Last week I went to Central School of Ballet twice to observe their Pilates mat work classes. Sara Gallie, one of our teachers in the Pilates teacher training course, teaches Pilates in the school and we were invited to observe some of her classes.
I had never been to a ballet school and had an image that all the students were super skinny and full of ego in a magnificent building. So I was surprised and changed my mind quickly to like this school as I stepped in. It was pretty much like MY old Laban Centre, where I spent 12hours a day x 7days a week x 2years. Both old Laban and CSB were old buildings with narrow corridors and staircases, and of course many studios in different sizes. Students and teachers have to say hello to each other all the time as they pass each other. That kind of intimate space.
I had to remember my old days in Laban while I was in the ballet school. Musicians who I saw in the stuff room excited my dancer's blood by just a demonstration of some rhythm on a drum. Yes yes this is what I missed in Pilates!, I thought. Students behaves quite well as I expected for ballet students, but still have some liveliness. Generally good feeling.
Watching their work in Pilates, naturally their individualities came up. Different body shapes, functions, and attitude to improve their bodies. I watched 1st year and 3rd year students. How they could change for two years of training. I had an opportunity to look after two girls in the 3rd year, who had very bad backs even not being able to walk properly. I know it is a very frustrating and depressing thing as a dancer to have injuries and not be able to dance. These two girls must have been feeling like hell. From Pilates teachers' view, it is more interesting though very challenging to work with people with injuries. This time, I felt it is too scary to work with those two girls. I need more experience of teaching Pilates to deal with those people. But still I could think which exercises I could do without engaging their backs, which is the evidence of my little knowledge.
An observation of Sara's classes has made me think that what I had done in my teaching for performing arts students in a university was not too bad. Pilates classes cannot be very creative anyway. But still I want to make it more open that can make a bridge to contemporary dance technique somehow. Not just muscle building. More exploration to do.