Do Dancers Make the Best Pilates Teachers?

Before you all get upset, let me just say this is a question I get asked very often. Sometimes it can end in a rather heated (to say the least) discussion.

I have been thinking about it for a while now and I would like to share my thoughts on this matter.

There are so many dancers who have made the transition to become Pilates instructors. Some have come into it from an injury, some because it is another means of income and some really can’t remember how they got there.

Why do we (I include myself here) gravitate towards Pilates as a second career? Pilates for most dancers seems to be an extension of the dancing world. I know most dancers can make Pilates look beautiful. Most dance/Pilates instructors know how to “perform” and make something difficult look very easy. That is the nature of our training. Whether we are doing it correctly is another matter. But you won’t know that.

But apart from the purely aesthetic point of view, the reason I think we are perceived as being the best instructors has to do with the way we were trained as dancers.

Dancers understand the need to repeat an exercise over and over and over again to get the movement into the body.Dancers will never say “what? we’re doing plies again???” Everyday,hour after hour, class after class, it’s the same routine. Plies, battement tendu, battement glisse, ronde de jambe….it never changes. What does change is how we execute it. Over time these exercises become easier.More fluid, more precise, more defined. This is called technique and it is something that you NEVER lose. You may lose the strength, the control, the endurance but technique, once in the body, stays. It then becomes a part of who you are.

This same training is seen in Pilates. Your client comes into the studio and you teach footwork. You watch and correct. The next day you do the same exercise. You watch and correct. The weeks go by, the client begins to adapt to the work. You are still doing footwork but it is better. Months later the client zooms through footwork as a warmup to get ready for the more advanced exercises. This is no different from dance training.

However, I must say right here, it is also no different from athletic training of any kind. It is the mindset elite athletes and dancers have of doing the same thing over and over until you develop the technique and skill required to execute the movement. These are things that you CAN aquire. How much you do of it determines how good you are at it. Your once a week client will never be as good as the client who comes everyday. (wouldn’t that be nice?). As Rael isacowitz of BASI Pilates says, in order to be a master teacher, you have to have doneat least 10,000 hours of your craft. This has been scientifically proven by the way.

So do dancers (and athletes) make the best pilates instructors? Yes, if they approach their certifications with the same mindset they applied to their dancing/athletic careers. BUT, those who have come from different walks of life are equally good, if they have also put their minds to it and do the hours required AND more to attain the quality and fluidity of movement, of really “feeling” the work in their bodies. Of understanding and remembering how long it took them and having patience and compassion for the new client. ANYONE is capable of being a really good Pilates Instructor.

You just have to love what you’re doing. And I haven’t met a Pilates instructor yet, who doesn’t.

I love this work 🙂


1 thought on “Do Dancers Make the Best Pilates Teachers?”

  1. Ooooooh, as a dancer turned Pilates instructor I have a lot to say on this topic. I agree with what is said above, but I also think there is another element: Dancers must learn how to train the general population, and especially need to learn modifications of exercises for those with special needs, such as back or knee problems. Pilates has the ability to be highly therapeutic but a one-size-fits all approach is missing the boat, as far as I am concerned. What is important to impart to the general population is proficiency with functional, everyday movement and not, for example, perfect releves or great turn out. So to be a great instructor you really need to put yourself in the other person’s shoes whatever walk of life they come from and come up with an individualized program for them. This requires additional education and thought. If a dancer does this, they can be one of the best. Just my .02 cents after 14 years in the fitness biz and 10 years as a Pilates instructor 😉


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