Interview With A Pilates Instructor: Benjamin Degenhardt

282483_10151157663845706_2094099938_n

Benjamin and I met on Twitter. Yes, that’s right Twitter. Turns out that the twiter-sphere is a great way to connect to our community and this time it lead me right to Mr. Degenhardt. There are so many things that I love about Benjamin, but what first drew me to him was his enthusiasm for the history of Pilates. His passion to know how Joe lived, thought, and  intended his method to be is inspirational. I’ve nick-named him the Pilates anthropologist.

Benjamin will be visiting my little NYC studio this month. He’s presenting an amalgamation of two great seminars. His 4-hour workshop starts with an exciting journey into the past. We’ll look at rare archival writings, discover what Joe Pilates was looking to achieve, the philosophy behind his method, as well as his plans for the future of Contrology. Next, his ‘Upright Pilates’ will focus on the essence of the Pilates method – transferring the results of the work into our everyday activities and achieving functional strength. Click here to get more info on the workshop and to register. Ben will also be available for private, duet, and semi-private sessions at the studio. Don’t miss this chance to see all his research and Pilates artifacts as well as be touched by his teaching. Now onto the interview…

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Please make sure to include where you currently teach.

My name is Benjamin Degenhardt and I currently reside in Boston, MA. I have been involved in the Pilates world since 1999 in addition to an extensive dance and movement teaching background. I created 360° Pilates, a continuing education program designed to reconnect instructors to the original teachings of Joseph Pilates, with a keen eye on modern knowledge of functional movement. Most recently I initiated a campaign called March MATness to inspire people to incorporate Pilates into their everyday lives. You can find me online at benjamindegenhardt.com

2. How did you find Pilates (or your area of expertise)?

Pilates Mat classes were part of my dance training about 15 years ago. Needless to say, it was a complete game-changer! It helped me stay strong and healthy through several dance-related injuries, and I never lost Pilates out of my sight throughout my dance career.

 3. What was your inspiration in the path you chose?

In addition to the amazement about the impact Pilates had on my physical health and life in general, I remember being completely in awe of the wealth of knowledge my teachers had about human movement, and their passion for teaching. They are still my biggest inspiration, and it fulfills me to be able to pass some of their generosity on to other teachers now.

74705_10151286024830706_1430423700_n

 4. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

If I had to pick one, it would have to be The Hundred. While it seems to be so different from all the other exercises, I find that it truly packs the challenge of the entire Pilates repertoire into one simple move. In less than a minute it warms you up and tells you more about your body than most other exercise ever could.

5. Do you have a motto, a favorite quote, or mission statement that you live by?

Communicate selflessly. Teach generously. And move scrumptiously.

6. What do you like to do when you’re not teaching?

I’m a true Pilates geek, so much of my spare time goes into continuing my education, as well as researching the history of Contrology. I managed to collect well over 200 pages of original writings by and about Joe Pilates, as well as over 4 hours of video footage. It fascinates me how clear Joe was in his trajectory, yet how lost we are as an industry when it comes to pinning down what Pilates actually is. I am hoping to shed some light on just that with my work. But when I am really away from the studio and my materials, I enjoy movement of any kind (and try to immerse myself in a new physical activity every year), traveling, and I’m a bit of a foodie – good thing I love to exercise!

Benjamin Degenhardt is the mastermind behind 360° Pilates, a continuing education program for Pilates teachers. He has been involved in the Pilates world for over a decade in addition to his extensive dance and movement teaching background. While performing as a dancer he found a passion for teaching movement and, inspired by Joe Pilates, immersed himself in the study of injury prevention and body mechanics. With his expertise in historical Pilates and modern fitness he established himself as a “teacher of teachers” and conducts workshops around the globe. He has maintained a true passion for the Pilates method and its ability to improve people’s lives. You can find him and his articles for Pilates teachers on his website at benjamindegenhardt.com

If you like this article, there’s more where that came from. Sign up for our Teacher’s newsletter and get more Pilates goodness, as well as business & lifestyle tips every month! It’s free!

 

An Interview With A Pilates Instructor: Christine Baltes

This new series, is the first of many posts of interviews with my peers, mentors, and Pilates greats. For it’s maiden voyage, it’s an honor for me to be interviewing one of my very first true dance teachers, Christine Baltes. Chris taught me the beauty and discipline of jazz dance and quickly became one of my favorite teachers. Years later, Christine’s daughter, Nicole (who also happens to be a Dancer. Guess it runs in the family) and I met in my studio in NYC. We became fast friends and soon after I was reconnected with her Mom, who (you guessed it) is also now teaching Pilates. This truly is a small world. So, now that we’re reunited and it feels SO good, we are planning to use our super powers for only good….

_MG_5956 copy

We’re super excited to host Christine at our Union Square studio, FORM Pilates in March! She will be teaching a Master Class March 28th as well as being available for Private, Duet, and Semi-Private sessions March 28th, 30th, & 31st. Register for the Master Class here and email us to book a session with this master. THIS IS NOT TO BE MISSED! Onto the interview:

Tell us a little bit about yourself (including where you teach)….

The first thing that comes to mind when asked what am I all about is, passion.  Sometimes, I could just burst with all the love & passion I have inside of me.  I am a dancer, an artist, a choreographer, a teacher, a mother, a wife, and a sister. I am sarcastic, funny, disciplined, ethical, caring, silly, business minded, dedicated, nurturing, and yes, shy at times.  I am the oldest of seven children and the only one in my family who pursued dance.  I put myself through dance classes and at the age of 18 years was making a living with a dance career. I have always been lucky enough to have a career that I love.

At present time, I teach at a community college, professional dance studio, and in my pilates and Gyrotonic studio in Southern California. Most recently, I created choreographic sequences and have been giving Gyrotonic for Dancer group classes at two of Gyrotonic master trainers facilities.  I love what I do.  

