I am thrilled to feature Wanda Bouvier. She is a Pilates professional for more then 45 years plus. She is a true Pilates advocate; currently 67 years of age. Her Pilates career began at the premiere West Coast Pilates studio in Beverly Hills, where she was trained by Ron Fletcher, who was taught at the original Pilates studio in New York by Joseph Pilates. In 1971 he trained her, Wanda Bouvier, and her spouse, Kim Lee, to run the first Pilates studio in California. In 1975, they opened their own Pilates studio in Beverly Hills with her business partner, Richard Simmons. They commissioned Kenny Endelman of Current Concepts, to build their Pilates Reformer equipment to their own specifications. This was the beginning of the Pilates equipment company Balanced Body, Inc.
Wanda, can you tell us more about your Pilates career?
From 1976 until 1981, Bouvier and Lee, our reputation growing fast, expanded to open an enormously successful Pilates studio in Beverly Hills working with over 100 celebrities in the movie television and music industries. In 1982, after my divorce I opened my first independent Pilates studio called Body Balance by Bouvier. In 1986, I opened a second location at the Le Mondrian Hotel in Los Angeles. In 1988, I opened a third location in Studio City, Los Angeles. In 1994, I sold my Pilates business, and moved to Paris, France for a sabbatical. I was soon asked to teach Pilates privately, and occasionally lectured about the method.I traveled through Western Europe during the four years that I lived in Paris. I particularly enjoyed Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, French Riviera, and London.
In 1998, I returned to New Orleans where I opened the first Pilates studio called Pilates by Bouvier. In 2004, I sold my business and returned to Los Angeles, where I taught privately. I also used my therapeutic knowledge of Pilates to work with two Physical Therapy organizations in Los Angeles.
In 2009, after a serious car accident in 2007, I returned to New Orleans where I began the arduous task of my own rehabilitation. In 2010, I moved to Baton Rouge to give compassionate care and companionship to my dear young friend who was dying of MS. (Multiple Sclerosis)
In 2011, I began a private Pilates practice for a select group of students with complicated therapeutic problems. From 2017 until now I teach Pilates privately in both New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
At this time my business partner and I have plans to open a state of the art Pilates location, which will combine Pilates in collaboration with physical therapists. It is my intention to invite and unite the Pilates world in New Orleans.
The biography of Wanda Bouvier and Kim Lee’s Pilates lineage in Hollywood is being completed for publication in 2019. I have three Pilates manuscripts which are being revised and edited with a goal for publication in 2020. Wanda Bouvier Pilates Professional. 1971 – 2020.
What made you decide to make Pilates your profession?
I can’t say that I ‘decided’ to be a Pilates Professional. I believe that it was predestined, because I never intended to follow this career path…it chose me. Imagine the rare and unique circumstances that put me in the first and only west coast studio at the precise time of its expansion.
Do you find it hard to run a studio?
Owning and operating a successful Pilates studio for decades was a huge responsibility. First of all to each student who comes in your door. I developed a specific exercise routine that was very safe for anyone and produced strong & beautiful physiques. I made a lot of people very happy. They stayed for years!
Secondly, I was responsible for every teacher I trained in Pilates to work for me. I chose them according to personality, skills, dependability, hands-on knowledge, and their respect for the method. In the first two decades every teacher was required to be an apprentice of mine to be qualified to teach. It’s a highly efficient system. My clients were never injured. It also created a very solid foundation for teachers to build their experiential teaching wisdom from.
Can you earn a good living as a Pilates teacher and/or studio owner?
In the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s, I would say absolutely! But, in the mid nineties everyone started hosting ‘Teacher Certification’ as a part of their business model to make quick revenue. It resulted in a flood of teachers with certificates and minimal knowledge of how the Pilates method will profoundly impact their students. A good number of these fledglings opened everywhere literally saturating the market. It created the need for workshops so that teachers could advance into the numerous levels of the method. In turn, workshops have become another way to make a living for the more advanced Pilates teachers.
Which leads me to this twofold point. Pilates teachers and studio owners have to seek out their unique market to have a successful business, which can be complex to say the least.
Also, Pilates students should be very selective whom they trust their Pilates education to, because too many neophytes are injured. But, now their are also physical therapists who have incorporated specific Pilates exercise into their rehabilitation practices.
Do you have another business related to Pilates?
Yes, but it’s top secret until it’s ready to be shared with the world.
