Note: Romana Kryzanowska passed away on August 30, 2013 after the writing of this post. She will be missed, but her influence lives on.
When Pilates and Pilates teacher training comes up, one name always in everyone’s minds is Romana Kryzanowska. She is the oldest first-generation teacher and has been one of the biggest forces in bringing Pilates to the forefront and in training teachers who are passionate about the original work. Romana teaches the exercises and philosophies of Joseph and Clara Pilates as they were taught to her. I was able to work with her and her daughter, Sari, very early in my training.
Romana is a powerhouse and will not accept second best. She really strives for perfection in her students, and if you listen carefully, you will pick up lots of pearls of wisdom. Romana was born in Detroit in 1923 and studied ballet as a youngster. She suffered an ankle injury at age 17 while studying at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet. Balanchine took her to see Pilates, hoping that exercise would be the cure instead of surgery. Happily, the exercises worked and she continued to work with Pilates. She soon began to call Pilates “Uncle Joe.”
In 1944 she married Pablo Mejia and moved to Peru, where she danced and taught Pilates. Her two children, Paul and Sari, were born in Peru. In 1958 she returned to the U.S. and began working again with Pilates in his NYC studio. After Joe’s and Clara’s death, Romana inherited the NYC studio and preserved the Pilates legacy by traveling the world for six decades to educate the next generation of Pilates instructors. To this day, Romana and her daughter continue to operate Pilates’ original studio. Sari’s daughter, Daria Pace, also joined her mother and grandmother in teaching the Pilates Method and running their teacher training program. Romana, along with her daughter and granddaughter have trained thousands and thousands of students in the Pilates Method.
Romana attempted to trademark the name Pilates so that she could keep control over the licensing and training of Pilates teachers. Her goal was to be the soul person who could certify new instructors, even though there were many first-generation teachers that Pilates had passed the work onto. Most notably, Kathy Grant and Lolita San Miguel were the only two first-generation teachers that Joseph Pilates awarded NY certificates to teach Pilates. If Romana’s trademark case had been succesful it would have prevented even the teachers officially certified through Joseph Pilates from teaching. The courts, however, in 2000 ruled against Romana and eliminated the possibility of trademarking the Pilates name. The decision has caused much controversy over how a teacher should be trained and what constitutes a certified Pilates teacher and has resulted in many splintered styles of the Pilates Method.
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