Pilates education programs living inside of universities is exciting as the layered teaching and the nuances of learning dynamic movement lends depth and breadth to a student’s other academic endeavors from the arts, in dance and performance, to the sciences of anatomy, biology and kinesiology. Being a Pilates instructor can be financially and personally satisfying, making it a perfect certificate-based program for any university or vocational school.
The value add for Pilates program students is that theory and practice come together, building critical reasoning skills, and shaping future thought leaders and champions who will, in their own ways, change the world.
When you search the website of the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, under the ‘Programs and Degrees’ title you will find an entry for ‘Pilates Education’. This might seem like a trivial detail to most, but to me it is the equivalent of a shiny badge that signifies progress, forward-thinking, and the presence of a movement culture in a regional mid-sized university. Getting to this point was years in the making, and to do it in partnership with Balanced Body has proven valuable in some unexpected and meaningful ways.
In 1993 I was a dance major at UWSP, and to my good fortune, we were offered Pilates Mat classes. Our teacher had been in the first cohort of those trained by Romana Kryzanowska. He worked with professional ballet dancers in New York City, and when they were on tour or off-season, he would come back to his hometown of Stevens Point and work with the dance majors. The classes were very popular – we even recorded them on our handheld cassette players so we could practice on our own. Pilates provided a movement foundation that not only enhanced our physicality and improved our dance technique, it also to helped focus our minds. The world was changing in the 90’s and Pilates kept us grounded – it was, without doubt, a positive addition to our traditional coursework. The dance faculty recognized the benefit in offering their students the additional perk of coming to UWSP to pursue a degree in dance while simultaneously receiving a Pilates teaching certificate. However, upon researching the ongoing trademark lawsuit over the use of the word ‘Pilates’ during that time, decided against pursuing it.
Over the next several years Pilates had an on again off again presence at UWSP. When I moved back to Wisconsin, now a Pilates teacher myself, I took on the role of coordinating Pilates classes at UWSP while simultaneously building my business, Studio B Pilates. In 2010, I became a Balanced Body Pilates Educator and the path to finally having a Pilates Certification at UWSP began to unfold. Getting through the red tape inherent in creating any new program at a public university was no small feat. Through the dedication of the UWSP Dance Program Coordinator, the patience of several others at Balanced Body, and hundreds of emails, we finally found a way to make UWSP a site for Balanced Body Pilates Education.
Today the Pilates Education program at UWSP runs a yearly Pilates Mat Certification within the Department of Theater and Dance and using Balanced Body’s curriculum. Co-directed by Balanced Body Educators, Pamela Luedtke and me, it is open to any university student however attracts primarily dance majors and minors. We partner with Studio B Pilates to offer a Balanced Body Mat Test-Out at the end of each year. Upon completion, successful students receive a Mat Certification from UWSP as well as a Mat Certificate of Completion from Balanced Body. The most valuable part of this program is perhaps the foundation it provides for students to pursue a variety of career paths. Some students use their Pilates mat training to augment their work teaching at a dance studio, while others go on to pursue their Comprehensive Pilates Teacher certification through a Balanced Body Training Center. Those choosing to stay in Wisconsin continue with me at Studio B, while others go to ATCs where they can simultaneously pursue their dance and related careers.
At UWSP, in addition to the Pilates coursework, students going through the dance major and minor programs are also studying dance pedagogy and movement analysis as part of their required coursework. Their strong background in movement as well as the recognition power of the Balanced Body name positions our students well in the Pilates teaching industry. The connection and cohesiveness among Balanced Body Educators are evident when, upon graduation, students transition seamlessly to other Balanced Body Training Centers. Several of our students have even landed jobs at Balanced Body-affiliated studios. UWSP graduates have been hired as teachers with Pilates Reforming New York, Awaken Pilates in Minneapolis and Bodyline Pilates in Los Angeles, all of which are ATCs.
One of our graduates, Robert Miles Soderstrom, completed Mat and Reformer training through UWSP and Studio B Pilates, then completed his comprehensive courses with Ann Toran at Pilates Reforming New York. He continued working there while also dancing professionally. He stated, “Having a pathway to Pilates teaching was such a gift. Pilates helped me pursue dance without worrying about how I was going to pay rent. I watched other friends get burned out and even injured juggling their dance careers with waiting tables.” Robert relocated to Los Angeles after Covid and was recently promoted to Lead Teacher at BodyLine Pilates.
Another perk to having the Pilates Education program in UWSP’s Dance Program is the crossover it has fostered with the Athletic Training Program. When dancers are injured, they work with UWSP athletic trainers for treatment, and often follow up with Pilates and movement retraining. With students’ consent, athletic trainers can communicate with us about their specific injuries. In certain situations, information from the athletic trainer has proven valuable in creating movement programs for retraining and injury prevention. This relationship has led to greater collaboration. Last year one athletic training professor and I co-presented on Strategies for Low Back Mobilization at the Wisconsin Athletic Trainers Association’s annual conference. This has been an important opportunity to discover the full range of an athletic trainer’s role and to carve out a complimentary space for the Pilates teacher within that environment.
The connections and opportunities students gain from the Pilates Education program make it immensely valuable. As the world continues to recognize the healing and empathetic power of movement, a career as a Pilates Practitioner is a viable and even lucrative option for those with a movement or wellness-related degree. The culture of collaboration inherent within Balanced Body is clearly reflected in our curriculum and fostered among so many of us experiencing this industry together as educators. That culture is passed on to those we educate and makes the program more than only a viable career pathway – we are also passing on the ability to connect with others in a way that happens uniquely through movement and grounded in empathy. So, while the one-line entry of ‘Pilates Education’ under the UWSP ‘Programs and Degrees’ heading might seem like two simple words, its existence is powerful.