Three years ago, two former ballet dancers set up a Pilates studio to promote the joy of the movement. With a team of former professional dancers and a new philosophy, Raluca Vornicel and Ana Dumitrescu believe in the transformative power of the sport. By Diana-Florina Cosmin (photos by Adrian Dumitraşcu)
I admit, for many years I ran away from Pilates as far as my legs could carry me. And they carried me well, one more reason to think that this discipline, created by Joseph Pilates in the 1930s, is far too static for my taste. It is a preconception that Ana and Raluca have certainly heard from people who have crossed the door of the studio, but which they quickly counteract, as their methods deviate from the classic Pilates routines. They named their studio “Movement” just because the type of movement they are promoting covers many components, including dance, aerobics, or jumping elements, to make training more dynamic and interactive.
“The rhythm and style of an hour of Pilates is given by coach and method,” explains Raluca. “After an hour’s workout, you can leave without sweating, but so tired that you can barely move your feet.” Their customers fall into both categories: people who want easier training, recovery or relaxation, but also sports enthusiasts who want to consume their energy and feel they have worked intensively. “It’s a very flexible discipline,” says Ana. Contrary to another preconception that Pilates is a discipline for women, many men have been in the Movement for years. Especially foreigners who are used to Pilates techniques in their countries and who, once they arrive in Romania, want to continue the sports routine they have become accustomed to.
Despite my initial confessions, my relationship with Pilates began almost a year ago, before I met Raluca and Ana, but their method made me look at this discipline from another perspective, which they themselves discovered as a technique of recovery for professional dancers in the years spent in the Ballet of the National Opera in Bucharest. “Joseph Pilates has trained a lot of ballet dancers who then became his disciples, so his techniques have been taken further along this line,” explains Raluca. Besides the period spent on the stage of the National Opera and as a classical dance teacher in the “Floria Capsali” Choreography High School, Raluca worked in contemporary dance companies, made the stage movement for the National Theater and the Bulandra Theater and worked for several years on TV , as a dancer and choreographer at the show “Dancing for you”.
Her friend and partner in the studio, Ana, had a similar approach, beginning with the Choreography High school and continued with the National University of Theater and Cinematography “Ion Luca Caragiale”, at the choreography creation section. She danced on the stage of the National Opera, but also in musical performances such as “Chicago”, and during the glory of the show “Dancing for You “was, like Raluca, a dancer and choreographer in the show.
The studio on a small street in Floreasca area, “Movement,” appeared as a natural step in their lives: when they retired from the Opera, Theater and Television, the two friends thought of creating a Pilates studio, which they considered to be the type of movement closest to the dance they loved so much. They got their international certifications, attracting in their team of eight coaches former ballet dancers, some former classmates since the fourth grade, from “Floria Capsali” ballet school, some stage partners from the theater. “You feel the movement differently as a ballet dancer and you can understand and direct better the person in front of you,” they think.
Their intuition has been a winner, and the passion invested in the studio has come to fruition: in the over three years of “Movement,” Raluca and Ana have formed a loyal clientele, for which Pilates has become indispensable for everyday life. Although the popularity of a place generally leads to a significant increase in prices, they have stubbornly kept the same rates from the beginning, considering it a fair-play move towards customers. “When you started in a certain way, you do not change the rules along the way,” Ana says.
Pilates discipline, on the other hand, has greatly changed over time, becoming a real industry and a way of life for people all over the world. If Joseph Pilates started with 34 mattress exercises using body weight, “Pilates” now has multiple methods and “schools” and uses, in addition to the classical mattress, special appliances like the Reformer, a system of levers and strings that isolate movement on certain muscle groups.
Unlike other sporting disciplines, Pilates can be practiced daily, not even pregnant women have a contraindication to this type of movement, or even to the contrary. “Beyond health, people always come back to Pilates once they see how the muscles re-shape and how the body’s shape changes,” Ana explains. Even if you have the same number of kilos from when you started, your clothes fit you completely different, the tone is better and you can be surprised by the people around you asking you how you have lost so much weight.
Beyond this promise of “rearranging” the muscle, what really opened my mind to Pilates, despite the years of doubt, was accidentally discovered information that touched me directly in the midst of my coordination weaknesses: Joseph Pilates Initially called the training method “Contrology”, because the idea underlying its exercises is the simultaneous control of the body and the mind. The muscles align with breath, the moves are slow and thoughtful, the rhythm is constant, and the mind focuses on the present moment. Pilates’ “Contrology” would also help us in other aspects of life, since the mind should listen more often to body signals, and our body would benefit from our concerted thoughts.
Looking back, before the first contact with Pilates as a one-to-one workout, I had also been discouraged by the few experiences of Pilates group classes, which seemed to me all far too easy. Reading about control theory, I realized that, despite the positive energy of group classes, the coordination component between breath, thoughts and body was lost in the rapid succession of standard movements. “Pilates is a discipline that cannot be done in a group,” Raluca thinks. “Each of us has certain muscle problems, a certain medical history and different goals to achiev, and Pilates is designed precisely to personalize the movement at maximum and to monitor the needs of each individual.”
I left Movement with great curiosity about the Pilates method of the two former ballet dancers, but also with a reconfirmation of a principle of psychology that I always liked: “Emotion is motion”. Both studies and empirical experience clearly demonstrate that our emotions are dictated directly by our movements, the position of the shoulders and the head, how we breathe and how active we are. Any form of movement, from a leisurely walk to an intense sport hour, relaxes our minds and gives “reset” to the day’s fatigue. When we talk about Pilates, the movement realigns our emotions with the often neglected components of health: breathing rate, correct posture of the trunk, coordination between mind and body. An hour of Pilates is an hour of time with ourselves, like a meditation in motion, where you do not need to empty your mind, but just to discipline it. Allow your thoughts to flow in the same cadence with the expiration and the slow movement of your arms at the pace dictated by the coach, consciously re-learning the things you used instinctively in your childhood without calling them “Pilates,” or the art of “Contrologiy.” They were simply … playing.
Forbes LIFE # 38 APRIL 2015