Ann faced forward with a look of total concentration as Susan, her instructor, watched closely. With the precision of a dance teacher, Susan allowed no movement to lose perfection of form. No motion, no slackening of muscle escaped Susan’s attention, though to any untrained eye nothing would ever appear amiss as Ann performed the controlled movements, as she has done faithfully for seven years. Though both were clearly enjoying themselves, so great was their dedication that I wished I could silence the clicks of my shutter for fear of intruding on their work. I felt I should tiptoe, as if in a library filled with great scholars. Watching Ann, and the great strength and physical skill that a study of Pilates (alongside other exercise) has afforded her, I couldn’t help but envy her position as Susan’s client. I thought how I myself could benefit from Susan’s instruction, how I might be less sore after photoshoots if I had that kind of strength and control while spending hours balancing in awkward positions holding five pounds of camera and glass. So great was Susan’s teaching and so wonderful the results, I was ready to sign up for my own private lessons right then and there.
Susan explains that Pilates is an “ultimate cross-training resource, because as a body discipline, it can help you regardless of whetheer you’re a runner, or a triathlete, or whether you play tennis or golf….you can use Pilates to enhance those other athletic endeavors, because it creates a new awareness and a new control in your body that you might not have otherwise.” However, Pilates is not for just the very athletic or the already-fit. Clients of Pure Pilates have all body types and many different goals with their Pilates work. That is the beauty of the Pure Pilates studio – emphasizing one-on-one training (with some semi-private options available), everyone can get exactly the training they need no matter where their body is. Susan adds that she has clients with hip replacements, herniated discs, arthritis, plates and rods in their bodies, and other conditions that require special care. “We can give them a workout that is individually appropriate.”
In fact, the ability to work with people of all kinds was one of the reasons Susan became a Pilates instructor. Susan was a ballet dancer for 20 years, beginning when she was 7 years old. She also taught at the Westport Ballet School and eventually became the director of the school. One year, at a teacher workshop in Seattle, she recalls watching ballet classes and having a realization. “It sounds terrible,” she says, but she was “tired of looking at perfect bodies.” She wanted to be involved with movement, but working with all kinds of people, doing something that would benefit everyone. She had practiced Pilates on her own for some time, and ended up deciding to move to Chicago to study the teaching of Pilates full-time under the umbrella of Romana Kryzanowska, a protege of Joseph Pilates himself. Pilates has become popularized in recent years, but Susan likens the practice to a game of “telephone” – with each degree of separation away from Pilates himself, elements have been lost or embellished. (All three teachers at Pure Pilates have studied in Kryzanowska’s programs, so that they are as close to the source as possible.) To become a Pilates teacher, she had to demonstrate her own proficiency at the work, and then she spent 7 months in Chicago finishing the teacher training. She has been teaching Pilates for 9 years, starting in her home. Of this brave shift from the ballet world to running her own Pilates business she says “When I really know something, I don’t question, I don’t go back and forth with “what if this, what if that,” I just know it’s what I have to do….If you really know something and you truly believe you have the vehicle to do it, then you do it.”
Administrative work at the ballet school had prepared her for running her own business, though she attributes much of business success to “people skills.” Everyone comes in with a different personality and learning style, and being able to teach each person in the way they need to learn is the great challenge of running a business like hers. Along with developing people skills, her advice to other business owners is to “know your market, and don’t try to be everything to everybody.” Certainly, she could have shaped her business differently to serve more people rather than focusing on one or a few clients at a time. But trying to serve everyone “just dilutes your message, and it dilutes your ability to focus in and do what you’re really good at.” Clearly identifying what market you’re attempting to serve and serving it very well, she explains, is better than trying to be the jack of all trades and master of none.
Susan speaks of her work with confidence and her clients with fondness. As we talked, she sat with effortlessly good posture, supporting herself surely as she teaches her clients to. One need only to stand outside the glass storefront of Pure Pilates for a few minutes to be convinced of the individual attention and intensity lavished upon each client. I had intended only to photograph the first portion of her client work, but became so absorbed in watching them work I couldn’t help but stay for the duration of Ann’s appointment. Because I only photographed one client, I feel compelled to emphasize that Pilates is not just for women. Susan relates that Joseph Pilates originally worked only with men – wrestlers, boxers, and circus performers. Thus, no matter who you are – male, female, triathlete, sedentary office worker, etc – and no matter what your fitness level, Pure Pilates can work with you to increase your fitness and strength. And as you’ll soon begin to see in these images, the results are amazing.
Pure Pilates Details:
Where is it? Pure Pilates is located in Brookside, at 6310 Brookside Plaza, Kansas City, MO 64113
Where can I find more information? http://www.purepilateskc.com/
How can I schedule an appointment? Just call (816) 822-8991.
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