History of the Pilates Method:
In 1926, Joseph and Clara Pilates, German immigrants, arrived in New York City. Joe Pilates was a gymnast and pugilist who had creative, indeed brilliant, ideas about physical fitness and rehabilitation following physical injury. In a British internment camp during World War I, Pilates rigged a hospital bed so that patients could begin their recovery while still flat on their backs. That idea evolved into a machine which Joe Pilates eventually named the "Cadillac," one of the main components of what was to become Pilates method of exercise. Although Pilates first called his exercise "contrology," that name never stuck. Mr. Pilates surname did.
By the 1940's Pilates both the man and his exercises had begun to achieve notoriety in the dance community. "At some time or other," reported Dance magazine in its February, 1956 issue, "virtually every dancer in New York, and certainly everyone who has studied at Jacob's Pillow between 1939 and 1951, has meekly submitted to the spirited instruction of Joe Pilates."
In the late 50s, one of the Pilateses students, Carola Trier, opened up her own studio to teach the method she had learned from Joe and Clara Pilates, combining it with her own knowledge. Joe Pilates assisted Trier in opening her studio and the Pilateses and Trier remained close friends until the respective deaths of Joe and Clara. Thus, by the late 50s, Joe Pilates studio on Eighth Avenue in New York was not the only "Pilates" studio in town.
During the 1960's, a group of Pilates followers formed the Pilates Foundation for Physical Fitness, Inc., in order to promote the work of Joe and Clara Pilates. Although Joe Pilates initially resisted the formation of an organization bearing his name (as shown by correspondence and other documents), Pilates followers persisted and the organization was formed. However, no agreements of any kind were negotiated for the use of the Pilates name. At some point not long after its inception, the Pilates Foundation faltered, and little is known about what, if anything, was accomplished.
Joe passed away in 1968, leaving no will and designating no successors to carry on his work. Nevertheless Clara Pilates continued to operate what was by then being referred to as the "The Pilates Studio" on Eighth Avenue in New York. (During Joe Pilates life, the studio did not bear this name.) Romana Kryzanowska became the director of The Pilates Studio in the early 1970's, after Clara found herself unable to continue.
Other students of Joe and Clara opened their own studios following Joe Pilates death. Ron Fletcher was a Martha Graham dancer who began studying with Joe Pilates in the 1940's in connection with a chronic knee ailment. In 1970, Clara gave Ron her blessing to carry on the "Pilates" work and name after he told her he wished to relocate to Los Angeles and open a studio there. Fletchers studio was located at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive, a very prominent location which not only attracted many Hollywood stars, but brought notoriety to Pilates as a method of exercise and fitness. In fact, much of the notoriety earned by the "Pilates Method" in the 1970s and 1980s is directly attributable to Mr. Fletcher and his famous clientele. In 1978, Fletcher published a book, entitled Every Body is Beautiful, which described his work as innovations to and advancements in the "Pilates" work, inspired both by his years as a Martha Graham dancer and by another mentor, Yeichi Nimura.
Kathy Grant and Lolita San Miguel were also students of Joe and Clara Pilates who went on to teach the Pilates method. Grant became the director of the Pilates studio in Henri Bendels of New York in 1972, while San Miguel went on to teach Pilates at the Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rica in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 1967, just before Joes death, both Grant and San Miguel were awarded degrees by the State University of New York to teach "Pilates." These two are the only "Pilates" practitioners known to have been officially "certified" by Joe Pilates.
Other students of Joe and Clara opened their own studios. These include:
(1) Eve Gentry, a dancer who taught at Joe Pilates studio in New York from 1938 through 1968, also taught the Pilates method in the early 1960's in the Theater Department at New York University, and was a founding member of Pilates Foundation for Physical Fitness, Inc. After Gentry left New York, she opened her own Pilates studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Gentry was a charter faculty member of the High School for the Performing Arts, as well as a cofounder of the Dance Notation Bureau. In 1979, she was given the "Pioneer of Modern Dance" Award by Bennington College.
(2) Bruce King, who trained for many years with Joseph and Clara Pilates, was a member of the Merce Cunningham Company, the Alwyn Nikolais Company, and his own Bruce King Dance Company. In the mid-1970's King opened his own Pilates studio at 160 W. 73rd Street in New York City.
(3) Mary Bowen, a Jungian analyst who studied with Joe in the mid-1960's, began teaching the Pilates method in 1975 and founded "Your Own Gym" in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she continues to teach the Pilates method today.
(4) Robert Fitzgerald opened his Pilates studio on West 56th Street in the 60s, where had a large clientele from the dance community.
By 1980, "Pilates" as a method of exercise had become sufficiently widespread to justify Doubleday & Companys publication of The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning, a book by Philip Friedman and Gail Eisen.
During the 80's Pilates was growing slowly, but steadly all over the country. In 1989, the original Pilates studio under the direction of Wee Tai Hom, (Healite Inc.) went out of business, but Pilates was alive and well.
In 1992, Healite Inc. transferred all of its assets to Sean Gallagher. Gallagher went on an eight year attempt to prevent Pilates practitioners from using the Pilates name claiming trademark rights. Those were very disturbing times in the history of the method, but the Pilates community faught to liberate the name and a federal judge decided in October 2000 Gallagher had no such rights and the Pilates name was returned to the public domain