Lisa Burnett: Transforming ideas into movement

by Linda Hubbard on September 1, 2011

To characterize Lisa Burnett as a Menlo Park-based Pilates teacher leaves out at least three of her other personas (and we’re not counting wife and mother). She’s also a dancer, shiatsu practitioner, and equestrian. If you can’t quite connect the dots, she can.

“Teaching is the thread that runs through the dancing/shiatsu/Pilates/riding,” she says. “They all relate and overlap with each other. It’s wonderful!”

It began with dancing. Intrigued with classes her college roommate was taking, she took classes locally in both ballet — “it was so hard and my body was not ideal for it but I loved it so much I kept at it,” she recalls — and modern dance. She also got a Masters in Dance Education from Stanford and some years later an MA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Moving back to the Bay Area, she took over the teaching duties at the dance studio, Zohar, in Palo Alto. “I started with three students, who are still with me 25 years later, and built up to a wonderful group of dancers.”

The next discipline she added to her repertoire was shiatsu, noting, “The dancing and the shiatsu went together well. It gave me a broader way to look at dancers and clients.”

Along the way came Pilates. Explains Lisa: “A dancer friend of mine introduced me.  WhatLisa Burnett with horse I liked about it was that it was similar to dance in the way one transforms ideas into movement.

“I love figuring out where and how the dancer/Pilates student is out of balance in her movement. This could be a problem of rhythm or dynamics or how one creates line or shape. Then I love figuring out a way to communicate an image or an idea to help the student change, to feel a movement in a different way.”

While dancing, shiatsu, and Pilates are linkable, what about the equestrian pursuits? “I loved horses as a kid,” Lisa says.  “When I took my first lesson at age 6, my mom said that when I was 12 she’d get me a horse, thinking I would forget about it!  When I was 12, I went down to the barn with friends who had just gotten a horse and met Geyser, a retired Saddlebred. I couldn’t believe it, but my parents bought him for me!

“I learned, showed, and loved him, but went off to college and didn’t ride for a very long time. Then my son Wyatt became interested as a little guy.  The smell of the horses and the sawdust brought back many memories. I couldn’t help myself and started riding again about five years ago.”

And that final dot. No surprise, Lisa does substitute teaching duties when her riding instructor is away.


Susan Lamkin September 02, 2011 at 6:41 pm

I have been a Pilates student of Lisa’s since I discovered her 8 years ago. When I broke my foot last year, she knew as much about the structure and mechanism of the foot as my Physical Therapist. In fact, many exercises the PT gave me to do for rehabilation were Pilates based. Lisa’s classes not only energize me, her voice of encouragement is soothing…and she always interjects some fun into the session. She is an amazing woman and I’m so glad to see the nice article about her.

Jan Slimmer September 13, 2011 at 9:08 pm

I’ve been doing Pilates with Lisa for over 3 years now and love it. She is truly an amazing person and a gifted, committed teacher. She really has an deep understanding of body mechanics and gets into the nitty gritty of body alignment. Her classes are something I truly look forward to.

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