Olga Tamara is Director of the Authentic Pilates Studio and Principal Teacher Trainer – Authentic Pilates Education Australia.
Olga has been working in the health and body movement industry on and off for the past 40 years. She was a professional classical dancer with the Australian Ballet Company from 1971 to 1976. She danced on stage with greats such as Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev and danced in the Australian Ballet’s film production of “Don Quixote”. After leaving the Ballet Company, Olga opened “Designing Moves” teaching body conditioning classes and movement classes to aspiring young actors as well as working as a freelance dance teacher and choreographer. Olga completed a fitness training course in 1985 and went on to practicing Pilates in the late 90’s and became a New York Pilates and Romana’s Pilates Certified Instructor in 2003. She also holds the government accredited Diploma of Professional Pilates Instruction 91491NSW. Olga opened her Pilates studio in 2005 and launched the Authentic Pilates Education teacher training program in 2011. Olga has been the Vice President of the Pilates Alliance Australasia for the past four years and has been instrumental in organising their successful Bi Annual Conferences. At the age of 63, Olga shows no signs of slowing down. In 2006, was invited to perform as guest artist in the Sydney season of Giselle. Her performance as “Bertha” marked Olga’s first appearance with the company in 30 years. Olga continues to perform character roles as a guest artist with the Australian Ballet Company.
When and why did you start practicing Pilates?
I was first introduced to Pilates as a young dancer with the Australian Ballet Company. It was purely mat work at that stage but it really helped strengthen and center my body. When I left the ballet company I tried many other forms of exercise. I disliked the gym environment and Yoga for me, was like watching paint dry. Over the years I trained in a few different Pilates studios. It wasn’t until I experienced Classical Pilates in the late 90’s that I really found the true essence of Pilates. It was exactly what I was looking for.
Where did you receive your Pilates education(s) and who was/were your teacher(s)?
I initially trained in Sydney at the “Pilates Method Studio” owned by Cynthia Lochard. Cynthia introduced me to the Classical Method and I was hooked! The quality of teaching and coherence of the method inspired me to do the course and by 2003 I was certified in the “New York Pilates Method” and “Romana’s Pilates”.
Do you participate in workshops on a regular basis?
Yes, workshops and continuing education are an essential part of growth for all instructors. This discovery and learning process never ends and we need to keep learning from each other.
What workshop inspired you the most?
During the early years I was fortunate enough to do continuing education workshops with the likes of Romana Kryzanowska, Sari and Jay Grimes during their Australian visits. These were unforgettable learning experiences. Other memorable workshops for me over the years were delivered by Brooke Siler (she has amazing hands on techniques), Kathi Ross Nash (she’s a fire ball and challenges like no other!), MeJo Wiggin (her energy is so infectious) and Brett Howard (who is very methodical and delivers great pathology workshops). Watching Peter Fiasca workout is inspirational. His line and placement is close to perfection and it always looks effortless. When Simona Cipriani comes to Australia, I always ask her to take one of the training seminars. Simona has been teacher training for many years and really inspires our students. All of the above are of course advocates of the Classical Method yet they are all so different in approach, which I love.
What made you decide to make Pilates your profession?
It felt so right in my body. I wanted others to experience the same. I had been teaching Dance, Movement and Body Conditioning so with the accumulative experience I had gathered over my 20 years of teaching various forms of movement the time was right. The older, wiser and more experienced we become the more we have to offer. I felt I had something to offer and it just all made sense. From a practical business perspective, I knew, that I would never be in financial position to retire. Not that I had or have any desire to retire! I will be doing this for the rest of my life or as long as I’m able!
Do you own a studio (or multiple studio’s)?
I have my one studio in Sydney Australia where I teach my apprentice teachers as well as regular clients with the assistance of 5 other wonderful instructors. My studio is fully equipped with combination of GRATZ and Basil Pilates Equipment. One piece of equipment is missing. I hope to finally get a Guillotine by Christmas. It’s not essential but I just HAVE TO HAVE IT!
What did you have to invest (people, time, money) to get your studio running?
I initially invested approximately €28,000 into my equipment and studio set up. Buying equipment from overseas suppliers and shipping it to Australia is an exorbitant cost. The transport and duty we pay is astronomical. It took approximately 12 months from conception to reality. When the doors opened I had 1 client. That was a scary time! My marketing skills were not very good back then (and I’m embarrassed to say they haven’t improved much) but word of mouth is a powerful tool. Slowly and steadily my clientele grew and I finally I had enough funds to invest in a few more pieces of equipment. I’m very fortunate to now have a beautiful fully equipped studio with a number of long standing clients who have been with me since my doors opened in 2005.
