I first found Pilates in my College Dance Department. Being a part of The Skidmore College Dance Department was an amazing experience. We were given the opportunity to take classes from a variety of guest teachers, from all styles of dance. It was great to explore new techniques and good for me, a Type A personality, to step out of my comfort zone. While I grew a lot as a dancer and found great joy in contemporary Modern dance, my first love was classical ballet, followed by Graham Technique. I loved the emphasis on technique, the discipline, the structure. These styles just felt good in my body, they were my roots.
Dancing, unlike many activities or hobbies, has been know to offer a short career (though I dare say this is starting to change, thanks to Pilates!), as the demands on a dancer’s body are so extreme. As a young serious dancer there is a time when you decide how Dance will fit into your life longterm. Am I “good enough” to make it? If I do “make it” what will my life be like, and what sacrifices will I need to make to get there? Is it worth it? How badly do I want to this?
When I was 15 I got to perform in NYCB’s Sleeping Beauty while they were in residence in Saratoga. It was a dream come true for me, and an eye opening glimpse of reality… seeing first hand the not so glamorous side of life for some of the professional dancers I met. I knew then that I did not want that life. I did not want to be “a dancer.” I just was not sure how I could make dance fit into my life a different way.
My first Pilates Class in College was life changing. Really. Pilates felt in my body the way Classical Ballet and Graham Technique always had. I was home. I left that class feeling a foot taller and walked away with a lightness in my body that I had not felt in years. Pilates felt natural to me. It made sense, and it allowed me to find and work from muscles I had somehow forgotten about along the way. Needless to say, I was hooked!
The following winter, my last semester at college, I was cast in 3 amazing roles in our Spring concert. This would be my “final performance” and I was excited to go out with a bang. That semester over that Spring Break, on a ski trip with friends, I got a terrible knee injury. I was devastated by the idea of being taken out of my roles and began Private Pilates lessons with my instructor. We worked on strengthening all of the muscles around the injury and I was able to dance on it after all. Pilates had saved the day for me, and that performance meant more to me than any other in my college career.
After graduation I got a job and chased after my new dream of being a Romana’s Pilates Certified Instructor. Right before I finished the program I went back to ballet class. It had been a few years since I had taken a modern dance class, and several more since I had been in a ballet class. Not only did it all come back, I was dancing better than I ever had! The Pilates I had been doing gave me the best ballet body I ever had! I was cast in lead roles that season in the Nutcracker and could not have been happier.
Now, more than 10 years after graduating Dance comes in and out of my life, but one of my greatest joys as a Pilates Instructor is being able to work with young dancers. It feels so good to give back to them all that Pilates has given me. My journey has come around full circle as I now teach the Pilates Classes in the Dance Department where I took my first mat class. I feel like I have the best job in the world.
Thank you to Meghan Del Prete, Pilates studio owner and Pilates instructor at Reform. A True Pilates Studio in Saratoga Springs, New York.