Men, men, men, we need more men on Pilatesglossy! So I am very happy that Jeremy Laverdure (43) said YES. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did. By the way Jeremy Laverdure is co-owner of Sixth Street Pilates,a decade-old boutique Pilates studio in New York City’s East Village in New York City. (Anula Maiberg is the other owner. Anula is one of our bloggers.)
Jeremy: “My main, and perhaps only, tip is to approach Pilates as a practice. By this I mean that if you aren’t interested in what the system has to offer, but instead show up with a list of demands, you’re going to be disappointed.”
What do you think of Pilatesglossy?
I think it’s wonderful that you’ve created an aesthetically pleasing, intelligent online forum that gives Pilates teachers a chance to speak in depth to each other about the aspects of Pilates that are important to them. I love that instructors from all the different branches of the international Pilates family are included.
Even if the individual has been practicing Pilates for a long time, learning to do Pilates and learning to teach Pilates are two very different things.
What is your background?
I was a modern dancer and I’ve been teaching Pilates for about 13 years. I’m also finishing my last year of a 3-year doctoral program in Physical Therapy (Physiotherapy) here in New York City, so Pilates in rehabilitation settings is a big interest of mine. I co-own Sixth Street Pilates with Anula Maiberg. We’re a fully equipped studio offering private sessions and small group classes, located in Manhattan’s East Village. I am also co-founder of Movement Science Made Simple; a series of educational programs for Pilates instructors that Cara Reeser and I have devised over the last few years.
If we, as individual Pilates instructors and as a profession, don’t evolve then we’re going to find ourselves working at the margins of these discipline
How did you discover Pilates?
I came to Pilates by way of dancing, like many people. I started dancing late (in college) and my training was very eclectic, including not just dance class, but martial arts, yoga, and Alexander technique, among other things. I went to college in Boulder, Colorado and many of my friends were either teachers or teacher-trainees at The Pilates Center there. So that was my first exposure – taking sessions with these friends. I didn’t really start to do Pilates seriously until I was many years out of college, trying to make a living dancing professionally in New York. I then started to make it part of my training regimen.
What made you decide to make Pilates your profession (and open your own studio)?
To be honest, my motivation to start teaching Pilates was largely financial. My dance career was not taking off, and I was tired of working in restaurants to make ends meet. I wanted a “day job” where I could use some of the skills I had gleaned from my various movement practices, and where I could work with people’s bodies. Then, after I had been teaching for a few years, it became clear to me that I was ready to stop dancing altogether. I had been working at Sixth Street Pilates, which was founded by my friend Abby Crain. Around that time, she wanted to leave New York and I wanted to keep the studio going, so I bought it from her.
Where did you receive your Pilates education(s) and who was/were your teacher(s)?
When I decided to train as a Pilates instructor, I left New York City and went back to Colorado for a year so I could train at The Pilates Center, where I had first been exposed to Pilates. I was also drawn back to Colorado by the opportunity to study with Cara Reeser, a good friend who I had studied dance with and performed with while I was in college. I trained with many great teachers at The Pilates Center, including Debora Kolwey, Amy Lange, and Kim Haroche. And I took lessons with and observed Cara at her studio, Pilates Aligned. I also learned tons from the instructors she had at that time, Amy Trapani-Bowen and Deborah Matthews.
Do you still study the method and do you attend workshops?
I study with the teachers at my own studio and at Pilates Aligned when I’m in Denver. Unfortunately, being in graduate school, most of the continuing education I take these days is physical therapy related, rather than Pilates related. But I’m looking forward to the Pilates Method Alliance conference in November, where I’ll get a big dose of classes and workshops.
In the hands of a great teacher, the Wunda Chair illustrates all of the principles of Pilates very succinctly – it’s just your body, the springs, and a lot of space with not much surface to rest on.
What is your opinion about Traditional, Classical and Contemporary Pilates?
I hope I don’t offend anyone when I say I find those distinctions unhelpful and not very interesting. Pilates can do a lot of good for a lot of people, positioned as it is at the intersection of rehabilitation, prevention, and fitness. If we, as individual Pilates instructors and as a profession, don’t evolve then we’re going to find ourselves working at the margins of these disciplines. Other practitioners in fitness and rehabilitation are constantly adapting, basing their techniques on what works for their clients and what is in line with current science, and we need to get with the program. All that being said, I think that if you’re going to call yourself a Pilates instructor or use Pilates as a rehabilitation professional, you need to be familiar with the entire system and all of the equipment. To me, this includes a good familiarity with the original exercises.
Nowadays people call themselves a Pilates trainer after one weekend course or a Pilates workshop. What is your opinion about that?
