Joseph Pilates: A Man of His Time
Born in Germany in the early 1880s, Joseph Pilates grew up studying many of the “physical culture” systems which were so popular in late C19 and early C20 Europe. Just as many others did, Pilates developed his own method of training, “the Pilates Method”, which is now a household word when all the big names of his time are footnotes in the history of body building. He obviously got something right.
The famous New York choreographer and personal friend of Pilates, George Balanchine, described him as “a genius of the body”. The results of his system over nearly 100 years show that he had a phenomenally deep understanding of the human body, its potential and how to train it, and that he was able to bring together the exercises and fitness technology of his era in a way that has stood the test of time.
In Pilates we use simple equipment (apparatus) and fairly simple exercises, the results come from having a teacher who knows the method in a deep and sophisticated way so that they can apply the exercises to the student’s needs.
Romana and The Classical Pilates Legacy
In 1941 Balanchine sent one of his dancers, Romana Kryzanowska, to study with Mr Pilates because she had an injured ankle. Under Pilates’ instruction she recovered from her injury, and stayed on in the studio for many years to study and eventually teach side by side with Pilates so that, when he died in 1967, she was the person who took over the running of his studio.
Romana continued studying with Clara Pilates (Joe's wife) until her death a decade later and kept teaching the method that Joe and Clara Pilates passed on to her for over 5 decades. Very few students worked for such a long time with Joe Pilates, and, consequently, very few others understand the method with the same depth as Romana.
The Main Stream of Transmission
Most people were only taught the exercises as they needed them for their own body, but Romana had exposure to how Pilates taught his method to everyone. There were other important “first generation” teachers, but, due her taking over the studio and training so many teachers in the last 50 years, Romana is unquestionably the central figure in the transmission of the original method into the C21
Romana's daughter, Sari Mejía Santo, was affectionately called a "Pilates baby" by Joseph himself. She has trained her whole life under the watchful eye of Joseph and Clara Pilates and then her mother. Based at the home of Pilates in New York she travels the world teaching and training instructors.