Meet Carissa: Our Quirky and Friendly Instructor at Dancers Shape

As I talked with Dancers Shape instructor Carissa Topham, I found myself thinking this is the kind of girl everyone wants to be friends with. She’s cool and lots of fun. After meeting her, I wanted to go shopping with her, grab a drink, and talk about boys. Carissa has been teaching classes at the studio for about a year, and she adores her Dancers Shape clients. Her strong background in dance makes her an ideal instructor, and she’s excited to further her fitness education as she adds her official Stott Pilates certification to her resume this summer.


Without further ado, a few of Carissa’s wonderful qualities:

  • She’s an Austin native with a younger sister who was and still is the tomboy to her girly-girl.
  • Carissa got an early start in gymnastics but became addicted to dance in middle school. She went on earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from the University of North Texas. She’s now teaching dance in Cedar Park to kids age 8 through high school and is a member of the Kathy Dunn Hamrick dance company. “I feel so comfortable dancing for Kathy. I’ve discovered I really love modern dance. It’s athletic and free-flowing, not so structured. Kathy encourages me and the other dancers to be unique individuals, not clones of one another,” she says.
  • When she’s not in the dance studio, she likes to be one with nature. She enjoys hiking, swimming, and camping (non-tent, please). One of her craziest outdoor adventures involved what should have been a short hike back from Sculpture Falls 10 years ago. Carissa got separated from her buddy and made a wrong turn on the way back to the car. “I ended up hiking the Green Belt alone for four hours. The trail I followed spit me out in a West Lake neighborhood. I was in tears — calves killing me. I knocked on someone’s door to use the phone. I can laugh about it now, but it was terrifying at the time,” she says.
  • She’s quirky. Carissa’s friends like to tease her by forcing her to empty the odd contents of her purse. I, of course, demanded she rummage through her bag. She pulled out two mismatched socks, old programs from a dance performance, an old grocery list, granola bar wrappers, and one earring.
  • Carissa looks super young (jealous?). I could have sworn she was 23. Turns out she’s 29. Maybe if I get to know her better, she’ll spill her anti-aging secrets!

At this point in her life, Carissa is footloose and fancy-free, and she likes it that way. “I hope to keep doing what I love and to continue progressing in the dance and fitness industries,” she says.


About the Author

Crystal Zuzek is an Austin-based writer with more than a decade of experience in the journalism industry. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism in the magazine sequence. In her free time, she enjoys sewing, going to movies and concerts, and spending time with her husband, Patrick, and her dachshund mix, Saffron.