It’s absurd. My sense is that many of these people haven’t been practicing Pilates for very long. It’s like wanting to be a piano teacher after taking only a few piano lessons yourself. Even if the individual has been practicing Pilates for a long time, learning to do Pilates and learning to teach Pilates are two very different things.
What Pilates apparatus and exercise is your favorite?
I’m very fond of the Wunda Chair, because I’ve been lucky to have some teachers who were really fantastic with it. In the hands of a great teacher, the Wunda Chair illustrates all of the principles of Pilates very succinctly – it’s just your body, the springs, and a lot of space with not much surface to rest on.
Tendon Stretch on the Reformer. You really have to cooperate with the Reformer, rather than fighting it, and this exercise teaches that concept to students in a really tangible way. It also gives students the chance to be upside-down in a kind of scary position. And it looks spectacular, but most students can master it once they get in tune with the equipment.
Did you start your own educational program?
Cara Reeser and I are in the ongoing process of developing an educational program called Movement Science Made Simple. The genesis of the program was that as I began studying anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology in depth in graduate school, I realized how clever the exercises Cara teaches are, particularly the ones she learned from Kathy Grant. I proposed to her that we develop some courses using movement science to illuminate Cara’s vocabulary of exercises, and vice-versa. I should say here that Cara also has a pretty great understanding of anatomy and kinesiology from her years of sharing her studio with a physical therapist and from her studies with master anatomist Irene Dowd. So I’m by no means the only one contributing to the science part of the discussion.
Pilates is a tool for a lifetime, and as Pilates instructors we get to have a relationship with our students that is very rare, I think.
Did you solve any of your own body issues or do you keep them under control with Pilates?
The less time I have to exercise and take care of my body, the more I need and want Pilates as part of my regimen. I can keep up my strength, endurance, and flexibility in other ways, but Pilates (the system, but especially the equipment) gives me a way to manage the chronic places in my body that would develop pain if neglected. I can undo days of sitting in lectures and in front of computers with just an hour of Pilates. Using Pilates in this way, as many of my clients do, has really increased my appreciation for the Method!
Do you teach more male or female clients?
At Sixth Street, we pride ourselves on reaching male clients. My personal clientele is close to 50/50.
What would be your top 5 tips for Pilates students and/or newbies?
My main, and perhaps only, tip is to approach Pilates (or yoga, or any other kind of complex movement system) as a practice. By this I mean that if you aren’t interested in what the system has to offer, but instead show up with a list of demands, you’re going to be disappointed. Prepare to be unsuccessful at the beginning and to not understand everything. If you’ve come to Pilates because you want result X or result Y, but aren’t curious to learn anything about yourself or your body, you might be in the wrong place. I’m not selling Pilates very well, am I?
What do you tell people if they ask you what Pilates is? How does it differ from yoga for example?
I usually say something like: Pilates is a system of full-body exercises that is infinitely adaptable, making it appropriate for rehabilitation as well as high-level training. If someone has a specific question about Pilates vs. yoga, I mention the equipment, say that the movements of Pilates and yoga have a lot of similarities, and say that I think the two systems complement each other very well. Beyond that, I try not to generalize about Pilates or yoga, but just encourage the individual to try both.
Pilates transforms bodies (and minds). Can you explain how that works for you and your clients?
Cara has said, and I agree, that the things that make Pilates Pilates are the equipment and the environment, which she says describes as a cross between a gym and the doctor’s office. To me, the space that we create for ourselves and our clients is the most therapeutic aspect of this practice. We have a chance to turn our attention inward, calm down our nervous system, and move our bodies with literal (from the equipment) and metaphorical (from our teacher) support. I think great movement practices have this in common, and this environment is what I sometimes see as missing from conventional (i.e., medical) rehabilitation settings.
What makes a Pilates teacher a better Pilates teacher?
At Sixth Street, Anula and I are constantly telling new teachers to say less. This is partly because we want them to look more, and partly because we want them to trust the students to figure out the movement. We hire new teachers out of a variety of training programs, and across the board they over-cue. And across the board, they talk less as they become more experienced (even without us telling them). This, to me, shows that an intelligent teacher will over time realize that a single, specific correction aimed at a single, specific student is more helpful than a constant stream of instructions and images.
What do you like the most about teaching Pilates?
I feel really privileged to work with my students over the course of years, being a part of their relationship with their bodies as they go through good times and bad. I have students who have been coming to me for as long as I’ve been teaching, and I’ve seen them raise kids, bury parents, begin and end relationships, and go through illnesses and injuries. And we’ve all been aging as we go along. Pilates is a tool for a lifetime, and as Pilates instructors we get to have a relationship with our students that is very rare, I think.
Please tell us more about your own practice.
