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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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