What is your favorite brand of apparatus?
There is no question, GRATZ and Basil Pilates equipment for me. It wins hands down. The dimensions work so well and I love the gutsiness of the equipment. It challenges.
What Pilates apparatus is your favorite and why?
The Cadillac is my favorite piece of equipment because of its versatility. It can be used to do the mat repertoire with spring resistance, reformer exercises as well as the delicious Cadillac repertoire! If I could only have one piece of equipment I guess it would have to win hands down.
What Pilates exercise is your favorite and why?
I love most exercise on the Cadillac but particularly Rolling in an Out, Rolling Stomach massage, Eagle, bottom loaded Teaser, Push Through. I love the fluidity of these exercises and the range of movement through the body. They incorporate wonderful articulation of the spine in flexion and extension. Love to finish off with Hip Stretch, Tower and Monkey.
Do you experience difficulties keeping your clients because of the current economic crisis?
I haven’t seen a decline in my long standing clients. They are serious about their well being and take their Pilates seriously. Many new potential clients however are out there looking for a cheaper option. There are many mass group mat and reformer classes out there especially in gyms that offer ridiculously cheap prices that we can’t possibly compete with. Nor do we want to compete. It’s more about quality than quantity and when a client received good training in any Pilates studio they recognize it.
Did you start your own educational program?
Many years ago I struggled to get “Classical Pilates” instructors who were available to work in my studio. Anyone who had completed their training was either from interstate, overseas or had already been recruited by another studio. Contemporary Pilates had and still has a strong hold on the Pilates industry and I just felt compelled to start my own training program in the Classical method in the hope of not only employing good Instructors who knew the method, but to help keep the Classical (Authentic) method alive in Australia. Our course is comprehensive from beginner to advanced level. It takes anywhere between 12 to 18 months to complete depending on the hours the students are able to commit to on a weekly basis. Like most good quality training courses, they need to study anatomy and complete observation, self-mastery and assistant teaching hours on a regular basis. It’s intensive and requires a great deal of commitment.
Did you solve body issues or do you keep them under control with Pilates?
I would not be able to maintain a healthy back without Pilates. I had a back injury while dancing in the 70’s and it gives me grief at times especially if I’ve spent many hours at the computer doing administration. I need to get on the reformer immediately. Sometimes it just takes the footwork, hundred and short spine before its back to normal. Pilates is my saviour!
Do you have a target market?
My clients are all so varied in age, shape, size, and at varying levels of Pilates experience. Interesting people from all walks of life come into the studio proving that Pilates is for everyone.
How many lessons do you teach a week?
The hours vary depending on season but I teach 5 days in the week. Many extra hours are spent on administration, which is not something I look forward to.
What is your purpose in teaching workshops?
My purpose in teaching workshops is to introduce instructors from various methods of Pilates, the system and technique of the Classical Method. There are more and more Pilates Instructors discovering the benefits of the Classical work and I would like to continue spreading the word. A memorable moment for me in my studio was when I was taking an experienced instructor for a private session. After an hour session, the instructor turned to me with tears in her eyes. When I asked her if she was ok her reply was, “I just feel so embarrassed, I have been teaching Pilates for 8 years now and never knew it could feel like this. It just makes sense to me now.” I have never forgotten those words.
Is your focus more on private, duets or trio sessions, or do you prefer to teach mat group classes?
I focus more on private or duet sessions. I only take trios or quads if they are experienced and know the work. We don’t really teach just mat classes in the studio. That’s not to say that I won’t introduce mat classes because there certainly is a demand for it. My studio is being extended and so hopefully in the New Year we will have more space dedicated to a mat area for classes.
Who is your favorite person that you would love to teach a Pilates class?
There is no particular person however to teach any professional sports person or dancer is a dream. I love to analyse their strengths and weaknesses, what is required both strength and movement wise in their profession and see how we can work together to improve their performance.
In Europe there are more female Pilates trainers than male. How is that in your country and more specific in your area?
Oh, it’s a dilemma isn’t it? WANTED – MALE PILATES INSTRUCTORS! Joseph was a man creating Pilates for men. Where have they all gone? I had one male in my last intake of Pilates apprentices. He is now fully certified and has no problems securing work. He is currently freelancing in four studios including mine. I would love to have more male Instructors so we could inspire more men to come in for Pilates training. So many men see Pilates as a female thing to do. We need to break the drought! More male apprentices please!
What is your opinion about the future of Pilates?
