Documentary #1250

The Life of Eve

20 min - Documentary


Eve Gentry (August 20, 1909 - June 17, 1994) was a dancer, choreographer, dance teacher, Pilates student and teacher, and a healer. She is one of the first generation teachers who worked directly with Joseph Pilates.

When Eve first moved to New York City, she joined the Hanya Holm Company. She later started her own company, Eve Gentry Dancers and also worked with the New Dance Group. While she was dancing, she suffered persistent back and knee issues so she began to study with Joseph Pilates. In 1955, Eve had a radical mastectomy which removed her pectoral muscle along with her breast. She went to Joseph Pilates and he helped her recuperate and she was able to do the more advanced exercises after just one year.

In 1968, she moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where she opened her studio and began her journey as a healer. She taught her students to understand the concepts and principles of the movements instead of just learning the exercise. One of the many methods she created was Gentry Work, which helped her many clients who were injured.

You can learn more about Eve Gentry from her Timeline.

The 1991 workshop Video footage provided by ©Core Dynamics, Inc. 1999
A derivative work based on a 1991 copyright video of the Physical Mind Institute, with the permission of Joan Breibart
The New Dance Group /Tenant of the Street footage provided by Mary Anne Santos Newhall, June 1993, NYC La Guardia High School
Photos courtesy of Mary Anne Santos Newhall, Bruce Gentry and Michele Larsson
Eve's portrait (1989) courtesy of Santa Fe Living Treasures ,Photography by Joanne Rijnes, 1989
Eve's promotional photos courtesy of Marshall Brooks, 1944
Video footage of Eve working with Joe provided by Michele Larsson and Core Dynamics Pilates

A special thanks to curator for Eve Gentry, Michele Larsson
What You'll Need: No props needed

About This Video

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Oct 09, 2013
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Pilates is, is not just a series of exercises. [inaudible] is a concept. It's a philosophy. No, you can learn every exercise on every piece of equipment and you don't know Pilates. So don't think that just because you know the exercises or can teach an exercise that that is belies, it is not [inaudible] is a concept. So learn and understand the concept. So you teach the concept. I, we teach concepts.

Eve gentry was born in 1909 in San Bernardino, California. She was born Henrietta Green Hood. She was the youngest of five children. And about when she was a young teenager, or maybe a little earlier, she started to take dance lessons and just loved it. And when she graduated from high school, she moved up to the bay area and Eve got a job working in Palo Alto at the community theater where she taught dance help, choreograph for a little community shows, et cetera. Her older brother, David Green Hood, was a poet and he married Helen Gentry who had a younger brother, Bruce Gentry. Bruce Gentry was a photographer and they started dating and they became an item in 1936 or they're about the gentry press moved to New York City and her brother said, look, I know a choreographer Hanya Holm So the next day she goes and she auditions for Honda and discovers that she's in the Hanya Holm Dance Company.

I believe she does some toured with Hanya home for six years. And of course in that time World War II happened and Bruce enlisted, they got married at some point during that time eve changed her name from Henrietta Green Hood to Eve gentry. Back in those days you just got on a bus or a train and you went to the next place and they would do a demonstration in the school and then they would do a little performance and maybe that night they would do a performance in the community center and then they get back on the bus and they would go to the next little town. It was hard on you physically. And so she was injured and she had been told by doctors that she needed to have some sort of medical procedure and that she perhaps would not be able to dance anymore. Definitely. I found Joe [inaudible] through a couple of dances and when I walked into the studio on, uh, on eighth avenue, between 55th and 56th street in New York and thought all this equipment and stuff then, and uh, uh, very strange, no, met Joe in Clara.

And Joe looked at me and I could feel he was X-raying me. And so put me through a lesson on the reformer, on the equipment and Mat work, various things. And I was able to do it. We think. So who, as you may know, was Greek. German called me. Eve he says he does not things wrong with you, but you're over worked. So I knew I was over worked, but I can tell you that when I walked out of that studio, I felt that I was flying. I was floating. I last, it was the first time in use that I had not been in terrible pain.

