The Pilates Elders: Understanding Pilates Lineage

After Joseph Pilates passed away, a group of individuals whom he worked with and trained, often referred to as The Elders, started spreading his work world wide. They took the knowledge he gave them and often came at his work with their own perspective, putting a fresh spin on it. It’s because of this spin that you can have very qualified, yet very different Pilates teachers.

That’s why I’m taking the time to explain The Elders. As we go to a Pilates class or watch a video, it is important to understand that teachers will vary. The training and information one may have, another might not. Knowing your teacher’s training will help you decide if that class will be a good fit for you.

Who are the Pilates Elders?

  • Clara Pilates:  With a background in nursing and teaching, Clara used her knowledge to enhance Joe’s work. Frequently, Clara worked with the individuals who were more seriously ill or injured. After Joe’s death, she continued to operate and run the studio. She passed away in 1977.
  • Romana teachingRomana Kryzanowska:  Romana came to find Pilates when she suffered an ankle injury while dancing with George Balanchine at the School of American Ballet. While Romana was not personally certified to teach by Joe, she was the one who was entrusted with control of the studio when Clara retired. The studio continues to teach Pilates in the same style as Joe and Clara did when they opened. She passed away in 2013 at the age of 90.
  • Kathy Grant:  One of only two individuals to be fully certified to teach Pilates by Joe himself, Ms. Grant found Pilates when a knee surgery sidelined her dancing career. She later combined her dance and Pilates knowledge to help dancers. Her studio was at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She passed away in 2010 at the age of 88.
  • Lolita San Miguel:  Ms. San Miguel is the other individual who was personally certified by Joseph Pilates to teach. She had a very active life in dance until she decided to retire at age 70 and focus on teaching Pilates Internationally. She continues to teach Pilates.
  • Carola Trier:  After escaping from the Gurs internment camp in France before being sent to Auschwitz, Ms. Trier came to the US. Because of an on-stage injury, she was referred to Joseph Pilates. In 1960, Joe helped her open her own studio teaching his work. She died in 2000 at the age of 87.
  • Mary Bowen:  In 1959, Ms. Bowen was an actress and performer with back pain when she was introduced to Joseph Pilates and his method. She has taken her Pilates knowledge and added elements as a Jungian analyst to create her own method, Pilates Plus Psyche. She continues to teach today.
  • Ron Fletcher:  A dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company, Mr. Fletcher came to Pilates with a chronic knee injury in 1948. He enjoyed a long career as a very successful choreographer before becoming focused on Pilates. In 1978, he began developing his own Pilates-based programs. In 2003, the Ron Fletcher Program of Study was established. He died in 2011 at age 90.
  • Eve Gentry:  After a career in dancing, Ms. Gentry suffered from persistent knee and back issues. In 1944, she began to study with Joseph Pilates. In 1968, she opened her own dance and Pilates center in Santa Fe, NM. She died in 1994 at age 84.
  • Robert Fitzgerald:  Mr. Fitzgerald opened his own studio in New York with a large dance clientele.
  • Bruce King:  Mr. King was a dancer who came to find and study with Joseph Pilates. In the mid-1970s, he opened his own Pilates studio in New York City.
  • Jay Grimes:  Mr. Grimes was a dancer who studied with Joe and Clara Pilates in the mid-1960s. Later, he also studied with and taught with Romana. He is a dancer who has never had an injury and he credits this to his early involvement with Pilates. He continues to teach Pilates.

Here is a part of an interview with Lolita San Miguel.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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