Animas Staff Members

Becca Franks

Pilates | Flexibility | Stretch | Dance

Becca Franks has long been involved in the dance community. She started dancing at age seven, and as a young teenager she began apprentice teaching. While pursuing her collegiate education, Becca continued to teach jazz, ballet, and tap dance classes at various Tucson dance studios and companies. In addition, she was the Artistic Director for Southern Arizona Dance Theater from 2000-2001. Becca earned her BFA at the University of Arizona, one of the top five dance schools in the country, in 2000. Shortly after graduating from the U of A, Becca immersed ...herself in the study of Pilates. She completed her Level I Pilates training in 2001. And after three years of study, earned her Level II and Qualified Teacher Certification in 2003; enabling her to teach special needs as well as advanced athletes. In 2003 Becca moved to New York to dance professionally. Unexpectedly, Becca injured herself within a year, and ended her dance career before her first professional performance. Fortunately, this injury gave her the opportunity to focus on what had become another passion for her: Pilates. Becca opted to stay in New York studying other lineages of the Pilates Method. She has taken courses with master teachers Ron Fletcher, Kathy Grant, Diane Severino, Michelle Larson, Kathy Corey, Alan Herdman, and many others. In addition, Becca is a Yamuna Body Rolling practitioner and a Thai yoga therapist. She incorporates these techniques into her stretch classes and private sessions. Eventually, she was drawn back to the desert with its great skies and mountains. Before opening Animas Center in 2011, Becca spent ten years teaching Pilates at various locations including Reebok Sports Club LA in NYC, Miraval and Canyon Ranch. Today Becca blends the many Pilates lineages into personalized workouts for her clients. Since no two people are the same, she draws from her years of experience to ensure that each session incorporates correct body alignment, proper technique, fun and fitness for each individual. Customizing each session enables her clients to effectively achieve tremendous benefits.

Joan Franks

Pilates | Zero Balancing

Joan Franks was introduced to the Pilates method in 2000 by her daughter, Becca. She originally began as a guinea pig, but the work stuck, and she continued her practice. Joan soon found that Pilates was transformative. She felt more invigorated, noticed better posture, strength, and flexibility. She maintained her Pilates routine for 9 years before taking steps to become a Pilates teacher. Joan completed her Pilates training in 2010, and since, has completed over 500 hours of continued education. In 2011, Joan decided to retire from her private practice as a neurologist to work primarily as a Pilates teacher and ... body worker. Her expertise includes over 15 years of body work and 30 years as a physician, giving her unique approach to teaching. Joan understands where restrictions originate, enabling her to create movement programs to counter those restrictions. Joan has worked with a variety of disorders, restrictions, and ailments. She has successfully seen students safely make progress toward strengthening, flexibility, and overall well-being. Zero Balancing Joan earned her medical degree from the University of Arizona. After completing her neurology residency at various Tucson hospitals, she practiced general neurology in northwest Tucson from 1988 to 2011. Recently, she was voted one of Tucson’s “Top Docs” from Best Doctors, Inc. Although retired from her neurological practice, she continues to attend medical conferences, as well as Zero Balancing and Counterstrain workshops. Joan became certified in Zero Balancing in 2006. For the past ten years, Strain/Counterstrain and Zero Balancing have been a component of Joan’s medical practice in addition to traditional therapies. Strain/Counterstrain treats musculoskeletal problems, while Zero Balancing is a technique that works with the body’s energy system and structure. Over the years, Joan has found these methods to be both effective and popular with her patients in relieving muscle tension and pain. In treating various neurological conditions including headaches, neck and back pain, (as well as Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, etc.) she became convinced that health is generated to a great degree through exercise, nutrition, lifestyle habits, and mind-body interactions. She found by integrating these complementary modalities into her practice, her clients were better able to heal or manage their pain. As a result, she has decided to focus on these gentle therapies here at Animas Center.

Lisa Fasciola


Lisa began her Pilates practice after personally experiencing some repetitive motion injuries. She had heard about Pilates and had wanted to try it for a long while. When a studio opened next door to my massage practice, she jumped right in. The mind-body connection in movement is what drew Lisa to Pilates. After two years practicing at least 3 times a week, Lisa decided to get her Pilates Certification and was certified in 2008 through Balanced Body. Lisa’s fifteen years of experience as a massage therapist working with clients rehabbing or recovering from injuries transitioned into her Pilates practice. She combines her skills and knowledge of the human body to design programs for her students, increasing their flexibility and strength ... while creating better postural habits. Lisa is very creative, giving her students a variety of exercises as well as keeping a keen eye on alignment. She is supportive of each person’s process, encouraging people to be present in their bodies, have fun, challenge themselves, be courageous, and keep breathing. There’s no need for “I can’t” in our vocabulary. Instead, it’s best to embrace “I’ll try!”

Patty Beecroft

Pilates | Yoga

Patty has always been interested in exercise and fitness. Once she discovered the Pilates Method it became a passion. She completed extensive training at the renowned Pilates Center in Boulder, Co. ... She has been teaching in a a variety of contexts since 2004. Besides her PMA (Pilates Method Association) certification she is certified in TRX, Yoga and as a personal trainer. She finds a deep gratification in helping people remedy physical problems and increase their overall fitness.

