“What the hell was I thinking?” was a thought that rang through my head on more than one occasion at the epic Pilates Method Alliance conference this past week. It was my first big multi-day conference for Pilates. I obviously didn’t have a clue what I was really getting myself into. Please don’t get me wrong, the conference and all the surrounding hoopla was phenomenal. I am truly inspired from the event as it gave my teaching a rejuvinating jolt. I met more wonderful people than i could have hoped for. The conference just went further and deeper than I anticipated.
Keeping up with my blog while I was there
“What the hell was I thinking that I could blog while I was at the PMA conference?”
I rolled down to the swanktastic Palm Desert Marriot resort with my laptop in-tow. I had all the confidence in the world that I would have plenty of time to write and update. In the conference schedule I saw pockets of seemingly empty blocks of time. Also most of the evenings were free of conference events. Thus I foresaw myself diligently typing away at my computer like a good little writer. Jotting ideas down over lunch and cranking out essays by night… What a fool I was.
I may have opened my laptop once for 1 minute during the entire 5 days. I honestly cannot remember.
On Wednesday I woke up at 4:30AM in Berkeley. Naturally I hadn’t packed yet. I was on the road by 6am and charged down Interstate 5 focused like a laser beam. Nine hours later I checked in for the conference and immediately began setting up my music. I had offered to play guitar wherever was needed and The PMA happily took me up on the offer. The Plaza, a giant ballroom with rows upon rows of Pilates merchants, opened up around 5pm. My music set-up was nearby The Pilates Nun, AKA Rebecca Leone, who took it upon herself to continually drop-off fresh heinekens for me. She and her cool boyfriend were ever so thoughtful. Her enthusiasm for a good time was only surpassed by her enthusiasm for Pilates. The night got going and the Pilates action didn’t stop until I blearily got in my car 4 days later, mentally and physically fried.
Not wanting to buy everything while I was there
“What the hell was I thinking that I could stroll through the plaza and not be tempted by all the equipment?”
On Wednesday night Balanced Body revealed the Big Easy, a new allegro reformer that looks like an iPod. It’s design is so clean and functional that it’s impossible not to want 6 of them. There were Redcords and Avalon arm chairs and an entire Gyrotonic studio to play in. I could have walked through that ballroom and spent 100 thousand dollars without batting an eye. Anytime that plaza was open I was in it playing… and dreaming of a limitless budget.
Getting to hangout at the pool
“What the hell was I thinking packing swim trunks?”
I packed not one pair but two, like I was gonna have multiple days of pool time! Ha! I had my Hurley Phantom board shorts, the best boardies ever made. I also packed my vintage short-shorts, the Penguins that have a look and feel of the Amalfi Coast circa 1957. They never once even hinted of coming out of my bag. I stopped at the pool once for 10 minutes after a mat class. Pool time was just not even remote consideration once the conference got rolling.
Meeting the luminaries and basking in their consistent warmth
“What the hell was I thinking the presence and attitude would be of the Pilates big shots?”
You’ll have to forgive me on this one, I’m a musician. The music industry and the music scene (two different things) are both filled with ginormous egos. Unfortunately jerks are prevalent at every level, no matter the talent, and that is what I have been accustomed to.
Every hour I was meeting someone who was the author of a book I have in my studio. I was chatting with someone whose DVD I have watched and moved to. I was talking shop with the creators of the equipment I own (or am still paying off.) It was all so relaxed and mellow… (except when they were kicking my butt in a class. That was not relaxed or mellow.) But their was no attitude. It was all smiles.
This next section will be me shamelessly dropping names. There is just no other way to put it. Is that tacky? Sure it is. But it also demonstrates just how intimate the conference and, more-so, the community is. Here is a condensed list of figurative and literal movers that I got to share precious time with. If you are not a Pilates professional and are still reading this (Hi, mom!) you might want to skip this next section. Anyways, here goes:
Elizabeth Anderson: Executive Director of the PMA- Elizabeth allowed me to cash in my free registration from my video submission from last year’s PMA contest. She also had me play music at multiple events over the weekend. She had so much on her plate for the conference (obviously) but always made time to talk to me when she saw me.
Mary Bowen: This original student of Joseph Pilates was certainly “out there” but delivered the goods on inspiration and laughter. Apparently we all need to throw a “bitch-fit” every once in a while. Duly noted, Mary.
Lolita San Miguel: Another original student of Joe’s in attendance. I have her DVD’s and books. At the Pilates Anytime party (more on this spectacular event later) I waited patiently to have a moment with her. When she got to me she said, “Who is this handsome Pilates man?” I blushed and my knees went weak. I think she pinched my cheek? I am certain I said something respectful and gracious but my mind went mush. I’ll never forget it, (except for what I said because I forgot that within seconds of the words coming out of my mouth. What can I say? I was in a daze. Such a great woman.)
Carol Appel: If you missed my 1800 word essay on her (and vampires) you can read it here. It was just great to hangout with my teacher over the days and nights of the conference. A lunch here, a cocktail there, it just felt right.
Cara Reeser: I took her insightful workshop on the teaching of Kathy Grant. She ended up calling me up onto the Cadillac to be the demonstrator for the exercises. I essentially lucked into a mini-private with an amazing and passionate instructor. At one point I was coming up into a Swan and saw the ubiquitous Lisa Hubbard sitting across the room observing my movement. (She even gave me a little nod of approval- I was stoked.)