I try to do some Pilates on my own every day that I’m teaching. It may only be for half an hour, but I’m a much better teacher if I have the movement freshly in my body. I take complete sessions when instructors at my studio whenever I can. I also run, lift weights, and practice yoga. At this point it’s a little bit of everything – I don’t have a lot of time or energy left over after work and school, so often I just have to tell myself I’ll do whatever is most appealing that day, rather than trying to stick to a program. Some days, the appealing thing is Pilates. Some days it’s deadlifts and squats at the gym.
Will you keep on practicing and teaching Pilates? What is your (Pilates)dream and your goal in life?
I imagine I’ll keep practicing and teaching Pilates, and that I’ll keep practicing and teaching other things as well. My interest is in movement. I need to move to maintain my own fitness and happiness, and I coach my students to move for their own fitness and happiness. At any given moment, I try to move as well as I can, and coach my students to move as well as they can. I find the Pilates equipment and some of the original Pilates exercises tremendously helpful. And I love some of the non-traditional Pilates exercise I have learned along the way. I also practice movements and exercises that aren’t recognizable as Pilates, and I teach those to my students as well. My dream is that I’ll keep learning and my students will keep learning, that we’ll all stay curious, and that movement will enrich our lives.
What is your favorite Pilates quote?
My favorite Pilates quote isn’t from Mr. Pilates. I hope that’s ok. It’s from Kathy Grant, by way of Cara Reeser, and it’s directed at Pilates teachers. It’s second-hand, so if I mess it up a little, no one on the Internet kill me, please. But it’s basically: Why are you going to give the same cue to someone who lives uptown as someone who lives downtown? In New York City, the words “uptown” and “downtown” carry a lot of meaning, and my interpretation of this quote is: Why would you give the same image or instruction to two different students who have two totally different frames of reference? Each student learns differently, and as teachers it is our job to find the right words to convey our meaning to each student. Even if that means 100 different ways of describing something to 100 different people.
Is there a Pilates book you like to recommend to our readers?
I have some books that aren’t Pilates books to recommend. For Pilates students and teachers alike, I recommend Todd Hargrove’s A Guide to Better Movement. He’s a Feldenkrais practitioner, and this book is a good introduction to why any kind of conscious movement is good for you. For Pilates instructors, I recommend David Butler and Lorimer Moseley’s Explain Pain. Very often our students are in pain, and we can be much more helpful if we have some understanding of how pain works in the brain.
Are you available for bookings in the Netherlands?
Here’s a little information about Movement Science Made Simple. Booking information and descriptions of individual courses can be found at www.movementsciencemadesimple.com (or will be after November 3rd – our web site is under construction and will be online in a few days).
About Movement Science Made Simple:
As Pilates teachers, our tools are demonstration, touch, and language. To be effective teachers our demonstration must be fully embodied, our touch supportive, and our language direct or poetic as needed. Movement Science Made Simple joins current concepts in anatomy, kinesiology, and motor learning with time-tested movement training strategies, giving workshop participants new skills to work with diverse client populations.
The MSMS Lectures draw on Jeremy’s graduate studies in anatomy, physiology and kinesiology and Cara’s experience as a dance educator and second-generation Pilates teacher. To the Lab, we bring our decades of practicing and teaching Pilates, a deep practice of Yoga, and years of tutelage under such movement visionaries as Kathleen Stanford Grant, Irene Dowd, Barbara Mahler, and Nancy Topf.
Cara Reeser is the owner of Pilates Aligned in Denver, Colorado. She holds a BA in Dance from Sarah Lawrence College and an MFA in Dance from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. It was at NYU that Cara began her initial studies in the Pilates Method with first generation Master Teacher, Kathleen Stanford Grant. Cara continued to study with her mentor, Ms. Grant, until her death in 2010. In 1993, Cara moved to Boulder, Colorado where she continued her Pilates training at The Pilates Center. After certification, Cara taught at the Center for six years and it was during this time that she began to develop her own work, greatly influenced by her teacher, Kathy Grant. As a second-generation Pilates instructor and lineage carrier of the Kathy Grant work, Cara is a well-respected and highly sought-after member of the worldwide Pilates industry. In addition, she has served on the faculty of Naropa University, where she taught courses in dance and movement studies. Cara has also been a serious student of Yoga for more than 8 years, helping to round out her own knowledge of mind-body science.
Jeremy Laverdure is co-owner of Sixth Street Pilates, a decade-old boutique Pilates studio in New York City’s East Village. Jeremy’s teaching is informed by his training at The Pilates Center of Boulder, his many years as a yogi and dancer, and his studies of Klein Technique with Barbara Mahler. While he continues to enjoy working with all types of client, Jeremy has developed a special interest in teaching Pilates and Yoga instructors, bringing a broad-based movement studies approach to these disciplines. Jeremy is also a student in Hunter College’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program and will graduate in 2016.