Tony Balongo (42), born and raised in London, England, now owns and teaches at Valencia Classical Pilates Studio (In Alboraya Valencia)
How did you get involved with Pilates?
I discovered Pilates about 10 years ago through boxing believe it or not. (Yes there’s a hell of a lot of core work in boxing.) I received my initial education in Barcelona with Peak Pilates and from about three years ago turned to Classical.
Do you participate in workshops on a regular basis? If yes, what was your latest? What workshop inspired you the most?
I try to attend as many workshops as possible both here in Spain and the U.S. The learning process has to be continuous as far as I’m concerned otherwise its game over. There is just SO much to learn! The Chicago conference organized by Dana Santi is always a must with the likes of Jay Grimes, Chris Robinson, Mari Winsor, Peter Fiasca, Brooke Siler and Kathi Ross Nash and I also travel to New Jersey (N.York) regularly to keep learning from Kathi Ross Nash.( I will be spending a week there this coming August with 15 other amazing instructors.) My latest workshops were here in Valencia this past 20-22 June as I also organise The Valencia Classical Pilates Conference. Brooke Siler, Peter Fiasca, Kathi Ross Nash gave their all in their workshops and group classes and Dana Santi, Ilaria Cavagna and Ernesto Reynoso were giving private classes all day long. Although very busy I get to see all of the workshops at least once. I really enjoyed The Client Clinic by Brooke, Keep it Fresh keep it classical by Peter and The Body before you by Kathi.
What made you decide to make Pilates your profession?
It was a little scary at first when I decided to become an instructor. I was already a qualified personal trainer from a long while back since my early 20’s but had never wanted to make a living out of it. Physical activity and Sports has always been my passion and my release from the stress of everyday life and I guess I was afraid to make it my job. In short, it was the best decision I ever made! I no longer go to work. I go to play! I LOVE my job!
What is your favorite brand of apparatus?
I recently opened my own studio (Valencia Classical Pilates Studio) in Alboraya Valencia. It is fully equipped with Gratz equipment except the Guillotine. My favorite piece of apparatus varies. It depends on what my body need at that precise moment in time. I am currently having a pretty intense affair with the Cadillac! I prefer Gratz. From the moment I first used a Gratz reformer I realized that that was the equipment I had to continue both my training and teaching with. The difference from other equipment I was using was astonishing. Exercises I thought I had under control became a nightmare. On Gratz if you don’t do it right you can’t do it at all. Its that simple. It really makes the difference to achieve the results J.Pilates intended for the body.
Did the economical crises bother you?
The crisis REALLY hit Spain hard. These past few years have been very difficult in all sectors but I have been able to maintain a steady flow of clients. It think the crisis even helped me get a better deal on my rent!! 🙂 There is a lot of really bad Pilates around here. Pilates with very strange names also. Aqua Pilates! Therapeutic Pilates! Yogalates!( I suppose this happens everywhere) There is no real magic secret to having kept afloat. My clients obtain results and therefore remain loyal. Thats really what its about. Obtaining good results. People are willing to spend their hard earned money on their own health provided they get results.
Did you start your own educational program?
As far as an educational program goes, there is something VERY exciting in the pipeline for the near future!
What is your purpose in giving workshops?
Workshops as far as I’m concerned MUST reach the audience!! You have to assess what type of people are in front of you and transmit the information accordingly. Last summer for example I gave two workshops in Pilates Challenge (New York) “How Pilates benefits the skier”. The first group were young, strong and very fit looking. They seemed the type that liked to be physically challenged. I automatically made it a very physical workshop. In other words I beat them to a pulp. They loved the information they were given and registered it directly into their bodies in a physical manner. The second group however was a different ball game. They wanted the same information but to still be able to put their socks on by themselves the next morning. I actually asked them that!! 🙂 So I had to take a more passive didactical approach.
How many classes per week do you teach and who is your target audience?
My target audience is anybody who wants to improve their body(Healthy or not). I teach a lot of women but I have a lot of male clients also. A great deal of men still believe that Pilates is gentle stretching or light exercise for elderly women. I’m on a mission to change that as much as possible. I teach from about 6-8 classes a day! 6 is just right! 8 is stretching it a little but still manageable. Its a mixture between private classes, duets and even small groups. Maximum 5 people per group. I have 5 reformers and 5 Wunda Chair’s, 5 mats etcetera, so I can move them around the apparatus. The group classes are great fun and it’s wonderful to see people form friendships within those groups because of Pilates, but I enjoy the private classes just as much. I just really enjoy teaching.
Are there more female trainers than male in Spain?