Then she says, Joe began to have her assist him and eventually he would say, f, go teach so-and-so. In 1955 I had a radical mastectomy. I lost the breast completely. And then those days, you know, they took away all the pectorals, [inaudible] everything show, don't worry, we'll do it. Gave me the Ped o Pul and had me take it home. And in one year I was doing everything. When Joe saw hi had recuperated, he said, nobody will ever believe that you lost a breast, that you've lost those pectoral muscles, we've gotta take film. So he asked Bruce.

My husband was a photographer. There was a man coming to the studio who worked in one of the hospitals. He said, we've got to show this to the board of directors, the trustees at the hospital, they'll never believe it. So Joe said we're going to do the same exercises in the nude because they won't believe it. And they were, they excited and they said, right away you can do so much for our patients. It was just tremendously exciting spirit.

They found out that Joe was not a registered physiotherapists and the whole thing flat [inaudible] and a year later she was back on stage doing a wonderful dance called the antenna bird and her opening move was jumping out on stage with both arms straight up overhead, which is very difficult if you don't have a Pec muscle. And Joe's work became a part of my teaching dance and I just could not teach without using that because it so late. Bruce had gotten a job at the University of New Mexico press. She informed philosophies at the time that she and Bruce were going to leave. New York. Pilates gave eve two chairs.

She had a high chair made out of metal, a Wunda chair, a spine corrector. He had a reformer made for her and Joe's old fashioned folding mat. I came to Santa Fe in the September of 1968 I have never felt that any one place was going to be my home for the rest of my life as I do in [inaudible]. When she got to Santa Fe, she took these young girls, teenage girls, and she would bring them to her studio in Santa Fe or Pilati studio, which was underneath her garage. You know, they had that wonderful property on, on cobre and uh, Bruce and my husband, when Leon was probably about 20, built that whole coyote fence all the way around. They did all that.

It was just a cinderblock garage, I guess, you know, just funky tools around and the springs hanging off the wall. And I think she just had one reformer there and then the barrel thing. So it was very, very minimal equipment. If we had several people there, they would just sort of rotate between the stations and all of that. When I first met her, I just remember of trip, what did I now know to be a traditional Palladio's exercise? She asked me who I was, what I did, and then she stuck me on this reformer and we started with footwork in 1978 when I was injured, I called her on the phone and asked her if I could come out and work with her. And I noticed that she'd started to change, so I don't know when it happened, but I began to, I guess look inside of myself.

Something about the clarity of movement or something had something to do with the push with all the push was gone. It changed my concept of myself and my life. I found I was doing the polarities work differently. I was doing a slower, much more relaxed. I found I was moving in a way that I'd never moved to.

I was thinking in a way I can not. I began to do my technique did. I had 'em. I injured my back trying on cowboy boots and the sales persons told me that you had to pop into them for them to fit properly, so I'm tugging on these cowboy boots and there was a pop that was my back. Somebody suggested Eve gentry. I didn't know anything about her, but something about the suggestion appealed to me and I went and met her principal responsibilities as a surgeon is to screen patients to make sure they do or don't need surgery. It goes both ways.

The types of things would be a whiplash injury from an auto accident where I had already determined there was nothing broken, there was no spinal injury. They simply needed to be helped, help in a more healing environment than just letting them get better on their own. There would be people try to Gillian things already, you know, aspirin, Tylenol, anti-inflammatories, narcotic pain, medications, shots and injections of Cortisone, even surgeries and they're still not happy and doing well with their doing and those. That group of patients also would be patients that might benefit from somebody like eve and by platas training, I had terrible psychiatric problems at the time. I was taking heavy duty painkillers and drug called Butoh Solodyn, which is what they give horses to finish the race when they break their legs. I went to see eve and within two weeks I was out of pain and off of 90% of the medications back when I hurt myself in the 1950s you were told never arch your back, never touch your toes, never do this, never to that.

