Pilates, yet another personal dimension

Pilates, that very popular exercise regime created by Joseph Pilates. His body-conditioning regime developed in the early decades of the 20th century used an apparatus, the better to move your body into ungainly, otherwise unachievable positions.

Now, you can take Pilates of different varieties on many street corners or 2nd, 3rd, or 8th floor studios – most with emphasis on Joseph Pilates’ apparatuses. Every once in a while I take a class at the neighborhood Athleta store. Do you have Athleta near your home? Look for the store and see if they offer Sunday morning community classes – such a nice way to build their market.

I congratulated our teacher on her teaching skills the other week. She recognized that I knew my way around the regime. I admitted that I prefer the old routine which moves from one exercise to another – she told me that’s “classic Pilates.” That’s me, the classic.

The “Classic”

More recently, a new Pilates studio, Aviva Pilates, opened the other evening in a glitzy part of town. Constant Companion and I attended their public opening – the requisite dj, healthy bites and drinks, and a choreographed display by 2 slender, supple instructors. Wow, I could never do what they demonstrated, even with the help of the reformer. Aviva (Abrams) is real, pert, and encouraging. She told me about upcoming classes of barre and ballet for adults. Maybe I’ll give it a try.

Me and Pilates date to Graduate School. There was that day when I met my adviser who asked what was I going to do with all the credit hours of ballet – I attended a school with an excellent ballet program. It was keeping me sane after hours of reading and writing about folklore, anthropology, and art history.

Then the dance program added a Pilates mat class. I was sold! Every once in a while we were treated to the reformer. Amazing how you can move with the assistance of the apparatus.

To let you know some background, I was introduced to ballet as a kid. Elementary school summers were spent at a Pittsburgh Symphony day camp the on the green campus of Chatham College. There, I fell in love with ballet taught by Mrs. Kritza (wife of the Symphony’s assistant conductor, Karl Kritza). Saturday morning lessons during the year continued for the next 6 years.

Then we moved … and I started with a new teacher and another and another. I forget the name of my first teacher in Columbus, Ohio. After that it was a trek across town (2 busses) to Douard Farquhar’s studio. Then to the downtown studios of Jorg Fasting and, finally, Tatiana Akinfieva Smith. Mr. Fasting was Norway; he taught with a stick – “Lift your leg, I can’t do it for you!” Tatiana was from Croatia and ended up in Central Ohio.

I learned a lot; ballet was introduction to French, to classical music, and to teamwork. It was my escape from the drudgery of junior high school and high school. And it was my one-time career track, too – to be a ballet teacher. I started college as a dance major at Ohio State University where the emphasis was modern dance in the early 70s. After 2 years, I dropped out and dropped out and ended at another school with another major, another direction, but held on to my precious dancing as a dance minor.

Graduation was quickly approaching. What to do in the early 70s with a humanities BA? One friend had gone off to Costa Rica for Peace Corps. I could do that, but where could they send me? What could I do? I was sent to Jamaica, to teach … dance. The assignment was really movement education rather than pure dance. I did my 2 years in Kingston with students at Mico Teacher Training College – they were terrific.

Students, Mico Teacher Training College –
where are they now?

Again, faced by the same dilemma– go to school to learn to be a curator or school for folklore. My undergraduate boss had recommended the latter and that’s what I did with “all those hours of ballet” on my transcript! And, I continued taking dance classes into my 40s; they remained a good escape.

Which leads me to Pilates … Somewhere along the way, I remember one ballet teacher introducing what she called “Floor Barre,” a warm up regime she learned during “The War” when Ballet Russe was in Montecarlo. Once introduced to Pilates, it seemed so familiar. Maybe not the same thing.

I still enjoy Pilates as an excellent regime. I also do tai chi and water aerobics twice a week. What’s your form of exercise?  Good for the body and the mind.

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