An Educated Choice: Taking the Leap to Becoming an...

An Educated Choice: Taking the Leap to Becoming an Instructor

Beginner – Intermediate – Advanced.

I was first introduced to Pilates in the early 1990’s. I was a dancer in college at SUNY Purchase. My last semester, I worked part-time as a receptionist at the Classical Pilates studio in the bottom floor of the school’s Dance Department. It was a drab, damp and cold place with no windows and metal equipment.  I sat there day after day watching teachers teach and conduct movements that one day I would learn (and realize how I had underestimated the power and control these movements required).

One day an apprentice asked me if she could practice teaching on me. A free workout to a dancer is like giving candy to a kid. I said, “Yes, where should I lay down?” I remember my first session with the apprentice, Simona Cipriani. As a dancer we had mat Pilates but it hadn’t made an impression on me as to how important the work was for the body at that age.  She taught me every exercise on the Reformer she knew. “Footwork – not so bad,” I thought. The Hundred – I love an ab challenge and some props. Reminder, I was a dancer and could hold positions, follow directions very well and remember the “choreography”.  I remember doing short spine and being giddy because it was so much fun. What next? Rowing! How could this be so much fun and be a workout? The session went on, swan on the barrel, then long box pull straps. That’s where I stopped remembering.  It was probably a mental overload and then I just was in the moment from exercise to exercise. I felt amazing and invigorated in so many ways.

After my session, I remember Simona’s teacher, my boss, Carol Baker Dodge, telling her she gave me way too much. But did she? The beginner, intermediate and advanced systems didn’t really exist back in “Joe’s old studio.” It was something that was sketched out when people started making training programs. Bob Liekens told me that when he and Romana Kryzanowska sat down in the mid 90’s and started to bring the method to paper for The Pilates Studio training program, that they worked on what would later be known as beginner, intermediate and advanced systems. There were many exercises deemed dangerous that were left out of the program, some that were too advanced, just for dancers, just for opera singers or a gymnast to name a few examples.

That day as a young, healthy dancer I was ready for anything.  Was it necessary to give me everything? Maybe not, but I had a blast, I wasn’t injured and it definitely sold me on my next career path. Yes, now it seems more prudent to teach the system in levels. A lot was different in “Joe’s old studio.”  You were expected to come in 4-5 times a week, for a 40 minute workout, take a shower, then take an apple on your way out. You knew your order or followed the pictures on the wall. There was always Joe or Clara around to help, but you were more independent than the one on one privates we are used to these days.

Do I suggest that you give your next client the whole shebang? No. But I do know that you should always teach the body in front of you.  If you have a smart, capable, healthy connected person in front of you, challenge them, work them, encourage them to find the connections and go deeper and above all, keep moving!


Check out our Contrology (classical) apparatus!

Gina Papalia - is a Second Generation Teacher and owner of Grasshopper Pilates NYC (est. 2000), lives in NYC with her husband and two pre teens. Gina fell in love with Pilates in college. After graduation, she began her Pilates training in January,1995 at SUNY Purchase, under Romana Kryzanowska, Bob Liekens. She danced professionally with Dance Theatre of Harlem and completed her Pilates training at Drago’s with Romana and at The Pilates Studio with Bob in her early 20's. Having worked closely with Bob Liekens for 23 years, she was thrilled to be hand picked by him to be a Teacher Trainer for his program, The Pilates Standard (TPS). Gina is excited to share her love and dedication of The Pilates Method with the next generation of teachers with a program that is classical, thoughtful and logical. Gina as a teacher embraces each client individually and unconditionally, balancing a serious approach with a fun, friendly attitude. She challenges each client, working with their weaknesses and imbalances while acknowledging their strengths and accomplishments. Gina is PMA Certified, a teacher on Pilatesology, trains bi-weekly with Cary Regan and Phoebe Higgins, and is currently becoming certified in Fascia Manipulation. You can find out what she is up to on Instagram @Grasshopper Pilates or check out



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