Alan Herdman Documentary Debuts

If you look at the timeline of Pilates in the United Kingdom, Alan Herdman is on every rung.

Alan Herdman studied at the London School of Contemporary Dance and was working as a teacher and dancer in the late 1960s when he was invited to New York to learn about the Joseph Pilates Method. At that time, Joseph Pilates was well regarded by New York’s dance community, but he was still unknown in the United Kingdom. In New York, Herdman worked intensively with Carola Trier and Bob Fitzgerald, two instructors who had been trained by Joseph Pilates himself. Herdman returned to London in 1970 to set up Britain’s first-ever Pilates studio.

A Place in the Pilates Pantheon

Today, Herdman is one of the most distinguished Pilates instructors in the world. He has two studios in London and maintains a rigorous schedule of teaching, traveling, and presenting (at least until Covid). His resume made him a natural choice for inclusion in the Pilates Legacy Project, a series of biographical films for Pilates Anytime about influential Pilates instructors.

“I’m excited to make sure Alan is appropriately placed among the earliest Pilates instructors as he single-handedly brought Pilates to the U.K. and thus is an integral part of the Joseph Pilates legacy,” says Kristi Cooper, a co-founder of Pilates Anytime and the creator of the Pilates Legacy Project.

A Zest for Life

“In addition, he is the best example of what Pilates is supposed to do for us. At 80 years of age, he still practices every day, he is full of zest and vitality, he teaches (as he has for 53 years), he gardens, he entertains, and he is actively engaged in the larger world. He does Pilates, and then he gets on with this really great life,” Cooper adds.

Herdman’s zest for life is on display in the intimate documentary video, which features interviews, clips of Herdman teaching, family photos, and press clippings, assembled and available for Pilates students, teachers, and historians in one place. The film also provides an intimate look at Herdman’s life growing up in a small town in England near the Scottish border, far from London, and his journey to make a life for himself within a cosmopolitan community of dancers, actors, and singers.

Making his Mark on the Method

While Herdman’s early students and clients were mostly performers, word of mouth eventually led London doctors and physiotherapists to start recommending Pilates to their patients struggling with chronic injuries. Herdman’s success with this population reflects his distinctive way of teaching the Pilates method. His declaration “client first, technique second” allows everyone–not just trained dancers or athletes-to benefit from Pilates. This specialized Pilates repertoire, known as “Pre-Pilates,” is closely associated with Herdman’s name and legacy.

Herdman’'s first appearance on Pilates Anytime was in May of 2013 and he has contributed many classes, tutorials, and workshops to the site.

Regarding the Pilates Legacy Project and Herdman’s place in it, Cooper says, “It’s important to know where you come from, so you can know where you are going. Pilates is not even 100 years old yet, It’s not yoga. I like being close to the source.”

Alison Manheim
About the Author

Alison Manheim

Alison is a writer and Pilates instructor based in Santa Monica, California. Her Pilates practice has been a springboard to a brand new career as a fitness model and commercial actor at age 50+.


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