The Pilates Method Alliance claims
that there are five elders, four of whom (as at December 2006) are allied with them. It's kind of the
ultimate in name dropping! Two very famous none-aligned "elders" are Romana Kryzanowska and
Eve Gentry. Romana
is especially important, because she has found a way to popularize Pilates matwork such that the
ordinary person (such as myself) can quickly reap and enjoy the Pilates benefits, even before they have
learnt to choreograph the moves and turn them into the amazing healing modality that they are
(any movement skill, be it piano performance or track athletics
takes many years to perfect and truly enjoy, and Pilates is no exception).
Eve Gentry, though famous among dancers
for her role in bringing "Laban Dance Notation" (Labanotation) to America is less well known. And yet Eve
(with the exception of Clara Pilates) could possibly be the longest serving pupil and colleague of Joseph.
Stop Press!!! New Addition to the Pilates Elders and the answer to a 60 year old mystery:
Just who are the ladies in this famous Pilates Studio picture?-
Answer: Standing in the background is Irena, described by associates as a "close friend" of Joseph,
(just how close, or what became of her, I do not know). In the foreground is Joseph's partner Clara
(they lived together but were not married). When Joseph died in 1967,
Clara requested the help of Romana Kryzanowska. Lying down
is a niece of Joseph Pilates. Her name is Mary, and her history is recorded here.
The four that are named
by the Pilates Method Alliance are:-
Pilates Elder: Ron Fletcher
Fletcher was responsible for introducing Pilates to many Hollywood celebrities.
His studio was the reason for the immense popularity of Pilates in the 1970s and 80s.
The Ron Fletcher Bio is
inspiring reading and gives original information about what it was like to train under Joe.
Read Ron Fletcher's autobiography
Pilates Elder: Mary Bowen
Like many Pilates instructors, Mary Bowen is a philosopher (studied Jungian psychiatry).
Also has a history as a stand up comedienne(3). She has taken the trouble to edit
original Joseph Pilates movie material and produce and market a DVD. Some samples are
available for viewing:-
Original Pilates Video Clips
Pilates Elder: Kathy Grant
You can also see a picture of her at the website of her student Rael Isacowitz.
Kathy's Foreward to the Isacowitz book "Pilates"
is entertaining and informative.
Kathy Grant was on of two elders awarded a Pilates degree by Joe under the auspices
of the State University of New York (which explains why Joseph on the cover of his book
"Your Health" could call himself a professor). You can read her biography online at
the "Tisch" New York School of Arts website:-
Pilates Elder: Lolita san Miguel
Pilates Elder: Lolita San-Miguel, ballerina, educator, choreographer and director, former
student of Joseph & Clara, based in Puerto Rico
recently founded Pilates Y Mas Inc. Like co "elder" Kathy Grant, she was awarded
a Pilates degree by Joe under the auspices of the State University of New York.
Independent Pilates Elder: Romana Kryzanowska,
testing and continuing education. This is a very different model than the old
thinking entrenched within other certification programs." -
(Hear hear)! - As trainer of Mari Winsor, Brooke Silers and Moira Stott-Merrithew,
Romana has been a major force in the shaping of contemporary Pilates. A Brooke
Silers commentary on Romana is to be found at the bottom of this page.
Romana is not associated with PMA (as at time of writing), though she has certainly taught many of the PMA senior members:
"Another advantage we offer is independence. Our independence means fewer
conflicts with all parties involved, now and in the future. Our unique structure
eliminates conflicts between studio operations, trainee acceptance,
Visit her Website: Romana's Pilates
Find out about her life story: Wikipedia - Romana Kryzanowska
Independent Pilates Elder: Eve Gentry
||Originally, Eve came for help with knee and back problems. Later, she became a star
Pilates pupil and master teacher in her own right.
During her more than fifty year career, Eve Gentry was an elite level dancer, teacher (both Pilates and dance),
coach, and choreographer for countless stage, film and television projects. She is
remembered for her work in bringing Labanotation
(choreographers know the importance of this) to the USA. She worked alongside Joseph Pilates from 1942 until 1967.
As such, she may well qualify (except for Joseph's wife Clara) as Joseph's longest serving student and colleague.
After Joseph's death, Eve relocated to Sante Fe and established a Dancer's Studio and a Pilates Studio.
There is a DVD of Eve working with Joe,
which contains a clip of her on the reformer subsequent to radical breast cancer surgery (a tribute to her determination).
Ms. Gentry died in Sante Fe New Mexico, in 1994 at the age of 84. Her work is continued
through Michelle Larsson.