I do hope the traditional work as we know it survives. It would be sad to see it watered right down or become a gym class on wheels. Large companies are buying gyms and investing in 20 to 40 or more portable reformers offering gym members a number of classes per week for a small fee. For people that don’t know the difference between these large group classes and what a Pilates studio offers, it makes more sense to them economically to join the gym. Unfortunately when they lose interest due to lack of instruction or poor results, they say, “Pilates doesn’t work for me”. That’s usually because they haven’t been doing Pilates.
What is your own vision of Pilates?
I would like to see more Pilates taught to children so they grow up with it and reap the benefits as they get older. Not all children want to be or can be a top athlete or dancer but they can all do Pilates. Apart from the strength, flexibility and coordination they derive from it they also learn to be disciplined, an important lesson for anyone.
What is the biggest insight Pilates gave you?
My own personality. My impatient nature. Working so closely with individual clients for so many years, I have had to learn to be very patient and listen!
Which Pilates word you rather not use?
I can’t think of any Pilates word that particularly bothers me. Finding a “word” to indicate what it is you want from a client or the area of the body they need to focus on is a quick way of cuing when in they’re in mid motion. In some instances there’s no time for lengthy instruction or description. You just need to emphasize that “word” and get on with it.
Did you change things about your teaching or would you like to?
We all have different personalities that differentiate our style of teaching and we need to make it our own. As we learn we evolve and changes are a result of that. I advise my apprentices that when they become teachers, “keep learning and evolving as an instructor but try not to change your style to teach like others. If you do, it’s not you, it’s not coming from you.
What is your opinion about the Classical, Authentic Pilates and the contemporary approach?
I am classically trained but I have tried some interesting exercises from the contemporary approach. In most cases though, the technique differs dramatically and the focus in contemporary or clinical Pilates is more on isolation rather than integration. In Classical Pilates, we like to keep the body moving and experience a continuous flow of energy and movement through the workout. That’s what Classical Pilates is. It’s a workout. We still do modifications when necessary and program sessions for rehabilitation but I believe the progression is more obvious.
Are you familiar with Pilates over the world e.g. Europe, Asia, Australia? If so, do you see familiarities?
I have spent most of my time in an Authentic Pilates Studio so classical has of course been my focus while travelling in the USA, Europe and at home however as the Vice President of the Pilates Alliance Australasia its import for me to be open and understand other schools of thought and methods. While I understand other methods and how they work I will always stay true to my preferred classical method.
Did you ever meet an “Elder” and if so, how was that for you?
I simply loved meeting Romana and Jay Grimes. The stories, the knowledge and the passion were very inspiring. I only wish I had spent more time with Romana as my time was limited to only one continuing education weekend in Australia. The same for Jay, however I will be seeing him again in October.
If you were traveling abroad for Pilates, what would be your goal?
To deliver Classical Pilates workshops and keep learning from others.
What is the funniest thing you have ever experienced with Pilates?
Brett Howard was visiting in Australia a few years ago and I asked him to assess one of my students in her Intermediate practical test. When it came to teaching some exercises on the spine corrector, Brett asked her to teach the shoulder bridge. The exercise she taught was not what he had asked for so he repeated it and asked if she would like to try again. Her response was… “no, I’m good thanks.”! Just so you know, that apprentice is now a fully certified instructor and works in my studio. We laugh about it to this day!
Do you have a favourite story about Joe or Clara or somebody else?
These stories are not mine to tell but I could listen to them for hours. I do love hearing them from Jay Grimes and loved Romana’s anecdotes about Joe and Clara.
Do you expect to keep practicing Pilates and keep on giving classes?
For as long as my mind and body will hold out. I’m 63 this year and would hope I have another 20 years in me yet.
What is your Pilates dream?
I am fulfilling my Pilates dream now! Instructing, teacher training and travelling.
Are you available for bookings in the Netherlands? Can you tell us something about your conditions and the things you want to offer?
I would love to have workshops bookings in the Netherlands. My father was Dutch and I have only had the pleasure of visiting once back in 1970’s when I spent some time as a young dancer in Amsterdam. I will never forget. I was in Amsterdam and wanted to do some classes wit the Ballet Company but it was summer holidays. A Dutch man approached me and in his broken English told me the Ballet company had closed for the summer break and then invited me onto his boat house on the canal. I was very trusting in those day! I went on board and met his wife and their son. They asked me to help their son with his English homework. While I helped him with his homework they cooked a wonderful meal. I spent the afternoon there in the humble living area. I never saw them again but it was an amazing time. It brings back so many memories!
Olga Tamara Authentic Pilates Studio
Authentic Pilates Education Australia – Principal Teacher Training
73 Justin Street – Lilyfield NSW 2040 Australia firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com +61298187611