The new Contrology® Wunda Chair is a precise recreation of the original Wunda Chair, first designed by Joseph Pilates and brought to light by Kathy Stanford Grant. We were fortunate enough to get our hands on one of Kathy’s Wunda Chairs, now owned by Blossom Leilani Crawford. Blossom also graciously shared her experience with the Wunda Chair and Pilates legend Kathy Stanford Grant: Read on!
What was your experience working on the Wunda Chair with Kathy Stanford Grant?
When I met Kathy, I had heard that she was a Wunda Chair expert. Way back in the early ’90s before traveling, Pilates teachers and workshops were even a thing, and she was hired to teach a workshop on the Chair in Santa Fe. She was almost 70 years old and demonstrated all of the exercises at the time.
The Chair was like most Wunda Chairs in a Pilates Studio–it often sat in the corner. Kathy would beg us to use it more, but using her Chair was complicated in her tiny space. You would have to block the entrance into the little studio and do the work in the doorway. The doorway did have its advantages, though, because we would use it like handles.
Later, when I assisted KSG at NYU, she was hired to travel and teach a workshop in California. Keith Sabado and I learned and practiced ALL of the Wunda Chair exercises to prepare. It was fun, going in for hours and getting schooled by Kathy. That tiny woman was STRONG (she did her footwork with two springs on the top). During this time, I learned many of the nuances of the Wunda Chair. Things that looked hard were easy, and things that looked easy were hard.
When did you receive Kathy’s Wunda chair, and why?
I assisted Kathy without pay for three years until it became a formal job. (I continued to assist her in some way until she died in 2010.) Kathy’s Wunda chair was my favorite one. I liked it better than the vintage one at Drago’s Gym from my certification days. I had expressed interest in wanting the Chair, and about one year after Kathy passed, I was given her Wunda Chair by the NYU Dance Department. I believe the thinking was that the equipment was old and needed someone to take care of it.
What do you most enjoy about working on the Wunda Chair?
There are a few things that I love about the Wunda Chair. I live in NYC, and space is a commodity. This one little apparatus is SO versatile. Because you are weight-bearing in standing and sitting work, I find the Wunda Chair an additional challenge for people, and it adds dimension to the Pilates repertoire.
I think that the work is sneaky. You don’t actually have to move the pedal to benefit from the “exercise.” Sometimes the work is just getting into the position and TRYING to move the pedal! This Chair is different from all the others that I have worked on because it seems to fit many different bodies. Sometimes I have to prop it differently because of a client’s proportions. The hardware placement on the springs gives hands and shoulders a few options: a wider grip or lower placement of the heel of the hands. The pedal also has a hole in the center to mark the middle visually. There is minimal padding on the top of the Chair (the original had no padding). I like the feedback that this gives while standing or sitting on the Chair. Lastly, the pedal of the original Chair is made from different wood than other Wunda chairs. It is lighter than most pedals today yet very sturdy.
Check out our Contrology (classical) apparatus!