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: