Love for Clara Pilates!
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1
February is here, and it is now officially the month of LOVE. This month, we celebrate two days that represent love – Valentine’s Day on February 14th, and Family Day (in Alberta) on February 20th.
Last year’s International Pilates Day blog post shared ten interesting facts about Joseph Pilates (you can read the post here) – much research has been done on Joseph Pilates’ life and background, yet not much is known about the woman he lived and worked with after he moved to the United States. This month is a tribute to Pilates’ long-time love, life partner and (better) half, Clara Pilates!
Here are ten fun facts about Clara Pilates:
1. Clara was born Anna Clara Zuener in 1883 in Chemnitz, Germany.
2. Clara met Joe on a boat traveling to New York City in 1926.
3. Clara’s background was either as a nurse or a kindergarten teacher (this is an unknown, since different sources state conflicting information). She can be seen in her typical clinical/nursing attire in the I.C. Rapoport photo that hangs in our studio.
4. Clara was not Joe’s first (nor second) wife. He had two previous wives, Maria (married 1907, died in 1913), and Elfriede (married in 1919, died in 1931).
5. Clara never did marry Joe Pilates – there is no evidence that they ever married while living in the Unites States. However, she remained his lifelong partner until his death.
6. For the years spanning 1939-1951, both Joe and Clara spent time teaching at the renowned Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts. Pilates archives show Joe teaching dance students Contrology and having fun with Modern Dance pioneer, Ted Shawn. They loved the area so much that they eventually brought property close to Jacob’s Pillow and vacationed there often.
7. Joe may have been the creator behind the Pilates method, but it was Clara who vocalized and clarified how to adapt the exercises to fit each client. According to many of the Pilates Elders (those teachers who trained directly with Joe), Joe was fairly brisk and abrupt with his instructions and directions, perhaps partially due to the fact that English was not his first language. It was Clara who often spent the most time with clients, explaining what Joe wanted.
8. Clara had a particular fondness for Pilates Elder, Ron Fletcher. She gave her blessing to Ron to continue with Joe’s work in Los Angeles, where his studio soon became a destination for Hollywood stars. You can read her letters to Ron on the Ron Fletcher website, here.
9. Following Joe’s death in 1967, Clara continued to teach in the studio until her death in 1977.
10. Romana Kryzanowska took over the studio and space following Clara’s death. While she eventually moved out of the space, the space is still being used today as a Pilates studio.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Clara! The next time you are in the studio and are reminded to “Remember your ABC’s” (our fundamental building block Pilates exercises) you can thank Clara for this magnificent cue.
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