The first time I did Pilates, I had no idea what we were doing. I was teen, in the middle of ballet class at Nashville Ballet. Ms. Gamonet our ballet teacher, told us to come into the middle of the room after barre, like normal. Then she told us to lay down in the floor. In the middle of class. There is no laying on the ground in ballet so we were confused. Our teacher did not like it when we did not do what we were told so there was a second prompting in a higher register. We quickly lay on the floor. She taught us the Hundred. “This is Pilates, and we will be learning a new exercise every week. Pilates will help you to get stronger and avoid injuries,” she said.
I was intrigued. I danced about eight hours a day and did not want anything to stop me from my practice. The next week we learned the Roll Up. Eventually we had separate required classes in our schedule. And actual mats made of squishy blue foam. Even though I was intrigued by this Pilates thing, I was not a fan. Everything we did in ballet, we did the opposite in Pilates. We were constantly yelled at, I am sure out of frustration and care for our well being, about turning our legs parallel and flexing our feet. Even our hair had to be different. Saturday mornings we started with Pilates so we had to have our hair in a low ponytail and quickly put our hair in a perfect bun after we were finished with Pilates before ballet. All of it was a challenge.
I can say with full conviction, she was right. About all of it. We needed to exercise our bodies in the opposite way from what we did everyday, all day. Flexing our feet helped strengthen our ankles. Turning our legs in strengthened our inner thighs. Practicing Pilates helped to balance out all the ballet. If I had not taken Pilates when I did, I probably would have had a hip replacement by now.
I eventually fell in love with Pilates. Probably on a Saturday morning doing the Hundred on a squishy blue foam mat, closing my eyes to block out the sun streaming in to Studio A. Thank you Sylvia for not only learning to teach Pilates, but making us do it. You always knew what we needed and gave it to us. I am infinitely grateful for you and your many parts in my process.
Photography by Jennifer Gouge