Years ago I was compelled to add some balance training to a few of my students' pilates routines. We had had a winter storm in Brooklyn that left a treacherous sheet of ice along Atlantic Avenue sidewalks leading to the studio. I was terrified that one of my students would take a bad fall on their way to their pilates session. We started simply with hip, ankle strengthening and have since added more unstable-surfaces and advanced pilates exercises, like the Splits series and Mountain Climber. Below are some links to articles and videos describing basic balance training and a short conversation with one of my star students, Louise Braunschweiger speaking about her special technique for building ankle strength. Lately, we've been talking about adding even more challenges to balance for all NLP students: dance classes, sports, etc. The NY Times article below seems to be encouraging more complex movement challenges for all of us.

Check out this recent NY Times article Finding the Right Balance

Here are some links to balance videos:

Balance Exercises for Seniors

And More Balance Exercises for Seniors

A Conversation with Louise Braunschweiger

Louise has been a committed pilates student at NLP for a few years, she is an avid swimmer and all around athlete. As her teacher, I appreciate her energy and critical eye as well as her enthusiasm for physical activity.
Nathaniel Lee

Louise Braunshweiger: single leg squats on the wobble board

Louise Braunshweiger: single leg squats on the wobble board

NLP: How many years have you been working with me?
Louise: 2½  years
NLP: You do a lot of swimming; do you find any connection between swimming and Pilates?
Louise: I think as a result of the combination of the two is my body in better shape than it was. 
NLP: We’ve done a lot of balance exercises and you invented new things to do at home, most famously the teeth brushing exercise.
Louise: That’s right, I use an electric toothbrush and it goes for 30-second segments, so I stand on one foot for thirty seconds, and the other foot for 30 seconds. Altogether I get two minutes of standing on one foot without holding on—except to the toothbrush.
NLP: And you’re teeth are very clean.
Louise: As much as they ever were!

Dancers/Dance Teachers and Pilates

It is my great, good fortune to teach pilates at the Mark Morris Dance Center. To be surrounded by dancers, musicians and others, interested in movement and dance. When I first studied pilates the only practitioners I knew were other dancers, it was exciting to be in a studio full of beautiful bodies pushing their physical limits with such grace and ease. Below we speak with Tina Fehlandt, former MMDG dancer, about her introduction to pilates and her ongoing studies. Nathaniel Lee Pilates students are dancers, former dancers, dance teachers but mostly non-dancers interested in pilates as exercise. Over the next couple of weeks in our new mat class Pilates Basics we are going to try and take a bit from dance and concentrate not just on the form and feeling of the exercises but also on the flow and quality of the movement. Join us!

Tina Fehlandt

Tina Fehlandt warming-up to teach Ballet class at the Mark Morris Dance Center

Tina Fehlandt warming-up to teach Ballet class at the Mark Morris Dance Center

Tina Fehlandt is a professor of dance at Princeton University and a founding member of the Mark Morris Dance Group. Her experience with pilates goes back to the beginnings of her performing career with the MMDG.

NLP: Is pilates what you thought it would be back when you first started?

TF: I didn’t know what it was at first, except that I saw my friend and colleague Penny in class and I thought something happened to her, she looked different. Her dancing was different, she looked good. I went up to her and I said, “What did you do?” She had started pilates. I didn’t know what that word meant, I didn’t even know it was a guy’s last name. Over the years my understanding of what pilates is has changed, and evolved with different people I’ve studied with. 

NLP: Do you do pilates regularly?

TF: I do it pretty continuously even if I’m not studying with a teacher. I’ll do it on my own. It’s like an old friend I like to go back to visit repeatedly.

NLP: How would you describe pilates to someone who doesn’t know it?

TF: First of all I usually say, “Well there was Mr. Pilates and that’s why it’s called pilates.” People seem more in-tune now with movement systems than they used to be so if it’s someone who is not a dancer I just explain it as a great way to exercise your body without stress and strain.

NLP: What has pilates helped you with the most?

TF: Well that depends on where I’ve been in my life. When I first started studying pilates I learned so much about different muscles that I didn’t know were there. Then it helped me refine my dancing when I was working professionally. And now as a retired dancer and a teacher, I find that it’s a great way to realign myself and keep track of all those little things, those little physical things that can be bothersome.

