My Pilates Journey
In 1991-1992, I’d finished the foundation work in Laban Movement Analysis in New York and was searching for my next challenge. It came at the Pilates Studio of New York, one location on Broadway and the other on W. 57th Street where my teacher was Romana Kryzanowska.
Romana certified me in 1993. The 1993 class included Alycea Ungaro, and Mari Winsor. Brooke Siler came a year later, I think.
The Pilates Studio of New York had a registered Pilates trademark remained the only certifying Pilates program until 2000 with a class action lawsuit brought by people who basically want to teach the method legally. The trademark was rather weak, as it turned out and was easily, if expensively, defeated. And I do understand the feelings of those persons who had been teaching Pilates for a long time and who felt no allegiance to the holder of that trademark who seemed to create divisiveness rather than encouraging a coming-together of ideas.
If it ended there, and those persons who’d been teaching just continued to teach, it would have been fine. But that’s not where the story ended.
With the loss of the trademark, the floodgates opened and every aerobics/fitness teacher who wanted to add to their resume was able to get some kind of Pilates “credentials” over the next weekend. Pilates DVDs glutted the markets; cheap certifications could be found everywhere.
Worse still, people began developing their own “take” on Pilates adding balls, wgts, music – whatever. Many of these people claim they are taking Pilates into the future, improving on Joseph Pilates’ original work.
However, to improve upon something implies that you understand the depth of the original work to begin with.
I loved the Classical Pilates system from my very first class. I enjoyed the discipline and form of it. It reminded me of classical ballet and Iyengar yoga both of which are alignment based and foundational in their philosophies.
My love of Classical Pilates was fueled by Romana’s love for the work, too. She may have not known names of muscles but she had amazing instinct for what a body needed. I have over ten years’ of notebooks full of notes taken during studio visits, conferences, workshops and private lessons with her.
When I moved to the St. Louis area in 1995, I was the only certified Pilates instructor in this area – St. Louis and the Metro East.
There was a woman in St. Louis who’d bought some reformers and called herself a Pilates teacher but she was not certified or trained. She called me to come work for her in her center but I wanted no part of being connected with anyone who wasn’t Romana-certified or otherwise intensively trained in the Pilates Method.
So, I started my own practice, first in the downstairs apartment where we lived then adding an Edwardsville location in 1996. I opened my Studio in Glen Carbon in 1997.
After 2000 with the loss of the trademark and other resulting fallout, it was rather sad to see Pilates beaten up, dumbed down and cheapened but that’s what it takes to appeal to the masses, I guess.
I don’t sell Pilates mixes whether it is adding ballet moves, kettlebells or balls. I don’t tell anyone they need special socks, music or gear. I don’t teach yogilates or piyoga or whatever new hybrid comes around. I keep it Classical because I believe that these new mixes will eventually fade away and classical Pilates – like classical music and classical ballet – will endure. It works.
I belong to the Authentic Pilates Union which includes people who were certified during my time and who wished to stay with the classical work. There were a few other groups including Romana’s Pilates which was formed a few years after the demise of the trademark. While the Romana’s Pilates (and True Pilates) are classical Pilates, they also have a weird tiered system; in other words, a Romana’s Pilates instructor is likely to identify him or herself as a “Level l” or “Level 2” etc. I also found that most of the teaching done within this program was being done by people other than Romana – people I had trained with as well as those who’d become teachers after me. Good people, for sure, but ………..well, I question why a program needs “levels” at all; my opinion is that it is a way to get more money out of the trainees. Anyway, the APU is a great fit for me.
When I was studying with Romana, there was no such thing as “Levels.” You were just told to get your butt in the studio and you’d work with whoever Romana told you to – which covered a wide variety of fitness levels and ages. That was your “levels” right there!
I have been lucky enough to clock many hours in New York with Romana, Edwina Fontaine, Bob Liekens, and Carol Dodge to name a few. I was lucky to be part of the first class of Romana-certified instructors in 1993. I set up studios first in Pittsburgh and here in the Midwest where it was barely heard of; when I set up a studio in Glen Carbon a lot of people pronounced it PIE-lates (two syllables). I’ve taught at University of Pittsburgh, Dickinson College, Oberlin College, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and Washington University.
I have worked with dancers, athletes, physical eduation students, and actors as well as folks of all physical abilites.
Many people, many experiences, many levels.