By Heidi Simmons
As the Mayor of Palm Desert, Jan Harnik has her hands full and her feet busy. Beside her Honorable duties, and her regular presences in board meetings, she will be “Dancing with the Desert Stars” for the Desert AIDS Project.
Harnik has been involved in Leadership for years here in the CV, but now she must learn to follow. “It’s hard as a leader to stop leading. My partner, Isa Lapas, is gracious and patient with me,” said Harnik. “He knows what he’s doing, so I’m happy to defer to him.”
Lean and tall (5’10”), Harnik exercises most days to keep fit and her energy up. She has never had dance lessons. “I didn’t know what to expect. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” said Harnik
Her dancing practice varies and can only fit in when there is a block of time. Both Harnik and Lapas have busy schedules, so it’s pretty amazing that she and her partner have managed to dance two or three days a week.
Harnik checked with the Palm Desert City Manager before accepting the challenge. “These events are an example of what makes the Coachella Valley so great. There is a wonderful spirit of volunteerism and philanthropy and I’m always happy to participate when I can,” said Harnik.
This is her first time dancing competitively and her first time to be a part of the Desert AIDS Project charity event. In fact, she has never attended the annual fundraising competition as a spectator. “When they asked me, I knew it was something outside my comfort zone,” said Harnik. “I want to keep stretching, I can’t be bored, and I want to keep growing.”
Having been a runway model, Harnik is aware of body image issues with young girls and women. She knows women are hardest on themselves. “We judge and compare ourselves all the time. It’s a difficult lesson to teach young women to love and respect their bodies, when we struggle with it ourselves.”
Dancing is something Harnik has always promoted when her kids were little. “I encouraged them to move to the music if they felt inspired,” she said. “But it’s not about intellectualizing, it’s about your body and what you can do with it.”
No doubt Harnik will look great in her costumes. She hints that it reveals “lots of leg.” Admitting she’s nervous about dancing in front of a large group, Harnik says it’s all in good sport. But being fully caught up in the event, her fear is she’ll miss the experience. “I want to be sure to enjoy the moment,” she said.