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Ballet Talk for Dancers

How much does the background of a Pilates Teacher matter?


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I'm hoping to help dd incorporate Pilates into her training this year. I've found a group equipment class that is fairly near by, and it is affordable enough that I can send dd once a week. This instructor has a solid background in Stott Pilates, as well as a medical background. She has not, however, had any dance training of any variety. There's a possibility that there will be a dance focused class, at some point in the future at the same studio with an instructor coming from a contemporary dance and classical Pilates background (in which case the solution is obvious) but there is no concrete start date, and there is also a possibility that this will never materialize.


The other option is for DD to take private lessons, from someone who has an extensive background in ballet, and classical Pilates but the classes are much further away, and more expensive, since they are privates. I think a sustainable level of affordability and driving, would be once, perhaps twice a month at the absolute most.


In addition to the equipment classes, I've found a weekly matt class for her, which she enjoys and which she plans to do regardless of which of the other options she pursues.


I'm wondering which would be the most beneficial? Weekly classes that are delivered by someone without a ballet background, or monthly/possibly semi monthly classes from someone with a ballet background?

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My daughter has been taking reformer Pilates since she was 12. She's 20 now. It makes a gigantic difference. How old is your daughter and how much experience does she have with the reformer? The most important thing is to find a teacher who is good and knows how to teach the reformer exercises correctly and will work with your daughter to make sure she is doing it right. If you don't do it right, it does you no good and could hurt. I think the dance backround helps, but isn't totally necessary.


We did the privates once or twice a week for 2 years or so. She also did matt Pilates classes when she could. The privates were with a former SF Ballet dancer who definitely knew what she was doing. After my daughter had a couple years of good training, she was very comfortable doing group classes on the reformer. I know they are more expensive, but it was worth it to us. I'm wondering if you could combine the two? Take some privates with the ballet backround person and also with the other person?


I think either way, she will benefit. DD is going to get certified to teach next spring and may do a trip to Italy with the studio that does Pilates for her ballet Company. That's still a little up in the air, but sounds awesome. Good luck. I hope it works out!

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I cannot say enough to stress what a difference having a Pilates instructor with a dance background has made for my DD. It has been worth every penny for the privates. Her experience, education and wisdom have been invaluable.

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Thanks lorimac13 and buzzandmoo for your replies.


Buzzandmoo, my daughter had seen a highly regarded PT that specialized in hockey players before finding her current PT who specializes in dancers, and there has been a huge difference in the quality of recommendations, and understanding of what she was going through. This is why I was wondering if she might find the same to be true of Pilates instruction. It sounds like in your Dd's case, the dance background made a noticeable difference, which is what I had suspected might be the case.


Lorimac13, my dd is 13.5. I am quite confident that both instructors are competent, but to be honest, I'm not entirely certain because this is new territory for me. I am going primarily on their bios and background. The Stott Pilates instructor has years of Pilates experience in addition to being an MD. The classical Pilates instructor learned from Romana Kryzanowska, and danced professionally for a time. Both backgrounds seem pretty credible to me. Although DD has no experience with the reformer except for a handful of sessions this summer with the Stott Pilates teacher, she says that she finds the classes challenging and she gets numerous corrections. If I understand you correctly, from your daughter's experience, as long as the Pilates training is good quality, my daughter will reap significant benefits from this addition to her regime, even if the instructor doesn't have a dance background.


Your daughter's opportunity sounds exciting, by the way! Good luck to her in her new venture.


Really, I'm trying to decide between two decent choices, and I'm trying to decipher whether the consistency of a weekly class will be more beneficial over the long term, than more relevant and dance focused training that we could only give her once or twice a month. Our financial and schedule reality (mostly financial!), is that we really need to choose one or the other.

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I would at least try to do a few sessions with the dance background instructor. DDs work with one of their dance teachers who is also Pilates certified. She talks about nuances of the neutral spine as it relates to dancer needs because some Pilates instructors will teach this in a different manner that can be counterproductive for dancers (at least I think I'm explaining this correctly). No matter where DDs are training in the future she wants them to have this knowledge. (And that's as good as I get at explaining this!)

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My dd did not do the group classes at the age you mention - it was not possible for her at that time. She did do private classes in summers and felt that it really helped to have a teacher who understood ballet.


In later years she says that she was most comfortable taking Pilates with a former ballet dancer. In addition she feels most comfortable with the Fletcher Pilates method, and has now done some teacher training herself in Fletcher.


That said, one of her friends from ballet school has trained as a teacher with Stott.


So I guess I'm saying that, even with Pilates, one's experience really can vary depending on teacher/student match.

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Interesting topic as younger DD just had a session with a Pilates certified PT who has a dance background and who regularly works with dancers. I sat in on the session. The PT was able to connect what they were doing in the session with how it affects DD in ballet. She also used terminology interchangeably (between Pilates and ballet), which gave DD some "aha!" moments.


I would highly recommend someone with a dance background or at least someone who is familiar with or regularly works with dancers if you can find someone. After today, I feel like going out of our way to see this person was well worth it.

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I do think having the teacher with the ballet backround was better, but what I'm saying is - I think once or twice a month won't be worth much, so if the non dance teacher is the option for more regular classes and she is a good, sound teacher, I think she might benefit more. Without knowing any other facts about your dd or the teachers, I'd hate to give any other opinion. But I know only doing it once or twice a month won't help as much as doing it on a regular, weekly basis.


Kudos to you for getting her started. I think, other than excellent ballet and partnering training, Pilates has given my dd a huge advantage because she knows her body, she knows how to isolate and use the correct muscles and she is incredibly strong, without having bulky muscles. Either way, it will give your dd an advantage.


She will only get to go on the trip to Italy if it coordinates with the Company's lay-off. We will see...

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Lorimac13, you've answered the question that I was trying to ask, but having a hard time articulating. Thank you.


Based on everyone's replies, I think I will try to afford at least one or two private sessions with the dance background pilates teacher, and then have dd explain the difference between the two, and reserve my final decision until then. I will be sure to revive this thread to update on how the privates go, and let everyone know what kind of schedule we ultimately cobble together.

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  • 1 month later...

Here is the update that I promised.


We took the advice offered, and dd had a couple of private sessions with the ballet background instructor. Dd, said it was definitely the best Pilates instruction she has had, but only by a small margin. In the end, she decided that she was getting sufficient value and enough attention and corrections in the group classes to keep going to those instead. This decision was further solidified when she took a group equipment class with a different instructor, who in my dd's opinion, was not at all effective. It was nice for my dd to have a frame of reference to confirm that she is getting good instruction even if the teacher doesn't have a ballet background.


In my dd's opinion, the background of the pilates instructor is a bonus, but not absolutely essential. If one can find excellent instruction from someone who really knows Pilates, and is an effective teacher, and develop a consistent schedule, then the development and strength will definitely come.


Our current plan is to continue with the weekly group classes, and supplement with privates with the ballet background instructor as a treat a few times a year.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Pilates in general is a good thing, but pilates with a former (or current) ballet dancer is a great thing. My DD was very fortunate to get to take pilates with a former principal dancer. There's nothing quite like having someone who "gets it", and teachings pilates in a way that helps the dancer improve things like turn out, arabesque, etc.

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  • 3 months later...

I thought I'd revive this thread, and share my dd's experience now that she has been doing it for six months. She takes reformer classes once a week, with a Stott Pilates instructor, who comes from a medical background. It has been terrific for her. She is so much stronger than she was before, and is making huge strides in learning to control her long limbs. She raves about this teacher.


At this point, she has taken reformer classes with three different instructors, one of whom had a ballet background. She has also taken mat classes with two different people both of whom have a ballet background, and her she loves her current teacher the best. At first it seemed that the ballet background equipment teacher had a slight edge, but there have been little imbalances that her current instructor has noticed and is helping her to correct, that had been missed by every single other practitioner everywhere including physio therapists, and chiropractors.


So, our experience has been that the biggest, determining factor in quality of instruction is attention to detail. We only discovered this by taking the advice here, and taking a few classes with different instructors to find the right fit. This particular instructor doesn't let dd get away with anything. She makes incredibly detailed corrections, and that has made all the difference.

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mamabear - I'm so happy to hear this and I'm glad you have seen the difference it can make!! DD has started her mat certification classes and will continue until she's reformer certified. She absolutely loves it and it's a great plan B for later.


Best of luck to your dd!

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