The business model for Pilates used to be big studios with multiple instructors seeing multiple clients at the same time. We always had to work like crazy. The hourly rate was more than that of an office job, but we were mostly independent contractors (ie. high tax rate) and Pilates is a tiring job, you don’t work 35 hours a week. 25 hours through my 20s and 30s (and 5 years of grad school) was pretty grueling and, at an average of about $30 an hour, barely enabled me to live paycheck to paycheck. But I chose it because it gave me a lot of freedom and I love the work.
Studio owners aren’t entirely to blame. Sure, owners did better than instructors, but in order to recoup their investment they did need to keep a minimum of 50% of the proceeds.
The pandemic, for many of us, saw an end to this business model because business went online and clients sought us teachers out of their own accord. You’ll notice that there are many less big Pilates studios around and a proliferation of teachers working for themselves. It’s honestly the only way forward in this business - if high-quality work is to be maintained.
At big studios, you’ll probably still find some novice teachers earning their stripes, as they should, but no one can stay in this business for long unless you go out on your own after a few years – in my case that was nearly 20!
What is remarkable to me is that Erika Bloom, the venerable New York studio, recently shut everything down and is keeping it a one woman operation. If the most successful studio in the biz is downsizing because of the stressors or management and the financial untenability of the business model, how are other studios remaining in business without exploiting teachers?
Lost in Migration
So much of the ethos of “being American” links migration to liberation. But have those of us for whom these are not our ancestral lands lost something through our ancestors’ migrations? If so, what? Does “nuestra tierra” have any kind of significance for a contemporary cis-gendered woman of Northern European descent?
Donor conceived children, for a variety of reasons, often feel estranged from their roots. Genetic relatives can estrange themselves from their family of origin. What is the spiritual cost, what is the legacy of all of this migration and estrangement?
Resmaa Menakem says that “Black bodies were deliberately presented as straw men for white bodies to blow their ancient historical trauma through. What had been white-on-white (or, ussually, powerful-white-on-less-powerful white) trauma was transformed...into white-on-Black trauma, which was then institutionally enforced.” He writes about how this created a “false settling” in the bodies of poor white Americans. What has hundred of years of this “false settling” done to our sense of connection to our ancestral identities, our communities, our selves?
On the second of January, towards the end of a truly beautiful trip with my love, we visited the surreal Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech, Morocco. We explored this paradise, the former home of Yves Saint Laurent. Deep in conversation, we somehow got to discussing my annoying habit of defaulting to speedwalking. I recalled that quote “if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together” and shared it with him. “You want that?” he asked. It sounds simple, but that’s a complex question for one who so values autonomy and strength. I said that I did, that our journey enriches my heart and my life more than I ever could have imagined. He kind fumbled with his pocket and suddenly, with moving sincerity and excitement, holding out a ring. This man can surprise me! That he wants this moved me very deeply. And this also feels inevitable. What we share often leaves me amazed, grateful, and moved all at the same time. Marrying this sweet, sexy, special, kind, imaginative human is doubtless the best decision I’ll ever make.
And, for the peanut gallery (that hopefully is only in my own head); that I am engaged to a man does not make me any less queer. If we listen to the voices in our incredibly complex souls and not the labels and dictates of the patriarchy, it’s really very simple. That’s not to say that, throughout my life, I haven’t had moments when my choices made me feel out of step with my communities. But humans are complex and our only reliable compas is only ever our own true north. As usual, my decisions are about choosing what is right for me over proscriptions and I stand true to that above all else.
I’m excited and more than a little nervous to announce that a dream I’ve had for a long time is finally coming to fruition next week: I’m opening a studio in northern Santa Monica (Tongva Lands): Pilates CAN (my initials and essentially my life motto). I hope you’ll visit me in this inclusive space that I hope will be a haven of healing, growth, and new frontiers of every kind.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may notice that my platform has become more explicitly anti-racist recently. I’ve been hesitant to speak about it on my blog for fear that I don’t yet have adequate language, but there’s been far too much silence around this subject so I’ve decided to blunder forward, doing the best I can for now. Please call me out for any missteps that I make.
This July, I joined Layla Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy” challenge a few days in, having caught wind of it from a few people I followed, seeing the profound effect it was having having on those who are doing it, and hearing Layla’s calls to action for white peoples to assume the necessary work of dismantling white supremacy.
I am ashamed that come up until this point, my activism has been very passive. I was absorbed in anti-racist education as an undergrad, but I guess life happened. I got swept up in change, moves, relationships, music and really failed to take the work to its next logical step. I’m ashamed that I never really sought that next step, even in the wake of the Trump election. I was mollified by the movement community’s aphorisms about universality, about intention, but have come to see how very tone deaf we are, how ineffectual, how focusing and insisting on love and light mutes so many voices.