Yes, there are more female teachers here in Spain than there are male, but I see that slowly changing. At this years conference there was a pretty good male turnout with a very good level of Pilates. Change is definitely in the air.
What do think of the future of Pilates?
I see Pilates with a very bright future. Even though like I said before there is a lot of bad Pilates around I see a lot of people hungry to learn the real work and doing beautiful work themselves. This last conference proved that to me. There was a real sense of sharing and community. People from all over the globe!! Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, England, Malta, Switzerland and Spain (and I’m sure I’m missing some countries out!). I mean of what use is it to withhold information?? Teachers from around that come to take lessons with me often say in surprise “ You’re SO generous with your information!” That never stops to amaze me because in my eyes we should ALL be sharing and passing on our knowledge. You have to pass it on while you’re alive and kicking because its a little bit difficult after you kick the bucket.
What is your own vision of Pilates?
My vision of Pilates is one that has probably been said before. It should be taught from a younger age at schools. Children pick things up quicker than adults and retain information much better too. If we were all taught how to move correctly from a younger age there would be far less physical pathologies in later life. I collaborate with many instructors as mentioned above. Through the conferences I organise I try and make these instructors more accessible to people who otherwise may not have the opportunity to learn from them.
Which Pilates words you rather don’t use in your teaching?
I don’t really think about words used as being right or wrong. Each person is different and requires different stimulus. I do however avoid using the names of muscles. The clients have enough already to cope with. They don’t need some smart ass teacher talking to them in latin!
Did you change things about your teaching or would you like to?
My teaching is in constant evolution as I am constantly finding more pieces to the puzzle but my style is basically to kick ass. Make the client sweat, feel good about him or herself and have fun. In my eyes having fun is a very important part of any learning process. I will always try and have moments of humour in my classes whether its a group class or a private and will never for example end a class with an exercise my client/s can’t perform or is/are not yet good at. The feel good process makes them keep coming back for more.
What insight did Pilates gave you?
Pilates has given me the insight that wearing speedos at the age of 80 can be cool! As I mentioned earlier, I moved over or evolved to Classical a while back. I had finished all of my training with a contemporary school and would see other people do things (online and in conferences for example) that I had never been taught before. I had a lot of questions that nobody would or could answer. I knew there was more (And it didn’t consist of putting a Bosu on a reformer or a Fitball on a Cadillac.) I wanted to learn from the source. I was lucky enough to meet Kathi Ross Nash and Peter Fiasca on one occasion and they rocked my world. I have never looked back. There is just só much Joe left us to learn. My opinion I guess is learn it how Joe intended it to be. It ‘s BRILLIANT.
Did you ever meet an “Elder”?
The only elder I have ever met and taken classes and workshops with is Jay Grimes. Something I do every time I go to the Chicago conference. I totally recommend it for whoever has the chance. I would love to have met Romana although I almost feel as if I know her. I mean Kathi Ross Nash was with her for the better part of 30 years. Peter Fiasca, Brooke Siler, Dorothee Vandewalle, Mari Winsor to name but a few worked with her for a long time too. They all keep her teachings alive.
Do you have a funny Pilates story to tell?
Too many funny experiences to mention them all, but just the other day having a client (A large chap slightly over weight in the mid region) perform the Stomach massage series and for the first time I had to stop the class. Lets just say he exhaled from the wrong place as he brought (with difficulty) the carriage back home. He instantly burst out laughing! No embarrassment from his part, just a fit of laughter which was instantly contagious!!! “Your springs do make funny noises”, he said. “I thought you’d ripped the leather” I replied. This wasn’t something that hadn’t happened before with other clients, but it was the first time I spent 5 minutes of a class exchanging fart jokes with someone.
What is your favorite story about Joe and Clara?
I have heard many stories about Joe and Clara from Jay Grimes. Some very very funny but they are for him to tell as they are his personal stories. My favorite story about Joe Pilates is that he dedicated his whole life to this wonderful method. All that time and effort to better peoples lives. Thank you Joe you definitely changed my life!!!
Will you continue practicing and teaching Pilates? What is your Pilatesdream?
I love working out and I love teaching! It’s playtime all day long! Why would I ever want to stop? My Pilates dream is for the method as Joe designed it to remain alive! I believe that this is happening as we speak. There are many wonderful teachers sharing the work all over the globe. The Pilates community is growing and its not because of a fad or fashion. Its because of the love for the work. Oh!….and for more men to be exposed to it!! My mission remember? 🙂 Twitter @Vclpilates Facebook@ Tony Balongo Valencia Classical Pilates firstname.lastname@example.org