cory’s movements tend to be very sharp and strong. I like to float and flutter.
How do you make the dance moves authentic?
Cory: We pull from a variety of tutorials, professional dancers and dance teams that are well known for their choreography. We also pull directly from the artists themselves. For instance, a Michael Jackson song will always have moves from the corresponding video.
Why are the lights dimmed during your classes?
Melain: People can feel self-conscious. When the lights go up, the eyes wander. You start looking at the person behind you, start looking in the mirror and comparing yourself to this and that. When the lights go down and the spotlight is on the instructor, everything kind of recedes. It eliminates comparisons. It helps open people up.
You each have three kids — how do you balance it all?
Cory: Working from home is great, but it can be challenging because you can never shut it off. We both agreed when we got into this that family comes first. So when our children have games or things, work is off the table. We respect that in each other.
Tell us about your kids’ program.
Cory: It’s called Da Crew, and it launched this fall for ages 6–12. It is everything you would find in an adult Rizzmic class, but in 40 minutes. Parents like that their children are being exposed to all these different dance styles.
Where is the strangest place you’ve been caught dancing?
Melain: In the grocery store. Once a stock person came down from his ladder and joined me in dancing a jive. And he was good!