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How Pilates works for me - a ballet dancer on the magic of the Pilates method

Kristy Windom, faculty member and guest ballet mistress of the Washington School of Ballet and a former Company member of the Washington Ballet, Cleveland Ballet and Washington Opera Ballet is a great fan of the Pilates method. After taking sessions with me on the Reformer and Jumpboard, I asked her a few questions about her experience with Pilates and how it impacted her body and career.

Timea: When you think about all the movement methods available to us today, where would you place Pilates?

Kristy: Pilates to me is like the classical ballet of movement therapy. It is always something I can go back to and rely on when other forms are thrown at me.

Timea: How would you describe Pilates for someone who hasn’t done it before?

Kristy: I don’t know many movers who have not done Pilates before. As answering this question as a teacher, I would get them interested in understanding the dynamic of “where we move from”. I would give them one powerful image when describing Pilates. I would ask this person to imagine da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man -a circle and a square with profound images of lines going through his center. These series of crosses make up the powerhouse (the core) of movement. The strongest section of a spider web is in the center!

Timea: When and why did you first take interest in Pilates during your carrier as a ballet dancer?

Kristy: Unfortunately, Pilates was not offered to me as a student. I didn’t begin mat and equipment work until a few years in to my professional career. I would often warm up with Pilates 100’s and leg circles before taking a 1.5 hour class for my day of rehearsals. And I was not the only dancer coming in early to do this. I continue this post career too.

Timea: When you transitioned from being a professional ballerina to becoming a faculty member of the Washington Ballet School, how did Pilates support the change your body went through?

Kristy: Pilates is a trusted old friend so as I transitioned to less ballet classes per week, my body was fine with the change. Doing ballet for so many years gave me an extremely strong muscle memory for execution of almost anything. Once I got over the initial “things feel different in a 30 year old body than they do in a 20 year body” as a mature dancer, I relied on a stronger Pilates and yoga practice. I got frustrated at times, but I felt that I trusted my Pilates practice enough to satisfy my craving for correction and movement and transition.

Timea: How has the goal of your Pilates workout changed and evolved along the years?

Kristy: I find it a bit like becoming a mature dancer. You want to think outside of the box and explore new ways of how your body responds. There is always room for learning.

Timea: What benefits do you expect from Pilates routines?

Kristy: I expect that what I put in to it, I get out of it. If I’m conservative in my practice it means I need to focus on a few areas, if I want to be challenged, I certainly can find that in my routine. Pilates training is a strong voice in my body.

Timea: How are Mat work and the Reformer workout different in your opinion?

Kristy: They are brothers from another mother! Sibling rivalry! I actually think Mat work can be much harder than equipment work due to lack of resistance helping you out. You can become creative in both with props and resistance but I feel more open minded on the Reformer. Not sure why.

Timea: As a faculty member of the Washington Ballet working with many students, what difference do you see in your students’ bodies when they add Pilates to their program?

Kristy: First and foremost, an awareness. There is a respect and understanding what the discipline can provide and how Pilates augments their own dance training. I also find that those who are mature enough to understand the benefits Pilates can provide in their dance training will absolutely put that to use. But, it does take a pre professional dancer ages 13 and up for this type of awareness to kick in.

Timea: Which Mat Pilates exercises do you regularly perform as a part of your fitness program? Why do you like them?

Kristy: I do Pilates Mat for 15 minutes -5 days a week. That usually includes 100’s, single and double leg circles, and bridges. I like to access the core as quickly as possible and Mat work is my body’s first cup of coffee. The response is instantaneous.

Timea: Any additional thoughts that you would like to share?

Kristy: I feel comfortable because Pilates is an old stand-by for me. It’s something I can trust and know what to expect. It takes a good, creative, teacher to guide you to explore the fringe side of Pilates. Timea, after a few sessions with you I feel that you are that teacher. You provide a safe place to explore and unearth a side of Pilates that few understand. If someone is curious in how they can get there body to move and respond, they should run to see you!

Timea: Thank you for sharing your thoughts on movement and Pilates with me!


Timea Presley is a fully certified, advanced level STOTT Pilates Instructor, certified Polestar Pilates Instructor, certified Yoga Instructor, certified Spinning Instructor and holds a degree in Modern and Contemporary Dance. Timea owned and operated her Pilates studio in Berlin, Germany and has been teaching movement since 2000. Timea has been focusing on advanced and specialized Pilates apparatus instruction based on the Stott Pilates method, hybrid forms of Pilates and developing her own vocabulary of movement material within the frame of Joseph Pilates’s work in the past few years. She has been with MINT Health Club and Spa in Washington DC for 5 years. She built the Pilates program from scratch and turned it into a successful investment and a popular destination for fitness devotees of the nation’s capital. She has worked for MINT in various roles such as Mind Body Program Director, Pilates Program Director and Head Pilates Instructor. Additionally, she has led instruction for numerous prestigious institutions including the IMF, World Bank, FBI, the National Gallery of Art and Constantin Film.

Posted on Monday, July 23, 2012 at 03:11PM by Registered CommenterPilates-Pro in , , | Comments2 Comments | References2 References

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