How long did you study Pilates?
I was initially taught the repertoire of approximately 300 Pilates exercise on the Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, Tower, Ladder Barrel, and Mat work in about 6 Months. In the 70’s I studied with a chiropractic doctor client of mine, who introduced me to the concept of how the spine controls the entire body in movement. Through decades of hands on experience I’ve become intuitive about why our bodies loose their innate homeostasis and how to restore the body’s natural wisdom. What I endeavor to do with each student is to translate through movement a profound ‘body wisdom’ to enhance their quality of life for their entire life.
Do you still study the Method and attend workshops?
My continuous study is more focused on applying my body of Pilates exercise knowledge to the individuals specific needs for therapeutic, athletic, and cosmetic benefits. In the 80’s and 90’s, I taught Pilates related workshops on three unique aspects of the Pilates method.
- How to utilize the method to evolve the students body by knowing their unique spinal strengths and weakness. (Pilates Teachers only).
- How to resolve chronic neck problems. (Referred patients from doctors, dentists, therapists)
- The secret to developing ‘Pelvic and Deep Lower Back” muscular strength. (Lectured to groups of Parisian women)
All three subjects are manuscripts to be published. Yes, I am interested in taking workshops from my Pilates peers, when there is a specific subject that interests me. In July I plan to attend a workshop in New Orleans to meet Madeline Black. She happens to be discussing the “Spine by Design”. I’d also like to visit with the owner of Balanced Body, Kenny Endelman to discuss his newest equipment.
What is your opinion about Traditional, Classical, and Contemporary Pilates?
Joseph Pilates was inspired, innovative, and intuitive. You can experience all of this as you begin to study his TRADITIONAL and original Contrology Method. I think it’s important to understand the foundational premise of his vast repertoire of movement as a building block to the practice. I love that the Traditional Pilates teachers are intent on teaching Contrology in its purest form.
I think the CLASSICAL method of teaching was a necessary step of “How to teach” the exercise to enhance the fundamental principles of his methodology. Any experienced Pilates teacher will tell you that the most valuable benefits of practicing Pilates is to enhance the therapeutic balance and stability of every body at every age. With a knowledgeable Pilates teacher these principles of controlled movement, correct postural alignment, centered core support, breathing properly, and, learning how to create a ‘magic balance’ of flexibility and strength, are invaluable ‘body wisdom’ to acquire. This is what the real Classical is all about.
I’ve observed, that the further away from Pilates basics, the less therapeutically sound the movements become. In my humble opinion, what is known as CONTEMPORARY Pilates, was inevitable. The brilliance of Josep Pilates equipment designs and his method created a fertile ground for innovation. If you’ve ever seen children play on Pilates equipment you know that it’s endless.
The question I ask of the “Pilates inspired exercise” is this. If the basics of the Pilates Method no longer exist is it Pilates? If your students are not taught the details of the method for safety, progression, and growth, is it Pilates? All of this lost detail can cause a great deal of disappointment and confusion to the naive public.
I also think, that the knowledge derived from the Traditional and Classical Schools, are a solid foundation upon which an aware and enlightened teacher of Pilates can develop. After all, the best practices are the end result of knowledge and experience.
The beauty of being a Pilates pioneer from its earliest years is watching this wonderful method grow in popularity all over the world. My intention is to embrace all Pilates enthusiasts so that we can share the vast benefits of its creator, the venerable Joseph Pilates, into the future. It’s all good!
Do you ever get bored by Pilates?
As a teacher I never get bored because it’s always an adventure. I’m in perpetual awe of the intricate creativity embodied in this human form. I will admit that I do get bored with a student on occasion. Primarily because they come to practice with no ability to focus, or listen, or learn for that matter. As a Pilates practitioner, I’m forever grateful and therefore never bored by my personal Pilates discipline. It’s kept me in exceptionally good shape my entire life. It also was essential to my recovery from a very serious spinal injury and neck/head trauma due to a car accident. I was able to avoid back surgery and survive PTSD.
Have you ever thought that you wanted to quit?
I could never quit teaching…it’s in my DNA. But, I did take a sabbatical from owning a Pilates business, as well as, my former life in LaLa Land. (Los Angeles) That was when I moved to Paris, France. As far as my personal Pilates practice I would never quit…it’s invaluable to me.
Pilates by Bouvier located in New Orleans, Louisiana and Baton Rouge.
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