NLP: Do you like pilates classes as well as individual sessions?

TF: No I much prefer individual sessions. When I go to a class I want to dance around to music. For pilates I like a one-on-one relationship with a teacher because I need that individual feedback.


Here is an article you might pass on to a young dancer interested in exploring pilates:
"Pilates and an aspiring ballet dancer."


Thanks to Tina for talking with us. You can get more info on Nathaniel Lee Pilates and pilates open classes at the MMDC web site:

Blossom Leilani Crawford

A good friend and colleague Blossom Leilani Crawford

A good friend and colleague Blossom Leilani Crawford

Special Thanks to Blossom for taking the time to sit down with us, we spoke before I started teaching the Thursday night Pilates Basics class (Thursdays 6:30pm) at the MMDC. It turns out she is a great inspiration for teachers as well as students. We are building a very strong pilates program at the Mark Morris Dance Center I hope you can come check it out. There is more info on her classes and Pilates Basics, as well as the other great offerings at the MMDC, to be found here:


We are lucky to have here in Brooklyn, what I think is the best pilates mat class in NYC. Wednesday evenings at 6pm (Beg/Inter) and 7pm (Intermediate) , at the MMDC,,
Blossom Crawford teaches from the traditional rep, and draws from her years working with pilates elders Kathy Grant and Romana Krzywerski. Blossom has developed her own inimitable style over the years. I find the beginning class challenging physically and mentally, the intermediate class is seriously stimulating.

Blossom and I grabbed a quick couple of minutes to chat while her son Gus was in dance class, and daughter Sabine was trying to balance on one of the wobble boards at the MMDC/Wellness Center.

NLP: How long have you been teaching your Pilates class?

BC: You tell me, when did you stop teaching that class

NLP: Well, I started it 13 years ago

BC: I think you did it for a year and so…  I’ve been doing it for 12 years. Feels like only six.

NLP: That’s a good sign

BC: There are some people that have been in the class for 12 years.

NLP: So when you started teaching, was your class based on Cathy’s class? (Kathy Grant was an elder pilates teacher  who taught at the NYU/Tisch School of the Arts/Dance and Bendels )

BC: No Cathy’s class was really for NYU students who were required to attend. I had to make money and create a different class.

NLP: Did you love taking Cathy’s class when you were attending NYU?

BC: I did

NLP: Is that when you started thinking about teaching?

BC: No. I think I was still bartending, even after I got certified for Pilates. I had to get fired before I started teaching Pilates. It was intimidating to think about being a teacher.

NLP: So when you started the class and took over from me, you….simplified the class?

BC: I did more of the classical stuff with just a little bit of new. It was really the first time I got to play around, which was really nice.

NLP: When I have dropped in over the years there has always been a  new angle to what you’re doing. I remember a few years back there was a little more yoga in it.

BC: I’m always playing around because if I’m getting bored my students are probably getting bored. I try to come at it from a different way all the time.

NLP: What would be the thru line over the past 12 years

BC: To keep looking, keep playing. Even when you look at the pictures of Mr. Pilates you can see there are so many things he did. You just have to play around with it all.

NLP: I think I tend to get more out of your beginning class

BC: I think I do too.

NLP: It’s amazing how hard it is. It’s challenging even though it covers simple stuff.

BC: Yes. And it’s hard when you have all those different levels of students. I cater to both. I also try to cater to people who want to push themselves and people who don’t.

NLP: Do you ever want to include an aspect that is more oriented towards dancers?

BC: I’m thinking about doing a Pilates For Dancers 6 week workshop. There is a lot I don’t do here because I need to address my client base who are not dancers but there’s really great stuff for dancers.

Here is Tina Fehlandt demonstrating an exercise Blossom and I both teach: The Cat
Find more from Blossom on The Cat on her website at www. Bridge Pilates


The Brooklyn Pilates Blog is a publication of Nathaniel Lee Pilates, a Brooklyn Pilates Studio located at the Mark Morris Dance Center. All rights reserved, 2015.