The Original Instructors of Joseph Pilates

Joseph Pilates works with a client in 1961.
Joseph Pilates works with a client in 1961. C Rapoport/Getty Images

The title of Pilates elder is applied to people who were original students of Joseph Pilates, creator of the Pilates Method of Exercise. There were just a few original students who went on to found their own studios and teach the Pilates Method. Several of them are very well known names in Pilates today, and most Pilates teachers can trace their "lineage" back to one of these original students. Learn more about the Elders who shaped the way Pilates spread through the world.

The Pilates Elders

Often called the elders, the people usually included in a list of the original instructors are:

  • Clara Pilates (1883–1977): As the wife of Joseph Pilates, she worked closely with Joe for many years. She continued to teach and run the Joseph Pilates studio after his death.
  • Romana Kryzanowska (1923–2013): A close student of Joseph Pilates, Kryzanowska took over as director of the Joseph Pilates studio a few years after he passed away. Romana is one of the most well known and highly regarded keepers of the classical Pilates tradition. She dedicated the rest of her life to educating Pilates instructors around the world. Her daughter, Sari Mejia Santo, also trained with Joseph Pilates and taught with her mother. Now Romana's granddaughter, Daria Pace, owns Romana's Pilates, with affiliates teaching classical Pilates around the world.
  • Mary Bowen (1930– ): Mary Bowen became a Jungian analyst but continued to study Pilates with Joseph Pilates and others of his students. She continues to teach Pilates through her ninth decade and developed a Pilates Plus Psyche program.
  • Robert Fitzgerald: He was a dancer and opened his own studio in New York City in the 1960s that catered to the dance community.
  • Ron Fletcher (1921–2011): Ron Fletcher was a dancer with the Martha Graham dance company. He opened a Pilates studio in Los Angeles and went on to develop his own Pilates style which is now known as Fletcher Work.
  • Eve Gentry (1909–1994): She was a dancer who, like Ron Fletcher, brought her dance training into her work as a Pilates teacher thereby expanding the Pilates teachings. She developed her own "pre-Pilates" approach, calling it The Gentry Method. In 1991 she was one of the founders of the Institute for the Pilates Method.
  • Kathy Grant (1921–2010): One of only two students who was actually certified to teach Pilates by Joseph Pilates himself, Kathy Grant taught Pilates at the Tisch School of the Arts in New York City, holding a faculty position there since 1988. She passed away May 27, 2010
  • Jay Grimes: Another dancer, Jay Grimes studied extensively with Joseph Pilates and with Clara Pilates after Joe's death. He also studied with Romana Kryzanowska and eventually taught with her. He continues to teach Pilates as the director of Vintage Pilates.
  • Bruce King: He was a member of the Merce Cunningham dance company. He opened a Pilates studio in New York City.
  • Lolita San Miguel (1934– ): She was certified to teach Pilates by Joseph Pilates and continues to teach Pilates. She introduced Lolita San Miguel's Masters Program.
  • Carola Trier (1913–2000): She was the first person to open her own Pilates studio with Joseph Pilates' personal blessing.

By Marguerite Ogle MS, RYT
Marguerite Ogle is a freelance writer and experienced natural wellness and life coach, who has been teaching Pilates for more than 35 years.