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Pilates COREterly

Fall 2010

The Legacy of Pilates

Passing the Torch – Who Will Lead the Next Generation of Teachers

By Elizabeth Larkam, MS Ed

Who will lead the next generation of Pilates teachers?

How can the wisdom of the first generation teachers and the expert knowledge of master teachers be transmitted to the next group of professionals?

The beginning of an idea…

Two years ago,first generation teacher Lolita San Miguel and Al Harrison, Director of Balanced Body Education, pondered these questions. Their discussions led to the creation of Passing the Torch (PTT), Balanced Body’s exclusive Pilates mentorship program.

Lolita had been mentored by Joseph Pilates and desired to pass her life-changing experiences to experienced teachers committed to in-depth study. Recognizing the value of filling a gap in teacher development and continuing education, the Balanced Body Education team expanded Lolita’s concept and invited fourteen phenomenal educators each with a minimum of 20 years teaching experience to offer mentorship programs in their home studios.

PTT provides a rare opportunity for seasoned Pilates instructors to work closely with their chosen mentor, evolving their professional and personal skills toward mastery.

Going through the program

Marcy Schafler, a Balanced Body Master Instructor based in New Jersey chose PTT to further her skill in movement analysis, client program design, cueing skill and presentation experience. “I believe that the best teachers, the cream of the crop, are those instructors who continue to learn, grow and offer their gift to others,” said Marcy.

As a child Marcy studied dance in New York City but eventually chose a career as an interior designer. Marcy was widowed in 1997. While raising two sons as a single mother she fell in love with Pilates and decided to become an instructor. Her teachers, Doris Pasteleur and Lesley Powell, (both Balanced Body Master Instructors) guided her progress. In 2006 Marcy was diagnosed with uterine cancer and breast cancer. Doris and Lesley guided Marcy’s Pilates practice during her recovery from surgery and throughout her cancer treatment.

This year, Marcy elected to travel to San Francisco for PTT. She thrived in the intense small group environment of 8-hour plus days filled with client observation, personal studio sessions, challenging mat and apparatus classes and critique of her teaching.

Evenings were spent at dinner with the group discussing directed reading assignments and studio business models. Now when she travels the world to teach anatomy and other Balanced Body course modules she draws heavily on her Passing the Torch skills.

Alan Herdman, Rael Isacowitz, Julian Littleford and myself completed our first mentorship program and are reviewing applications for the 2011 cohort. PTT programs with Amy Alpers, Brent Anderson, Madeline Black, Mary Bowen, Michele Larsson, Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle and Lolita San Miguel are in progress. Karen Clippinger, Deborah Lessen, Tom McCook and Kyria Sabin / Ron Fletcher will begin in 2011.

What others are doing

Enthusiastic response from Pilates teachers all over the world indicates that Passing the Torch fulfills a need for in-depth, personalized continuing education.

Cengiz Han Ucgun traveled from Istanbul, Turkey to study with his mentor Rael Isacowitz in California. For one of his PTT projects Cengiz Han along with Balanced Body Master Instructor, Taha, co-produced with the 1st Istanbul Pilates Conference in September 2010. This sold-out event drew instructors from throughout Europe establishing Cengiz Han as an industry leader, shaping and supporting the development of the Pilates community in Turkey.

Massimo Gilardi traveled from Naples, Italy to study in San Francisco with me. Co-owner of the leading fitness center in Naples, Massimo sought support in developing new mat and apparatus programs for his gym members. He wanted to integrate his study of the Thomas Myers myofascial meridians into Pilates mat classes for his gym members and studio clients.

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Alan Herdman, who brought Pilates to London over thirty years, ago accepted one applicant to his program. She meets with Alan in his London studio as he works with clients, discussing diagnoses, creating studio programs and learning how to apply new verbal and tactile cues.

Thirty years ago during his Career Transitions for Dancers program Julian Littleford of JL Pilates in San Diego was mentored by Alan Herdman Now as one of the Passing the Torch mentors Julian emphasizes ‘Moving Beyond your Initial Training’ challenging his mentees to recognize the value and limitations of their original certification program and encouraging them to generate new movement sequences that will help clients achieve their short and long-term goals.

Making it easier for “mentee’s”

Although the 2010 PTT program received phenomenal, life-changing feedback, Balanced Body did hear from some participants that the original 15-day structure was too demanding of time and financial resources. The 2010 participants dedicated three five-day intervals in residence at their mentor’s studio. They were responsible for all their expenses including travel, lodging and tuition. For 2011 Balanced Body re-structured PTT so that applicants may elect to participate in 5-day increments.

In addition to the five-day residency model embraced by most mentors, I decided to add a new structure for seasoned instructors who live within driving distance of San Francisco. Mentees meet the last Friday of each month for five months. This structure enables the participants to maintain their studio clientele, live at home and reduce their financial commitment while allowing plenty of time to assimilate the material and complete their final projects.

The revised structure of PTT promises an increase in program participation throughout the United States and in Europe and some mentors have already established program themes.

For example, my group of bay area instructors will focus on developing skill in tactile cueing. In October 2011 I will offer a section of PTT in Tel Aviv, focusing on therapeutic applications of Pilates. Applicants are physical therapists and seasoned Pilates instructors who work with polytrauma clients.

With the new structure in place all of us who are mentoring in this wonderful program are very excited and looking forward to a fantastic 2011 season.

Learn more or apply for the Passing the Torch program »