What is Classical Pilates? How is it different from Contemporary Pilates? Here is my definition of Classical Pilates…
Before I give you my definition, I would like to put out a bit of my history as a Pilates teacher and practitioner. Those of you who have worked with me at varying points in my Pilates teaching career may not have a sense of all that informs my current definition, so here we go.
I started taking Pilates in 1986 at SUNY Purchase (I was VP of finance for Student Government and we were funding the studio) under my colleagues Steve Giordano and Nancy Allison, who were trained by Romana Kryzanowska. Romana would visit on occasion, and Steve trained us to know the order of the exercises and the transitions/flow, so that we could impress her when she came. I would also make trips into the city to take sessions with her and the other full-on classical teachers.
In 1988 I moved to Philadelphia to enter a PhD program in Philosophy at Temple U, with a full graduate assistantship. In 1989 I saw an ad in the City Paper – “PT exercise instructors wanted. Pilates background preferred.” I was the only applicant who had done Pilates! And so I started working alongside Master Teacher Karen H. Carlson, who trained primarily with Pilates elder Mary Bowen.
In 1992 Karen and I both became founding members of the Institute for the Pilates Method (now PhysicalMind), under Pilates elder Eve Gentry (but then informed by all of the living elders). Eve and Michelle Larson certified me to teach in 1993. In 2000 I became a teacher trainer for PhysicalMind.
After owning award-winning studios and teaching at Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos, I have come full circle. Thirty years after taking my first Pilates class at Purchase, I am now back in NYC as a Master Teacher and Lead Teacher Trainer at Real Pilates in Tribeca, a leading Classical Pilates studio.
That said, here is my definition of Classical Pilates:
I define classical Pilates as teaching that is closest to the system as created and taught by Joseph Pilates. I teach with a contemporary understanding of biomechanics, but I teach Mr. Pilates’ exercises in the order he prescribed and prefer at this point to teach on Gratz. Do I modify as needed or leave out exercises that may not be appropriate? Indeed I do! Do I teach on Peak, Stott, and Balanced Body? Yes! But still with the goal of offering as close to a good, old school Pilates workout as I can. His work stands up.
So there you go! I would love to hear your definitions and your thoughts.