(The above pictures tell the Eve Gentry story better than words - sources: Core Dynamics Pilates,
Independent Pilates Elder: Mary Pilates
Mary Pilates (85 years old) with Fran Perel, |
Fran owns and runs (
Parkland Pilates, Coral Springs South Florida.
|Mary Pilates is the only living relative of Joseph H. Pilates that
actually taught at the original studio in New York. Mary is the niece of Joseph Pilates and daughter of
Fred Pilates, Joe's brother. Fred (a carpenter by trade) started a Pilates studio in St. Louis Missouri (very approximately) in
1935. Fred manufactured most of the original Pilates equipment for his brother.
In 1940, at the age of 18, Mary's parents put her on the bus to New York, and her
apprenticeship with Joe Pilates began. Mary is the attractive young lady in the center of this famous
1942 New York Pilates studio picture:-|
Mary worked a number of years with Joe, and obviously kept "Pumping her Hundreds" right into her 80's,
(as the below pictures show). Mary returned to her parental home in St. Louis and eventually
married (her married name is LeRiche)and went to live in a Bungalow in Margate, Florida, where she has lived ever since.
She worked at a local factory from (approximately)1968 until
1984. Mary has her own opinion as to the correct pronunciation of "Pilates". As far as this
only living relative can tell, it should be pronounced: "Pi – LOTTS"(12,13).
From (approximately) 2002, she has been making a comeback under the registered trademark:-
Here is a transcript of an interview from the
Pilates Method Alliance Conference of May 3, 2002
Mary Pilates in Florida, approximately early 1960's posing in front of an informal mat class.
The kneeling position is one that this author shares with his class when instructing on the nuances of
the strong core and
Source: Parkland Pilates, South Florida
Mary Pilates doing the full "Rollover": A demanding advanced level exercise, age (approx) 82.
Parkland Pilates, FL
Above: Mary Pilates approximately aged 84 in the V-Sit for the teaser. In my opinion, she is displaying the best form of
all the ladies here present. Note the long straight legs and the acute angle of the hips. Also, the feet are
relaxed and in parallel with a minimal level of sickling (inversion). This demonstrates that the
tibias are medially rotated, which is the optimum positioning for stable ankle and foot function.
The arms may be having a hard time "glueing themselves to the ears", but at 82 plus, you would expect
a little stiffness in the shoulders!
Source: MJ Pilates.
Pilates Elder: Jay Grimes
Jay Grimes began his studies with Joseph Pilates in the mid-sixties. After Joe’s death
he continued with Joe’s wife, Clara, for another 10 years until her death. Jay began
teaching in the original 8th Ave studio in New York, then moved with the studio to 56th
Street where he taught alongside (as well as studied with) Romana Kryzanowska and John
Winters. Over the years, Jay’s clients have ranged from stars of Broadway and Hollywood,
music and opera, to politicians, businessmen and housewives. He currently provides
ongoing training to instructors, conducting workshops and master classes around the
world. He has made TV appearances, including the Discovery Channel’s Fit
TV with Marilu Henner, with whom he also made videos for her Body Victory program (Search for Jay Grimes on
Visit Jay's website: http://jaygrimes.com/. It is new (as of July 2008),
and it looks promising.
(Editor's note: There are many "famous" Pilates instructors too numerous to be listed here -
apologies in advance for neglecting their excellent work).
Carola Trier and Bob Seed
These two Pilates students (not recognised as Pilates "elders") opened up their own studio during Joseph's Lifetime; Carola
Trier and Bob Seed. Here is a story about Joseph Pilates and Bob Seed:-
Bob Seed was another story. A former hockey player turned "Pilates" enthusiast, Seed
opened a studio across town from Joe and tried to take away some of Joe's clients by
opening very early in the morning.
According to John Steel, one day Joe visited Seed with a gun and warned Seed to get out of town. Seed went(11).
Clara Pilates continued teaching Pilates in the studio formed by both of them(5), so I
guess that any family feuds were patched over!
Bruce King, and Robert Fitzgerald
Other well known students who opened their own studios after Joe died.
There he worked intensively with Carola
Trier and Bob Fitzgerald, two instructors who had been trained by Pilates himself.
Although well-regarded amongst New York's dance fraternity, Pilates was unknown
in the UK at that time and Alan returned in 1970 to set up Britain's first-ever
Pilates studio. Among his first clients were actors, dancers and singers, but
word soon spread as doctors and physiotherapists began recommending Pilates to
patients struggling with chronic injuries"(9).
||Alan Is important in that he brought Pilates to the UK and indirectly to Australia:
"Alan Herdman studied at the London School of Contemporary Dance and was working
as a teacher and dancer when, in the late 1960s, he was invited to New York to
learn about the Joseph Pilates Method.
to as the elders that
actually studied with Joseph Pilates, and Romana was actually one of these elders(6)(7).
"This long-time professional dancer and teacher... began developing her
innovative workout nearly 20 years ago and opened her first Pilates studio in
1990 in Los Angeles". Says Winsor : "I’m the princess, not the queen. No, no, no.
My mentor Romana Kryzanowska is the Queen of Pilates. And there are four,
five, six other teachers around the country we refer
More information about Brooke Siler is
to be found below (ref. 8,10). Her book is a must buy.
