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Pilates DVD Review: Carola Shares

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By Nicole Rogers

Carola Trier (1913-2000) was the first person to start a Contrology studio outside of Joseph Pilates’ own studio, and she did so with his blessing. Pilates elders like Kathy Grant and Lolita San Miguel started their Pilates training with Carola Trier. And yet, until now I knew little about her other than the fact that she was a contortionist. It turns out she was actually a roller-skating contortionist! This is one of many entertaining insights to be gained from the new DVD Carola Shares, by Jillian Hessel.

Hessel, who is now a Pilates instructor in Los Angeles, was a student of Trier’s in the 1980s in New York. After Hessel moved to California, she convinced Trier to come out to do a workshop. That workshop was videotaped, and Hessel has painstakingly turned the footage into “Carola Shares.” By the time this was filmed in 1989, Trier had retired, but as you can see in the DVD, she was as agile as ever—another great testament to the power of Pilates.

Tiny and powerful, Trier is extremely charming, not to mention inspirational. She was a German Jew who escaped a Nazi-run detention camp in France during World War II, immigrated to New York and supported herself as a dancer, acrobat, and yes, a roller-skating contortionist before starting her own successful Pilates business in the late 1950s. She was an exceptional woman to be sure.

Acrobat and Pilates instructor Carola Trier in her younger daysCarola Trier was a dancer, acrobat and contortionist, in addition to a first-generation Pilates teacher.Hessel remembers Trier as “the mistress of sound bytes, before there were sound bytes.” For Long Stretch on the Reformer she would say, “From the head to the heels, you’re a piece of steel!” For proper placement on the Reformer for Knee Stretches: “If your belly button fell off, it would fall right between your knees.” And her quote for posture was, “Your body is like a building, and the feet are the foundation of that building.” Hessel is not sure if these came from Joe or if Trier invented them herself.

As Hessel admits in the DVD’s introduction, home video was an imperfect tool in 1989, and the picture quality and sound suffer in some ways. Hessel took great pains to edit together the most pristine parts of the footage for this DVD. Despite the technology of the source material, I recommend this DVD as archival footage to inform one’s teaching. It is an important historical record, and to my knowledge the only video footage of Trier. It is fascinating to see an interpretation of the exercises by someone who was so close to Joe and Clara Pilates. Much of the work is taught in ways I have never seen—and I swear there was no safety chain on that push-though bar during Monkey and Tower. But in the safe hands (and feet) of Trier and Hessel I didn’t worry…too much.

Trier lectures and demonstrates with a model (usually Hessel) on all of the equipment, and even demonstrates posterior-lateral breathing using the Breath-A-Sizor, a pinwheel-like instructional breathing device that is rarely used these days. Again, this is archival footage—take it as literally as you want—but it is fascinating regardless.

Pilates Teacher Carola Trier in 1989Carola Trier at a Pilates workshop in 1989With all of the valuable information Trier imparts in this DVD, the most mesmerizing part for me was simply watching Trier move. She describes the spectacular knee injury that lead her to Joseph Pilates, but watching her glide off and on the Cadillac, kneel and push on her student and sit relaxed on the Reformer like a woman less than half her age, It should give anyone with an injury hope that with dedication to Pilates, maybe we can all be so agile and inspirational in our golden years.

“Carola Shares” is available at both jillianhessel.com and amazon.com for $50.

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