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: