The Pilates Elders

The Original Students of Joseph Pilates

Joseph Pilates works with a client in 1961.
Joseph Pilates works with a client in 1961. C Rapoport/Getty Images

The title of Pilates elder is applied to people who were original students of Joseph Pilates, creator of the Pilates Method of Exercise. There were just a few original students who went on to found their own studios and teach the Pilates Method. Several of them are very well known names in Pilates today, and most Pilates teachers can trace their "lineage" back to one of these original students.

Who are the Pilates Elders?

Often called "the elders," the people usually included in a list of the original instructors are:

  • Clara Pilates (1883 - 1977): As the wife of Joseph Pilates she worked closely with Joe for many years. She continued to teach and run the studio after his death.
  • Romana Kryzanowska (1923 - 2013): A close student of Joseph Pilates, Kryzanowska took over as director of Joseph Pilates studio a few years after he passed away. Romana is one of the most well known and highly regarded keepers of the classical Pilates tradition.​​
    An Appreciation of Pilates Elder and Master Romana Kryzanowska
    Read Romana on Teaching Pilates
    Review: Romana's Pilates Powerhouse Mat Workout DVD
  • Mary Bowen (1930 - ): Became a Jungian Analyst but continued to study Pilates with Joseph Pilates and other of his students. She continues to teach Pilates.
    Mary Bowen, Pilates, and Psyche
    Mary Bowen - Pilates on a Deeper Level
    Mary Bowen's Website
  • Robert Fitzgerald: Opened his own studio in New York City.
  • Ron Fletcher (1921 - 2011): Ron Fletcher was a dancer with the Martha Grahm dance company. He opened a Pilates studio in L.A. and went on to develop his own Pilates style which is now known as Fletcher Work.
    Exploring Fletcher Pilates - how Ron Fletcher developed his style of Pilates.
    Learn Ron's Clock, a Fletcher Pilates breathing exercise
    Ron Fletcher's Website
  • Eve Gentry (1909 - 1994): Was a dancer who, like Ron Fletcher, brought her dance training into her work as a Pilates teacher thereby expanding the Pilates teachings. She developed her own "pre-Pilates" approach, calling it The Gentry Method. In 1991 she was one of the founders of the Institute for the Pilates Method.
  • Kathy Grant (1921 - 2010): One of only two students who was actually certified to teach Pilates by Joseph Pilates himself, Kathy Grant taught Pilates at the Tisch School of the Arts in New York City, holding a faculty position there since 1988. She passed away May, 27, 2010
  • Jay Grimes: Another dancer, Jay Grimes studied extensively with Joseph Pilates and with Clara Pilates after Joe's death. He also studied with Romana Kryzanowska and eventually taught with her. He continues to teach Pilates.
  • Bruce King: Was a member of the Merce Cunningham dance company. He opened a Pilates studio in New York City.
  • Lolita San Miguel (1934 - : She was certified to teach Pilates by Joseph Pilates and taught for many years. She continues to teach Pilates.
    Lolita San Miguel's Masters Program Introduced
    Lolita San Miguel's Website
  • Carola Trier (1913 - 2000): Was the first person to open her own Pilates studio with Joseph Pilates' personal blessing.

Learn more about how the Elders shaped the way Pilates spread through the world. 

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