But this is a very exciting time. So many brilliant educators are accessible, visible, and encouraging white people to assume our responsibility in dismantling white supremacy. Racism will take genations to undo. It’s not enough not to be racist - white people ARE racist as a result of being raised in, living in a racist world. But we must DAILY participate in antitacist activities. There are so many places to find these activities and I will summarize serval of my favorites here.
I spoke to a newish friend the other day. A mutual friend introduced us in New York last year and we share a passion for the enlightening, healing potential of movement and on that ground became fast friends and have stayed in touch despite some globetrotting on both of our parts. We spoke at length about how, as a result of so many disorders (illness both physical and psychological), dissociative disorders can result – physiological manifestations of stress and anxiety. Both of us aim to maintain CONNECTION in our clients; connection to the body, connection to loved ones, connection to community, connection to presence, to breath. For it is disconnection that provokes a slippery slope, a lack of intonation with one’s own vibration that can - sometimes indirectly and sometimes quite directly – lead to worsening symptoms and disease.
First, this isn’t a new conversation for me. But I think it’s a newish conversation for bodyworkers - us more physical shepherds of the wellness community. I think this conversation is important and I’d like to see it become more mainstream.
Second, for several reasons after this conversation I’m drawn to examine the ways in which I have fallen short in my connections. Maybe that’s a little bit harsh: may be it’s difficult to feel connected when you’ve been nomadic for some time and when you somewhat prone to anxiety? But true mindfulness, true bodyfulness, attention is connection. Is home. May be is the only true home there is. So, working on that. And, as always, here for any of you need support on your own journey.
I’ve been remiss about blogging for a bit. Just trying to get my bearings in a very new language, new culture, new friends, new lifestyle. It’s all been a bit disorienting. And something about blogging needles one to be oriented, resolved, sure of oneself. And, truth to be told, I never am. I used to think that was a me thing, that I’m slow to figure things out. But I begin to suspect it’s a human thing...
Having weathered a lot of change over the past few years, I realize the thing that has most persistently bitten me in the ass is expectation. I expected certian things of a musical career, of Los Angeles, of marriage, for example, and was a bit boulversé (what a great anamatapoetic word!) when reality didn’t line up with fantasy. But a. the act of projection/fantasy/planning is a little bit self-deluding to begin with. Even IF our best laid plans come to fruition, b. we still have to deal with bills, and an overflowing toilet, being groped on the subway. Those things, inevitable parts of daily life, are rarely factored into one’s future fantasies.
So I’m trying to get more pragmatic about all that while still working for and planning for the best.
In all frankness, I feel ill-equipped to describe my experience of Spain so far. My impressions are so subjective. What claim do I have upon describing the city, this country? To blog, for that matter? Ah well, please take that as a disclaimer, and I’ll say what I can. Hopefully the friends and family that read this won’t hold it against me. Know that I’m trying to see things with as clear an eye as possible but aknowledge that my experience is privileged, biased, and limited.
First and foremost, I admit I probably left Los Angeles to soon. It was a really hard year, I wasn’t doing enough of what I really loved, and as is my wont, running away was easier. I’ll try to bear that in mind for the future, but for now I have to live with that decision.
And what did I expect of Spain? What rosy visions seduced me? I’ll admit, I did think osmosis would rapidly transform me into a fantastic dancer and deft improviser. This wasn’t entirely a conscious assumption, but I’m guilty of harboring it nonetheless. I expected Spanish to be easier. Learning especially the grammar of a new language is bloody hard. I’m not sure what I expected of Spanish culture – I’m probably guilty of not doing enough research. But it is infinitely more complex, more nuanced than I could’ve imagined.
And what am I doing? I’m teaching a little bit – both music and movement. But my teaching is handicapped by my not-quite-fluent Spanish. So I’m teaching English on the side as well. Though exhausting, this jack-of-all-trades lifestyle suits me well – nothing ever gets stale. I really do miss teaching movement more, but I have a Spanish language class now, so hopefully that’s in the works!
As I’ve always been warned, and have experienced, making performance connections takes a little bit longer. So I’m mostly just listening to musicians I’d like to play with, dancers I’d like to dance with, right now and, most importantly, doing the work, because that is what being a professional really is. I’ve never strayed so far from the idea of a five-year plan, and that’s a bit terrifying. But taking it one day at a time and I’ll try to keep you all in the loop!
My 2018 goals are still deeply personal and this year is unique in that, for one of the first times in my life, I have few concrete plans (or jobs, gulp!) aside from some solid, core goals. 2017 was a year of both great growth and great disappointment. I’d like to keep the growth going but seek much greater fulfillment and satisfaction - just raising the bar on what I’m asking of life and of myself. I’ll keep you posted!