Dance, Dancers And Pilates
Pilates strengthens, lengthens and tones the muscles as well as improving posture and increasing flexibility and balance. Hardly surprising then that, long before Pilates was known to a wider audience, dancers were the first to discover it, while such legendary figures of the dance world as Martha Graham and George Balanchine were among Joseph Pilates' most devoted clients at his original studio, in New York.
Today, the British ballerina Darcy Bussell is a great advocate of Pilates and has written a book extolling its virtues ('Pilates for Life' by Darcy Bussell, Penguin Books). 'As a young dancer I was very supple and needed to know how to control my body,' she says.
'Pilates was an excellent way for me to learn how to do this. On the whole, dancers use this method because it is the best way to exercise every muscle in the body without over-developing anything and creating bulk muscle.'
Dancers suffer multiple injuries and here Pilates is also useful, helping to pinpoint injured areas and focusing specific exercises on the damaged muscle. Pilates can also help to focus the mind and improve the mental state during recovery.
Most of the teachers at Pilates Central are themselves former dancers. At some point they have used Pilates to avoid and/or recover from dance-related injuries and are happy to share their experiences. 'Dancing is all about aesthetics', says Peter Ottevanger, the head teacher of Pilates Central and himself a former dancer. 'So, while dancers have to be strong, they can't be bulky. Pilates is all about gaining strength without bulk.'