Jillian Hessel: Jillian taught a fun workshop on the magic and showed me some heavy banded circles that I must get for my football players. I am planning on visiting her at her LA studio. I was not planning on dancing like a spaz beside her at the closing party on Saturday night but that’s just what happened.
Kathy Corey: Oh, Kathy. My new favorite. I didn’t take any of her classes but ended up getting to spend a lot of time with her over the conference. One of the best memories of the weekend was an in-depth discussion on “leg circles” that took place over cocktails late in the evening at the lobby bar. This is exactly what I’m talking about when I say I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this conference. I was just hanging out with a Master teacher, totally casual with other Pilates peeps, having drinks, staying up late, yet always getting deeper into The Work. It was just so F’ing cool. How’s this for lucky? Kathy has grandchildren that live 5 minutes from my studio in Nor-Cal so we’ll get to hangout and do some Pilates when she visits them. Yes, I am pretty pumped up on that.
Brett Howard: Talk about respect… the guy has gone to Dusseldorf to walk “walk in the footsteps of Joe.” That’s intense. Brett led a workshop examining archival footage of Joe and Clara. He went through a lot to get those clips and is not done in his quest. God bless him and his effort for we will all benefit from his mission.
Tracey Mallet: A general force of nature so watch out. She was running rampant with her Booty Barre crew. There was Alexandra Ellis who was the first fan of my blog at the conference. (I’ll never forget that, “hey, I read your blog! It was pretty funny.” Warm fuzzies.) Then there was Emilee Gocke Garfield whose stunning dress on Friday made her the human disco ball. (Obviously, I like disco balls.) Tracey was impressive in her smooth hosting of the red carpet at the Pilates Anytime/Pilates Style party. What was more impressive was her ability to almost convince me to get certified in Booty Barre and teach it to my football players. Which was almost as impressive as her Lionel Ritchie singing abilities.
Chantill Lopez: My classmate through our certification program. We have been through so much together in our training but hadn’t spent time hanging out in years. It was so great to share the PMA experience with her. It just so happens that she has launched her own new Pilates website that you should checkout: skillfullteaching.com
Madeleine Black: A superstar in the industry and a legend in the Bay Area. We shared a very funny sequence of events at a social media workshop that I cannot summarize in a few sentences. It will be described in its own blog post. It’s just too good.
Leslie McClure: I want her to sprinkle just a little bit of that savvy over me. Just a dash, please. That’d be great, thanks.
Kevin Bowen: I took his Mat Class by day and partied down on the dance floor with him by night. His teaching reflected his personalty, honest and fresh.
Bambi Abernathy and Matthew: The Editor of Pilates Style Magazine and her down to earth hubby. I ran into them all over and they were always smiling and enjoying the moment. It was great to hear how they came to take over the magazine; they are a true family business. They have jumped into the Pilates community and are a tremendous fit. I look forward to their plans for the future for our industries signature magazine.
Kristi Cooper White: Thank goodness I had glowing things to say about her website, Pilates Anytime, in my first post. Otherwise there was no way I was getting into the Pilates Anytime special event. (At least I like to believe it was my writing that got me in.) Sure the red-carpet was fun and the champagne was bubbly. Yes, it was a who’s who of Pilates stars in attendance. Of course the dance floor was on fire with party-goers shaking their groove-thang. But what was most touching was the heartfelt speech that Kristi gave at the affair. We all have passion in our hard work with Pilates, it was just nice to see it spoken in front of an empathetic crowd. (The blooper reel they played was hysterical as well. You didn’t think the instructors on Pilates Anytime nailed it on the first take every time did you?)
Rael Isacaowitz: He is my biggest inspiration as a writer on the work of Pilates. This blog wouldn’t be here without him. I got to tell him that to his face. He was very supportive. It doesn’t get cooler than that.
This was my first PMA
“What the hell was I waiting for and why have I not been coming to this every year?”
I have no answer for this. I do know that regrets are annoying so I’m not gonna worry about it. I can only look to the future where I will be in attendance yearly.
I own two Pilates studios with my wifey. Running the business is extremely time consuming and stress inducing. This conference provided me the priceless opportunity to just be a student. I didn’t think of clients, instructors, banks, leases, loans etc. etc. Nope, I just did Pilates. I spent my days moving. If I wasn’t moving, I was listening to an expert describe new ways to approach movement. My nights were spent celebrating movement with like-minded movers.
I became a Pilates instructor because I loved it. I loved exploring my body with it every day and how it made me feel. I wanted to embrace that feeling and share it with others. The business and, ultimately, the money can so easily cloud that mission. The focus can become getting new clients, client retention, revenue streams, spreadsheets, and that invincible bottom-line that perpetually lurks in the shadows of every studio.
I still do love Pilates. I didn’t need this conference to learn that. But spending 4 days with Pilates for all the right reasons really brought that orignal passion back to the foreground. That’s the place it should always be, front and center.
My Pilates love was just a plant in need of a little water. Thanks for the drink, PMA.
See you in Vegas in 2012,
You can bet on that.