Kay Cherones



Diana Summerford


... while creating better postural habits.

Matt Finish


Matt is co-founder and producer of Don’t Blink Burlesque and the Arizona Burlesque Festival. Matt holds a B.A. and a M.F.A. in dance. He’s a former member of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. In 2014 he won Best Burlesque and Master of Assels at the BurlyPicks International Finals. ... He’s been featured in Burlesque Festivals in Davenport, Albuquerque, Denver, Las Vegas, Cambridge and Hollywood. He’s also an instructor at Fanny’s Fox Den and Pima Community College.

Shalmali Pal


Shalmali Pal has been a student of Iyengar yoga for nearly two decades. In addition to a myriad of physical benefits, Shalmali firmly believes that her yoga practice prevents her from giving into road rage, consuming excessive amounts of chocolate, watching too many hours of cooking shows, and indulging in countless tubes of lip gloss. Shalmali began practicing yoga while living in San Francisco. She attended a class at a dance studio located less than five minutes from her attic apartment in an elegant Victorian home (Yes, that’s right, at one point in her life, Shalmali was the crazy lady in the attic). ...About a year into this rather casual yoga practice, a new studio opened up by Shalmali’s work place and, in the words of her esteemed father, a “yoga buff” was born! For nearly four years, Shalmali studied with many wonderful teachers nearly every day, including Leslie Howard, her most beloved teacher and friend. It was from Leslie that Shalmali learnt that humor is just as effective a teacher as hard work. Shalmali completed 200 hours of Yoga Alliance certification in 2005 under the tutelage of the inestimable Tony Briggs. With Tony, Shalmali gleaned the art and philosophy of teaching yoga: Each class is a journey, and it’s the responsiblity of the teacher to guide students on their journey and then return them safely home. Shalmali taught public and private classes at various venues in the Bay Area. The one class she did not teach was naked yoga and she is forever grateful for that.

Avia Lippert

Nia | Dance

Dance has been in Avia’s life for many years. Avia started her teaching career with children and began incorporating dance into her preschool classes as well as offering dance to the staff. More recently, Avia became NIA certified in January of 2010. Since then she has taught in Tucson at Oasis, Expressive Arts Center, and Catalina Foothills School District in the Adult Education Program. ...Avia is able to gently encourage each individual in a nonjudgmental way, helping her students grow in their dance abilities. We are excited to welcome Avia to the Animas Center!

Nancee Wood

Postural Fitness | Pilates

Nancee studied, practiced and taught posture therapy exercises since 2008. She received certification from the Egoscue University as a Posture Alignment Specialist in 2014. Nancee has a BS in Kinesiology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Co. She trained and was certified as a Pilates instructor through the Pilates Center of Boulder in 1997 and certified with the Long Beach Dance Conditioning Program in 2003.... Nancee has taught Pilates mat and equipment classes at various studios since moving here in 1999, In addition to Postural Fitness and Pilates, Nancee is a 200 hour certified yoga teacher through the Yoga Connection of Tucson.

Barbara Schuessler


Barbara Schuessler, aka “La Flamencista”, began her flamenco dance training in Tucson, Arizona with Tere Aguirre and later continued her local training and performing with Patricia Mahan and Olivia Rojo. In 1988, she traveled to Bellingham, Washington to study with Teo Morca and began a long series of training that took her to workshops and personal study throughout the United States and Spain. Most notably, the Festival Flamenco in Albuquerque, NM where she studied with numerous masters of flamenco for over 15 years. Masters such as Antonio Canales, Alejandro Granados and Yolanda Heredia, to name just a few, were major influences in her development. Her studies took her to Sevilla, Spain where her understanding of the art form truly blossomed. ...Her heart opened with the incredible instruction of dancers that include Maria Angeles Gabaldon and, most importantly, Georgia “La Candela”. These are but a few of the people that she has received instruction from and feels fortunate to have been exposed to such artistic masters. Her love of dance and movement started as a young child and has carried her through many forms of disciplines. Her training includes specialized studies in various movement and stretching techniques and all forms of dance. She has studied yoga for over 25 years and brings that knowledge to her dance training. Calling Tucson, Arizona her home, she has performed locally with Aires Flamenco, Flamenco Y Mas and her own troupes. She continues to perform at festivals and private functions with “Las Flamencistas” and as a solo artist. Barbara’s passion is teaching and sharing the art form. She has been teaching flamenco dance since 1995 and teaches out of local studios and her home. In 2008, she started a series called Go Flamenco!

Lisa Takamiya


Lisa began her yoga journey in 1988. She was living in NYC going to school and working in the fashion industry. Her life was about fashion, modeling and acting…where most of the emphasis is on the way you look rather than how you feel. ...She was drawn to yoga to de-stress and to feel better about herself. Her first class was with Dharma Mittra—in that first class her body came to life–she felt more alive and awake than ever before. She is trained and influenced by Dharma yoga, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Bikram and Yin. Her classes are a blending of these styles and concentrate her area of passion and interest—-inner alignment/subtle body anatomy, slow flow, intensity, heat and the peaceful contemplative postures of Yin. She has a passion and deep love for yoga, meditation and transformation. She likes to be open to change and growth and wants to empower others to do the same…to never limit ourselves but learn to trust ourselves and the guidance within.

Animas Pilates and Dance