Dancer Health

Pilates: A dancer’s career companion

Photo courtesy of Balanced Body.
Photo courtesy of Balanced Body.

Pilates was first introduced to me during my time at the Victorian College of the Arts, when I was studying for my Bachelor of Arts in Dance Performance. After an injury in a class one day, I was referred to a local physiotherapist who had set up a Pilates studio in his physio clinic. I had never heard of Pilates before, and when I walked into the studio for my initial lesson, I had no idea what to expect. But from the moment I laid down and started moving on the Reformer, I was hooked.

Not only was I able to rehabilitate my injury in record time, but my dancing improved immeasurably and my body had never felt better!

Photo courtesy of Balanced Body.
Photo courtesy of Balanced Body.

Pilates helped me to become stronger and more resilient, which gave me the ability to challenge myself without injury. All the fundamental principles made intuitive sense to me, and Pilates served as an ideal complement to my dance training. I was challenged both physically and mentally, which was exciting to me and so different from any form of body conditioning I had tried up to that point.

After I graduated from college, I moved back to my hometown of Adelaide briefly and continued my Pilates training at a small studio in the city. Then I headed overseas to pursue a career in dance. It wasn’t until I landed a job with a dance company in Seattle, Washington, USA, that I was re-introduced to Pilates, only six years after I had taken my first class in Melbourne.

During the off season with the dance company, I had to find other work, and due to restrictions on my working visa, I was required to find work that was related to dance. At first, I did take a couple of cash-in-hand jobs such as cleaning houses and waitressing for a catering company until an interesting opportunity arose at the dance company. The director of the company had been running a very successful dance and movement program at a women’s correctional centre, and the year I joined the company, she decided to introduce a similar program in a facility for incarcerated teenagers. She included me in the team that headed out to work with these girls. It was an eye-opening and humbling experience, which I was extremely grateful for, but it was only a few weeks of work. I really needed something that would sustain me consistently.

Luckily, one day during my daily morning dance class, I was chatting to one of the local dancer/choreographers. She suggested I call the owner of a Pilates studio in the area and talk to her about her upcoming Pilates instructor training. So I did, and I’ve never looked back!

I started my training in March of that year, and by the end of April, I was out on the studio floor teaching clients, several months before I actually completed my training. Teaching Pilates came very naturally to me, and having a background as a dancer enabled me to see and correct movement patterns in clients right out of the gate.

So now I had a well paid career companion to see me through my years as a performer. Wherever I went, I was able to find work easily as a Pilates instructor, and I didn’t have to take on low paying jobs to enable me to pay the bills.  

Pilates has served me well, and I am very thankful for the quality of training I received in Seattle many years ago. It has made a huge impact on my life, not only as an instructor but also as a dancer and a mover. 

What initially was a great side job soon became a true passion of mine, second only to dance. It is such a joy to help people move better, feel better, relieve pain and move in ways they never thought possible. Pilates is truly life changing for so many people.

My passion evolved into running three businesses over the past 20 years, first in Vancouver, then Sydney and Adelaide. The work is always evolving and continues to keep me inspired after 21 years of teaching.

In 2019, I had the extraordinary opportunity to train as a Master Pilates Instructor with Balanced Body Education, which has now launched in Australia for the first time. I feel very privileged to be amongst the five Master Pilates Instructors in four states around the country.  

Balanced Body has been manufacturing Pilates equipment since 1976, under the leadership of Ken Endleman. Nora St. John and Al Harrison joined Balanced Body in 2005, and developed the Balanced Body Education division of the company. They are now the largest provider of Pilates education in the world, with courses being offered in over 50 countries.

Balanced Body Australian Master Pilates Instructors. Photo courtesy of Balanced Body.
Balanced Body Australian Master Pilates Instructors. Photo courtesy of Balanced Body.

Balanced Body Education courses combine the perfect blend of traditional and contemporary Pilates, with the movement principles as the guiding foundation for all the work. 

Having access to these courses in Australia now is exciting and absolutely worth it for dancers, as well as dance teachers, to invest in training that will set them apart and put them in demand all over the world as exceptional Pilates instructors.

Courses are currently running in Adelaide at Stomping Ground Studios with Rachel Kennedy (that’s me), in Wollongong at The Pilates Workshop with Tamara O’Reilly and Lani Finnane, in Perth at The Pilates Klinik with Kristen Abbott and keep you ears out for what’s happening in Melbourne with Dr. Tanya Cates, fit advisor.

Wherever you are in your professional dance career, whether it be at the beginning, middle or end, Pilates is a perfect career companion. You can care for your most precious asset, your body, whilst building a profession that can support you long after your career on stage has ended.

If this sparks your interest, you can find out about courses in Adelaide here, Wollongong here and Perth here and read about Balanced Body Education here.

By Rachel Kennedy of Dance Informa.

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