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Flash Mob Pilates

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By Amy Leibrock 

Flash Mob Pilates
When Bethany Mateosian noticed her mat class attendance dropping off in the summer months, she knew exactly why. The summer weather. Mateosian is the owner of Springboard Pilates in Portland, Maine, a place where residents savor their three months of summer as much as possible before the winter buries them in snow again. So while her private and duet clients were committed to their time slots, some of her mat students didn’t seem to want to spend their precious warm-weather time in the studio.

So last summer Mateosian decided to join them by bringing mat class outside—with a twist. She organized a series of “flash mob” classes that she would hold at different public spaces around the city. By the end of the summer, she had created a lot of buzz, added a few new clients and got to enjoy the summer herself.

OK, let’s back up a little bit. You might be wondering what a flash mob is. Flash mobs are typically public stunts, where a group of people gathers at a meeting place, does something a little wacky and then disperses. The meeting place is often communicated by text message and the people might not know one another. (One of the coolest examples was when 100 people froze in place for a minute in New York’s Grand Central Station.)

Mateosian’s version isn’t quite as wacky (but it might be to someone who’s never seen Pilates). And it’s a little more planned. Last summer she would email the when and where  a few days before the class. This year, she’s listed the dates and times on her website, and you have to sign up for her email list to get the location, which she’ll send out a day ahead of time. The once-a-week class is free and meant to keep people engaged over the summer, generate some buzz and enjoy the weather.

“It’s a fun, hip concept but also takes advantage of the fact that in Maine we hibernate all year and then for three months it’s just like crazy summer energy,” says Mateosian. “So being outdoors is really tapping into that sort of natural energy but keeping people coming to Pilates.”

Last year’s locations included an after-work class on a promenade, a sunset class at a beachfront park and a 7:30 a.m. class on the Maine State Pier, one of Mateosian’s favorite spots. “You’re right on the working waterfront and you have the fishermen standing at the end of the dock and the ferry going buy and the sailboats coming in and out,” she says.

Mateosian chose public spaces and made sure there were no events going on. Because she’s not charging any money and the classes were small—usually two to six people—she didn’t investigate getting a permit. She also asked the participants to bring their own towels or mats.

Last summer’s turnout wasn’t huge—a few clients took full advantage and others popped in and out when they could. But the buzz is building. She met someone at a party who had heard of the classes, and she also picked up some new clients who were friends or relatives of her flash mob group.

One man who joined the “mob” had never done Pilates. “He was totally grunting and working his way through the whole thing and he said that afterwards he went to pick up a piece of trash and realized that his body didn’t hurt when he bent over,” says Mateosian. “Now he comes to Pilates.”

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Bethany Mateosian does the Snake on the edge of a canoe in the North Maine Woods. photo by Sam Mateosian

Top photo: Rebecca Clark and Sam Mateosian attempt the Teaser by the Deer Isle Bridge. photo by Bethany Mateosian


 

Posted on Friday, May 30, 2008 at 07:54AM by Registered CommenterAmy Leibrock in | Comments2 Comments | References1 Reference

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Reader Comments (2)

Way to go on that teazer, Sam! After 5 years of Pilates I still can't do it that well. Cool story about the guy and his back. What a cool concept and an ingenious marketing strategy.

May 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterS. Flake

Bethany has a wonderful studio in Portland, Maine and I highly recommend it if you are in the area! Last time I checked there wasn't a canoe....

June 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterT.Lyon

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