Consequently, a short term problem becomes a lifelong problem. Then when I met Eve, uh, she wonderfully mentioned the fact, no, no, no, there are lots of things you can do to move your body and regain a mobility and function. One thing that was so amazing about eve was her diagnostic abilities. I mean they would walk in and she would have the person, um, stand facing back and take a photo and then study the alignments and study where the muscles were bigger or smaller or what have you. And um, she could just pinpoint after watching people move a little bit Zackly what to do. And her diagnostic skills were pretty awesome. There had been a Peloton book that came out and it was with the lovely lady with the been like on the side that book eve wasn't satisfied that it was easy and therapeutic enough for really patients that we had.

It was more like exercise for people who were already okay. She wanted to create something that really had all of her therapeutic ideas in it. Not just the exercise, but I mean, you can tell when you read this, this is for people who are really hurting and can just barely just do the no circle. So you could really see for this what the people would do when they'd come to the studio. And I think probably she check off the ones that she wanted people to emphasize or what have you at the time or if, you know, she really wanted her to, to them to do that, but maybe skip that or whatever, you know, she would just sort of adjust her thing for that. So that's how that book came about.

Eve was a very wonderful teacher because she would first tell you what she wanted you to do and then she would demonstrate what she wanted you to do. Um, and then when you did it, she would correct you but nicely. And if things hurt, she always said, don't do it. I'll give you another way to exercise that part of your body. So all of these little things she just added into your workout. So if you needed it, you did what she called Gentry, which was very separate from Gelato, so it wasn't pedantic or if you didn't need it.

You did put lattes when she taught how fast, I think it was her first workshop in Santa Fe when we were starting to do a training program and people came from different parts of state and say, it's an, I was involved in that workshop. She gave a demonstration of how she put pillows underneath people's bodies when they were lying down. So she was on the Cadillac putting pillows everywhere underneath person, shoulder on Darnell bow under a knee. This person's right. Shoulders forward. Why would she put a pillow under her right shoulder if it's forward. It's just going to make it go farther forward.

I mean this was I thinking in my head, but I mean I was very respectful. I thought there must be some into this. And of course years later down the line, when I had my own experience as a teacher, I realized exactly why, but that proprioceptive sense of having a pillow under there allows the client to drop into the pillow and open up that area that's maybe pulled forward forward for pain or whatever reason. But I remember from that workshop it was mostly for people in pain and she felt it was that they, they needed to feel totally comfortable lying down that there shouldn't be any place in their body. Whether it was a little build up of tension because it was wonderful. I remember I'm not, I'm on a video doing full roll up and I remember being a little nervous, my little outfit and Eve had another full wonderful image of people who you try to get them to move their neck, you know, and they're just really holding on to it.

And do you remember that there was a paintbrush way, way up on the ceiling and I'm going to paint a little stripe like forward and back on. That's a pelvis passage as you could get. And if I had to have a nickname for what eve did with people with pain, I would say learning to let go. All I did to ice, that Japanese paper making a low stroke on the feeling of vertical stuff. And I think the feedback that she would say over and over to students was, how does a feel? Because without a connection you're just doing something. You know? I never felt she was hugely strict in in us teaching what, what she told her that we had to teach the way she told.

I never got that from her until she had a phase. Probably an environment that is more receptive to alternative things. Things come and go. A lot of things go have passed through here, but hers was a legacy that has stuck in, in spread. She told me a story about when she was seven years old and her father took her into Los Angeles and she saw a woman bending over a big bear and she asked her father, what did she do? And her father said, she's, she's still hungry.

And that was the beginning of the damned. In some ways it's very pure because it wasn't performed by a lot of people. First it was originated by each, did it for a long time. In 1993, she was asked to contribute that work to a gala in New York City, uh, LaGuardia High School. It's, I think one of the great works of that period of time when you dance it, you feel like you're isolated in space, that you're alone. It's about being human. It is so deeply human.