How did you come to Pilates and Gyrotonic?

I came to Pilates after I blew out my knee in Nov 1991.  During my first pilates session, the instructor was poking & prodding my ribs, abs, hips, etc. and I said to myself, ‘I love this’, ‘this is exactly what I do to my dance students’, and it made me work on myself. I have been a practionier ever since.  It wasn’t until 2001 that I actually decided I had the time to get certified.  

I can’t exactly recall my first introduction to Gyrotonic, but I do recall that I sought out Marie Jose Blom at Long Beach Dance Conditioning to work on myself through her teachings of pilates. It was through her that I eventually tried out the White Cloud, now known as the Gyrotonic Pulley Tower. That lead me to seek out Gyrotonic Master Trainer, Donna Place, mainly working on rehabbing areas that needed attention.  I instantly loved the complexity and ‘real’ life movement patterns that the Pulley Tower & Gyrotonic program offered. I felt like it had similarities of taking a dance class.  The Gyrotonic method really is how people move, let alone the dancer, thus my gravitation to this program.  

 What was your inspiration in blending Pilates and Gyrotonics?

Well, I don’t necessarily blend the two, but rather pull the concepts of movement from the Gyrotonic method and apply it towards all movement- whether it’s pilates, dance, yoga, etc.   Human movement isn’t linear, it’s anything but; twisting, leaning, turning, spiraling, bending, and circling.  I have gained so much knowledge working with the amazing people that I have.  I love to really study an individual and figure out what they are doing by breaking down the movement so they can improve their quality of life and enhance their movement. I am also very grateful to learn a great deal of technique from one of the greats of American jazz dance, Gus Giordano.  He shaped me at a young age and it’s because of him that I have such a strong technical dance background.  

32d10ad

Today, there are so many fusion of pilates styles. Classical, east coast, west coast, contemporary, combinations such as cardio-pilates, yogalates, barre pilates- you name it, it probably exists. Bottom line, its all movement.  I stay true to having proper technique and the importance of a sound foundation. No matter what combination of pilates, or any other program, clients will flourish with a great foundation/technique.

In working with clients in my studio, I have access to not only pilates equipment, but Gyrotonic as well.  Sometimes, I will give a client an entire pilates session, sometimes, Gyrotonic and sometimes the combination of the two.  I pull from every source of training and knowledge that I have gained throughout my many years of moving. This is what helps define my teachings.

What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

Wow, what an interesting question.  I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that.  Without really going through the entire repertoire of Pilates, I simply must say, it’s the entire package.  It is complete when you practice a range of exercises that work on your entire body.  I will say though, that the fundamentals are what I typically focus on mostly.  Too many people really don’t know or understand the simple basic things.  Without the understanding of this, your workout, is being cheated.  I often get asked, “What is your Core?”  People to this day, still don’t know where that is nor how to truly use it.

Do you have a motto, a favorite quote, or mission statement?

There are so many wonderful quotes that are inspirational to me, but can’t think of one at the moment.  This is silly, but this question is like asking me to tell a joke.  I never can remember any.  Awhile back, the phrase Freedom in Form came to me.  So, I registered various domain variations of this, so maybe that is a statement in itself.   

 What do you like to do when you’re not teaching?

Sunday is my only day off, and I treasure spending time with my husband.  Doing anything but work related stuff.  I love going to the beach & enjoying the sunshine and ocean.  I realize one could consider this work related, but I love to take class; dance, pilates or Gyrotonic, but I won’t do that on my only day off, rather setting time aside for me to workout, between working with clients or teaching dance.   If the weather is nice, (and it is most of the time in Southern California) I enjoy being outdoors. I get excited to see my favorite tv shows as well as see concert dance performance.  I guess if I had to pick one thing, and if my children lived near me, it would be to spend family time.  I not only love my family, but love to spending time with them. 

Christine Baltes Is a master teacher, specializing in jazz dance technique and recognized as a teacher who “teaches”. Originally from Chicago, IL, Christine was trained in ballet, modern, tap & ethnic dance forms with specialized study in jazz dance with Gus Giordano, one of the fathers of American Jazz Dance.  Ms. Baltes possesses a California Teaching credential in dance and a certification in Pilates. (classically trained with sessions from Ron Fletcher, Rael Isacowitz (BASI), Marie Jose Blom (Long Beach Dance Conditioning) She is a Gyrokinesis® pre-trainer, and certified in the Pulley Tower, Leg Extension Unit, Jump Stretch Board and Archway of the GYROTONIC® EXPANSION SYSTEM. Christine’s teaching career spans over 40 years and she has held faculty positions that include the University of California, Irvine, Chapman University, California State University, Long Beach, Orange Coast College, Orange County High School for the Arts, and more. She has taught for studios that are leading the industry for professional dancers such as DeFore Dance Center (Orange County), Debbie Reynolds Dance Center (L.A.), Elevation Studios (Long Beach), Lou Conte Dance Center (Chicago & home for Hubbard Street Dance Company), Gus Giordano Dance Center (Chicago & home for Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago Dance Company), to mention a few. She has trained many dancers who have received scholarships into the Ailey School, Lines Training program, Ballet Hispanico, Julliard, Hubbard Street summer program, Giordano, and the Graham School. Others are working in the entertainment industry with resumes that include Usher, Britney Spears, Pink, George Michael, National Tours of King & I, Wicked, Cats, Cabaret, Miss Saigon, Fosse, 42nd Street, Arthur, Fiddler on the Roof, Rent movie, Vegas shows and the list goes on & on.

If you like this article, there’s more where that came from. Sign up for our Teacher’s newsletter and get more Pilates goodness, as well as business & lifestyle tips every month! It’s free!