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Pilates Debuts on Reality Series

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By Michelle Fama

A career in Pilates can take you just about anywhere, including the set of a cutting-edge reality series. Instructor Michelle Fama, owner of Core Pilates NYC, was recently offered the opportunity to train the cast of If I Can Dream, a new reality show that streams live online 24/7. Here’s her behind-the-scenes look at working on a show that doesn’t really have a “behind-the-scenes.”

My suck into the Hoover-vac of reality TV began early. First there was my “Survivor,” Season 1 finale party where guests casted their votes next to a lit tiki torch outside my Brooklyn brownstone apartment. I shed tears for Ryan and Trista’s blooming love on “The Bachelorette” and have texted “vote” for my Idol faves more times in a row than I would like to mention. And, who doesn’t cry when they “move that bus” and reveal a new house?

So when I received a call from producers of “If I Can Dream,” a new hybrid TV/Web show from “American Idol” co-creator Simon Fuller, I was ecstatic. The show gives viewers a documentary-like look at what it takes to achieve success in Hollywood. A cast of six young people — two musicians, an actor, two actresses and a model — leave their hometowns and live together in the Hollywood Hills. Their every move is streamed live online by over 60 fixed cameras as they rehearse, write music, socialize, plan their careers…and do Pilates!

How did they find me? They had just outfitted the “Dream” house with a new bamboo Reformer from Root Manufacturing and asked Root to recommend a Pilates instructor that could train the cast and teach them how to properly use and care for the Reformer. Having just furnished my NYC studio with Root equipment, Root recommended me.

The show’s mission is to give these kids opportunities to help them on their journey toward stardom. Producers realized the undeniable benefits Pilates could bring to the cast members’ Hollywood pursuits. It would help them with the voice, acting and modeling auditions that they would be filmed doing. Along with Pilates, the cast gets weekly yoga sessions with a yoga instructor who visits the house.

While I have been scheduled to train the entire cast, I’ve only gotten half of them at any given time since their audition schedules and classes keep them busy. I created their Reformer workouts based on easy-to-retain exercises organized by areas of the body – arms, legs and butt, and core – rather than training them through a classically ordered session. With such a bustling, social household and busy schedules, I needed to deliver quick routines that they could safely do if they worked out solo or in a time pinch. When I train more than one at a time, I take them through a classical mat class as well. 

Improving posture and flexibility is aspiring model Giglianne’s goal, while actor Ben wants core strength to improve his gym workouts. Although the cast had never done Pilates before, they were excited to have the chance to see what the hype is all about. Each came with individual requests such as easing tight hamstrings and lower back while carving the core. They are not required to do the workouts, but the workouts kept them interested. They are all sold on Pilates so far!

My biggest challenge is remembering that the cameras are always on. My first day in the house I made a comment about how sloppy 21-year-olds can be after seeing one of their messy bedrooms, and proceeded to blurt out language worthy of a bleep while setting up the Reformer. A friend who was helping me, clueless of the cameras, turned beat red after her how-does-reality-TV-work questions elicited the “It’s confidential – I can’t answer” response.

While I’m pretty sure that a few slips of the tongue and my tough training tactics won’t get me voted out of the house anytime soon, I’m not so sure the cast will like my lecture on Reformer etiquette next time: I just clicked on the live feed from the Laundry Room where they keep the Reformer and noticed that the handles and straps were sloppily dumped on the floor, and someone had placed their guitar on top of the carriage.

Will someone be working out tomorrow at lunchtime? Will the straps still be in the same place? Will you catch me training them? Log on to the Laundry Room cam, and keep me updated by posting comments here. For real-time action on and off the Reformer tune in to ificandream.com or hulu.com for episodes.

Michelle Fama is the co-founder of Core Pilates NYC and is the NYC chapter head for the United Pilates Collective. Prior to establishing her Pilates brand in 2002 and growing it internationally, Michelle lived and adventured extensively through Africa, Southeast Asia, Indonesia and South America as a journalist and travel writer.

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