I spend a lot of time with her in her home, um, because she couldn't be in the studio for that long. At that age. I'm talking about dance and how dance was important to her. And I think that talking about her PLRs work and talking about her dance worker intertwined that for her, it was all part of this great love of dance. So when he came to the institute and she was starting to have many strokes, she was starting to shuffle a lot, but she was still, she would still walk out very powerfully. Um, but that got slowly worse over the year that she was coming in. I said, let's go outside. And she said, I've got to walk properly.

I've got to walk normally. So I held onto her arm and I took steps with her and I said, take a step with me, step with your right leg now, step with your left and take a bigger step, not just to one footstep. And, and we, we managed to do that going down the, the little sidewalk next to the studio and then she would revert back into the shuffle. And, but I remember her really wanting to change that, but I don't think I could. I think neurologically everything, things are changed and it was sad to watch, uh, uh, go downhill like that after being such a vibrant woman. How old was she when she died in 1994 and she was born in oh nine. She would have been 84. I think. My gift back finally got better and I stopped going to see her and maybe didn't see her that much after you have to write it in my back is actually been pretty good ever since then, which I attribute almost entirely to her. Yes. He train me to teach somebody not to need you.

Me Not to need the teacher [inaudible] to do it on their own. Yeah, you were a very good student. Commodities was, no one had even heard of it. And um, it wasn't like today at all. I think she'd be completely amazed at the how it's exploded. I fixed, she would just be so happy. I really do. I really do. She's looking down. Yeah. And I knew her at the end of her life. So there was a lot, I don't know. And that goes back to the questions that you don't think to ask those early days in modern dance.

She said she, they, they all knew they were competitive and something big was going on, but they didn't know exactly what it was. I would ask her how she saw dance as a calling at that point in life. And as a life choice, I would ask to try to understand what it took to make that great leap as a woman artist in that time. I would ask her about being an immigrant coming from an immigrant family cause I come from one, two. What was that like? What was that like to come from a an Orthodox family and make dance your religion so to speak, or your calling and your language and what was it?

[inaudible] a lot of questions. So I just wanted to read one more quote, which is out of a letter that Eve had written, two friends of hers whom I don't know who they are and I don't know why she made a copy of the letter, but I got in the box of stuff I got when he passed away, but it was a quote which I just think is very appropriate for all of us. The most important thing about exercising how you do it. Remember the body is a moving object. Every part of it inside and outside is designed to move, should move it, be inhibited or stopped or misdirected.

There are sure to be trouble. Mussels do generate very quickly. We should take at least as good care of our bodies as we do our car. We think our body is the most complicated instrument we will ever own. It is also the hardiest and contrary to all appearances, the most valuable. Don't give it to a little of your time and devotion. Karate is never going to go out.

So I have a big feeling of encouragement about the [inaudible]. We are all we do when Sherry, she maintain keeping alive our heritage, which makes us what we are. Thank you very much. It's been a big [inaudible]. [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible].


Beautifully composed. Thank you!
This is just simply wonderful! Kristi and PA team.. you are just amazing! Thank you to Michele for her awesome contributions! xxx
Thank you so much, it's wonderful!
1 person likes this.
Michelle and PA team, this is simply perfect! Thank you for this gem!
Paola Maruca
1 person likes this.
I always loved and admired Eve Gentry...thank you PA and Michelle for this wonderful gift....This video brought tears into my eyes.....
4 people like this.
My gratitude cup runneth over! I am without words right now... how much truth, sincerity and love has gone into this incredible project ... sharing the legacy of Pilates! I am proud to call myself a Pilates educator, and seeing this history---knowing I am doing my best to follow in the footsteps of educators before me, I am feeling joy! Thank you PA for providing this gift for us all!
4 people like this.
This brought tears to my eyes. Eve Gentry was such an inspiration to all. She was so, so beautiful. Thank you so much for letting us into her life.
fantastic.... this video really chance a little more my way of seeing pilates method.
Thank you Amy. Thank you all for taking a closer look.
Thank you for sharing the Pilates history to us, the new beginners!
Amazing work!
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