New York City
Upon arriving, eventually they settled in New York City and opened a gym at 939 Eighth Ave, in the same building as several dance studios and rehearsal space. It was this proximity that made “Contrology” such an intrinsic part of many dancers’ training and rehab work and many were sent to Joe to be “fixed.” George Balanchine, the famous choreographer, studied with Joe and sent many of his dancers to Pilates for strengthening and “balancing” as well as rehabilitation, as did another famous dancer/choreographer, Martha Graham. From 1939 to 1951 Joe and Clara went every summer to Jacob’s Pillow, a well known dance camp in the Berkshire Mountains. He was a friend and teacher to such renowned dancer/choreographers as Ted Shawn, Ruth St. Denis, Martha Graham and Jerome Robbins and many required their dancers to go to Joe. Hanya Holm even incorporated Joe’s exercises into her students’ lessons. However, Joe counted many socialites as well as plumbers and doctors, to list a few, as his clients as well. Joe called himself “Director of Physical Culture.”
Joe felt his work was “50 years ahead of (his) time.” Joe’s definition of physical fitness was: “the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.” Joe believed in “natural movements” with the emphasis on doing and being. He has stated, “Everything should be smooth, like a cat. The exercises are done lying, sitting, kneeling, etc., to avoid excess strain on the heart and lungs.” Romana Kryzanowska, the heir to Joe’s work (and Amy and Rachel’s teacher) is quoted as saying “The key to working with the apparatus is they make you do the work yourself. The fewer springs, the harder the exercise. The springs provide or create endurance, not excess strength. The method is based on the movement of animals, everything about the method is based on moving naturally.” Carola Trier, a longtime student of Joe’s and teacher of his work said “the method emphasizes restoring the body to true balance, ease and economy of movement and a channeled flow of energy.”
Although Joe Pilates was a health guru, he believed in fitness supporting your life’s rich goals. He was renowned for liking cigars, whisky and women and was to be seen running on Manhattan streets, in the dead of winter, in a bikini! He registered many patents with the US Patent and Trademark Office beginning in 1930, including a catapult, the V-Bed, the Wunda Chair and several Reformers. In 1955 a Universal Reformer cost about $150! Joe and Clara had many famous dancers as clients but also actors such as Vivien Leigh and Cliff Montgomery, musicians such as Roberta Peters and George Gershwin, socialites such as the Vanderbilts, as well as regular working class people.