Cheers to Romana, My Mentor.
I started my Pilates Journey in London England with a brilliant teacher named Peter Curtis at Laban Centre. As a young, injured dancer Pilates became my drug of choice. I took class everyday. I heard the stories about Joe Pilates in England and yes even across the pond they talked about Romana.
When I returned to the States I started studying under Pilates elder Mary Bowen and got my first certification from Physicalmind Institute. I heard the name Romana again. At another certification course I took through a contemporary system I overheard a woman talking about Drago’s Gym and Romana Kryzanowska, 411 was still a thing in the 1990’s so I immediately called. A man with a thick accent answered, It was Drago himself, and I asked how I could get to take class with legendary Romana.
Even though I had already been practicing Pilates and teaching it for several years I had to take another 75 hours of lessons before I could audtion to be in her certification program. But I wanted it so bad. She was the lifeforce of Mr. Pilates.and I knew I had to meet her. I diligently practiced seal into standing, my boomerang and snake with twist on the mat and the reformer.
Even after all the hard work I was still nervous the first time I went to 50 West 57th Street. I was so scared. sweat dripped down my neck as I rode the elevator up. When I got off I was a little disappointed, it wasn’t at all like the picture I had in my head. There was a small waiting area with several apprentices quietly chatting and Drago sat behind a cluttered desk eating Greek Yogurt. Around the corner at the end of approximately eight shiny silver reformers lined up neatly in a row with a older women in royal blue spandex swinging above them I saw her spotting a women in Tendon Stretch. She wore a blue silk tunic and little wedge heels, was shorter than I imagined.
When it was my turn to audition I started with footwork waiting for her to yell out a correction, Nothing. It wasn’t actually till I made it past the hundred and into Coordination that she sternly told me to “squeeze the juice out of it.” I didn’t understand what she meant at the time.
As I performed my teaser she yelled “Squeeze your inner thighs more.” I thought I had failed but when I looked at her, in her beautiful eyes there was a sparkle of love. Her corrections were her affection.
I was so fortunate to have gotten to take the Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced seminar twice with her. Once before getting pregnant with my daughter and then again after she was born. To complete my 600 hours which ended up being 800 I would wake up extra early and make it to the gym for 7:00 am so I could watch Romana teach.
She didn’t just instruct me to teach Pilates, to ‘get out of my wrists’ and ‘get out of my neck.’ She didn’t just help me understand how to put it all in my “powerhouse.” She taught me passion, she taught me discipline and she taught me there is nothing wrong with a glass of Champaign when there is something to celebrate.
Teaching true to the way Joe taught which I was fortunate enough to learn from the only person that really knew how or could do so has been very important to me. I am passionate about keeping the legacy of ‘Uncle Joe’ alive. But bringing the system that healed my own body to a great amount of people is also important to me. Pilates is powerful medicine that needs to be shared. I do feel that as long as we are clear what is “the way Joe did it,” and “based on Joe’s teaching.” There is a place for both.
So tonight I celebrate my mentor, Romana and say cheers to Classical Pilates which I will teach tomorrow, exactly the way Romana would have wanted it in my own small studio in Midlothian on traditional Gratz equipment. And early on Monday morning I rise before dawn to share with a group of twelve people lined up on twelve very new modern reformers strategically placed next to twelve large blue Bosu’s (Romana’s favorite color) and long TRX straps hanging off to the side of each one that what we are doing is based in the teachings of the man, the legend but not the myth – because Joe Pilates was real. And Romana was “the real deal.”