As the youngest of six athletic children, including four brothers, and the
daughter of an Olympic-level athlete, she was constantly encouraged to develop
her physical skills. Siler has spent over 600 hours under the tutelage of Romana
Kryzanowska. Brooke Siler is a personal trainer, a certified Pilates instructor,
the co-owner of the successful re:AB Studio in New York City, and the personal
trainer of a number of celebrities.
Siler Trained under Pilates Elder Romana Kryzanowska-
Siler: "Romana began training with Pilates. She was a Ballanchine dancer. He
brought her to Joseph with an ankle injury in 1941. Romana began to train in the
original Pilates studio under Joe for about four years, training extensively and
they became very close. He began to teach her his method. And, over the years she
began teaching with him and under him and he used her as his protege. She stayed
training in total about 30 years. She never stopped teaching even though she
moved out of the country. When she moved back to New York, she trained under
him again and ended up taking charge of the original Pilates studio after his
death and worked with his wife. Romana has since been at it about another 30
years after that, so about 60 years total.
Romana teaches Pilates as Joe intended it to be taught...
She still teaches every day, and
travels around the world and teaches and carries on this method, and makes sure
that it stays as pure as it was when she learned it.
This is very difficult because many who learned under Joe began to teach other people the way they'd
been taught for their own bodies which isn't necessarily the way to teach everyone.
Romana learned from Joseph how to break down each movement so it could be taught to
each individual. That's the difference. Many who didn't stay with their training
tend to teach slower or more therapeutically than originally Joe had planned.
The Romana Pilates Way targets healthy people, and teaches the
injured to focus on the healthy parts of their body...
Essentially, what Romana likes to reiterate is that Joseph Pilates wanted Pilates
to be for the normal, healthy body and when people have injuries they, instead
of focusing on their injury as you might do in physical therapy, you focus on your
strengths around the injury, so you're not a product of your injuries, you're a
normal, healthy body with an injury. That's a very important idea, especially in
a society that is so based on almost becoming victims of the medical community,
or we tend to look outside of ourselves and take advice about ourselves that we
actually have control over. Pilates is very much about autonomy and responsibility
for your own well being. Autonomy, meaning when you came to Pilates, you were a
Pilates did not intend his system to be "stand alone",
but rather to be a foundation for other activities...
It was not a system that was meant to make
you dependent upon a trainer or a piece of equipment. It was meant for you to
use to strengthen your body so you'd be better able to perform your daily
activities and sports. And it became a foundation for anything else you were
doing. I think that's important because people tend to think that if you learn
Pilates, then that's all you do. But it's meant to be a foundation and most people
find that after learning Pilates, it provides them with everything they need so
they don't choose to do anything else and that's fine too. However, Pilates was
a very active man and wanted all people to be active and efficient in their
activities. And, that was the foundation of Pilates"(8).
The work of Eve Gentry is continued through Michelle Larson.
A celebrated dancer and choreographer in
her own right, Michelle runs the long standing (since 1996) and prestigious
Core Dynamics Pilates
in Santa Fe New Mexico, and is an extremely sought after guest instructor.
If you are serious about getting a solid base in Pilates matwork as nearly as possible as Joe taught it, then
you should purchase the three books that are advertised in this square.
I wish you happy researching!
Pilates Celebrities include
Jennifer Aniston, Vanessa Williams, Melanie Griffith, Courtney Cox,
Danny Glover, David Duchovny, Sally Field, Madonna (Madonna also does Yoga).
- Pilates Method Alliance www.pilatesmethodalliance.org/elders.html
- Ron Fletcher's Beverly Hills Studio http://www.ronfletcherwork.com/
- May Bowen Pilates Website http://www.pilates-marybowen.com/
- Romana's Kryzanowska's web site: http://www.romanaspilates.com/
- History of Pilates: http://www.pilates.cn/History-Of-Pilates.htm
- MSN News: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9903507/
- Mari Winsor Website: http://www.winsorpilates.com/
- Interview with Brooke Siler: www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=54021
- Alan Herdman Website: http://www.alanherdmanpilates.co.uk/
- FindArticles on Brooke Siler: www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0675/is_1_20/ai_82470017
- Balanced Body Pilates
Joseph Pilates And The History Of Pilates
- Golf Pilates.com:
History Of Pilates
PHI Pilates Newsletter, Fall/Winter 2002 Volume: 1 Issue: 1
Pilates Elders and other Famous Pilates Teachers © Bruce Thomson, EasyVigour Project
Return to Top
Return to top...
Pilates Online Printable Positions and Exercises with Pictures and Diagrams
© Bruce Thomson, EasyVigour Project
Joseph Pilates, age 59, "Started a Revolution"
Purchase the Pilates Classics...
Brooke Siler: The Pilates Body...
Sets the industry standards for Pilates Classic Mat Exercises!
(Read Book Reviews...)
Alicia Ungaro - Pilates: Body in Motion
This best seller virtually replaces the need for Pilates Instructor Training Schools!
(Read Book Reviews...)
Includes a Magic Circle Sequence. Perfect companion buy to Siler: "The Pilates Body"
Search the most Popular Buys at Amazon.com...