My Inspiration Before and Beyond 2022

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2022!

It has been quite a while since someone asked me who inspires me to continue working in my chosen career. I am a former ballerina with The Dance Theater of Harlem, and for years I have been a Pilates teacher.

I was born in Mexico City, where I studied ballet with my extraordinary teacher Sonia Castaneda. I can honestly say that Sonia Castaneda is my inspiration. Sonia was, herself, a former Principal Dancer at The Compania Nacional de Mexico. She began her ballet studies 80 years ago, and at her current age of 90 years old she continues to teach ballet.

Sonia is a true inspiration. She has never lost her passion for ballet, art, and, most importantly, teaching. She continues to teach and inspire people, like me, after more than 70 years in this profession. What Sonia has is a genuine curiosity for the science of body movement. She never stops learning. That is why she took my Classical Mat Teacher Training course at 88 years old.

During the training program, I recall that one week started with Sonia struggling to get up from the floor without help but ended with her doing it with ease. When I asked her about it she said, “I can feel that the use of my abdominals is something that I wasn’t aware of.”

I recently asked Sonia how she thought the Pilates method crosses over to classical ballet. Her response? “Ballet technique is all about alignment. You strengthen the body as a whole and to be able to move to and from any position with ease and grace. The Pilates method gives you all of that. Just do the work, and you will understand the body.”

That is what my teacher, Jay Grimes, says. “Do the work. Don’t change the exercises to suit you. Change your body so that you can do the exercises.”

Sonia also shared that being a ballet teacher is about learning how the body moves and following your intuition. To best guide your students, you must have a lot of discipline, perseverance, and patience. Additionally, she talked about the importance of breath during movement. Whether you are a dancer or someone looking to move more efficiently and gracefully, improving your breathing is vital. Using your breath effectively will make the difference between a workout and an art form.

Sonia currently lives in Merida Yucatan, where, at 90 years old, she still teaches ballet and continues to learn every technique that will improve the movement of her students. I don’t know about you but I call that inspirational!

 

Check out our Contrology (classical) apparatus!


After graduating from Escuela de Danza Ana Pavlova in her native Mexico, Elena traveled to New York City where she joined The Dance Theater of Harlem, and later became a principal dancer. Elena has performed in most of the major opera houses around the world; the Metropolitan Opera House in NYC, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Covent Garden in London and Theater du Chatelet in Paris, to name a few. She was certified in Pilates by Romana Kryzanowska at The Pilates Studio of New York in 1995. Elena then continued her study of Pilates with such greats as Ron Fletcher, Kathy Grant, Pat Guyton, Bob Liekens and Jay Grimes. She trains clients and Pilates instructors in Mexico and Las Vegas and is now expanding her offerings through her online platform www.TuPilates.Video.

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