Documentary #1252

In Honor of Carola

20 min - Documentary


Carola Trier (May 26, 1913 - October 28, 2000) was a German refugee who spent 22 years in show business. She escaped the Gurs internment camp before they were sent to Auschwitz and travelled to the United States to meet her family.

She was referred to Joseph Pilates by Dr. Henry Jordan after she suffered an offstage accident. She worked with Joseph Pilates and in 1960, he helped her open her own studio.

Carola is known for her high standards for service and her class. She was a smart business woman and knew how to please the clients. In addition to running her studio, Carola wrote a children's book, Exercise, What It Is, What It Does. She retired from teaching in 1986.

Look at Carola Trier's Timeline to learn more about her life.

Photographs of Carola Trier and all video footage taken from the documentary Carola Shares courtesy of Jillian Hessel
Photographs and articles courtesy of Deborah Lessen
Photographs of Carola Trier's Reformer courtesy of Mikael Salazar, The Pilates Guy ©
Photographs of Carola Trier promotional pieces courtesy of the Leo Baeck Institute

A special thanks to Deborah Lessen the content curator for Carola Trier.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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Oct 09, 2013
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Can you try allergy. You may that the mind and the body work together and that your mind will never be okay if your body is not awesome, and if you feel, and I experience it, I say bury down meant I'd be odd. Have such moments, I think, but I do. You don't have to be neurologic desire, but everybody has moments that I'm not good and you do your exercise and you really concentrate on gps and you feed you. [inaudible].

[inaudible] Corolla, Strauss tree are extremely disciplined, consistent and demanding. Born on May 26th, 1913 in Frankfurt Corolla was a German refugee who began as a dancer and spent 22 years in show business. She studied at Kurt Yosis folks' Bond School in n, which was also run by Rudolph on Lobban intent on pursuing a career in concert dance. She decided not to come to the United States with her parents when they emigrated as the Third Reich was rising in Germany. I didn't realize that Corolla was a German for Carol.

And to see this, this little woman who talks about, who talked often about being in the French and Terman caps as she told stories of doing contortionists on the rollerblades to entertain Nazis, and that's how she stayed alive. Well, somebody that has that kind of survival instinct, somebody to be admired by the time that she got to the United States, she was amazed. [inaudible] suffering from malnutrition and spirit nearly broken. She arrived in Baltimore, her family who was already here helped bring her back to health and then she resumed touring in the United States. So it was an offstage accident actually that led her to Dr. Henry Jordan. He sent Corolla to Mr Polarities to rehabilitate from her injury.

And what happened in [inaudible] was slightly Ben and I just stretched it [inaudible] but that was very, very bad that you tried it and time. And then I came to joke, oh, that's how you met some plants, right? It was to show. That was when I was 29 or so. Then he looked at it and said, well, all good, but that stuff, I get that every day, my exercise and I wake up, well, I mean I'm here to tell the tale. I must need some free ride. I made a living and this led to her second career.

She spent 10 years with the [inaudible] working consistently in the studio, both as a client and as a teacher. And at the same time she studied with Dr. Jordan. He really took a liking to her. He sent his dance patients to her. He conferred with her about their exercise programs. He invited her to observe their surgeries and come to [inaudible] follow up appointments, Corolla, having the extra knowledge of anatomy, having uh, seeing the knee opened up, working with these orthopedic doctors, uh, having been a massage therapist and really knowing each muscle and how it worked, I think really, uh, deepened her instruction. And about 1960, she opened her own studio with the blessing and help of Mr [inaudible] who helped her have her equipment constructed.

I believe we were in her hurt. What would it be in the living room and dining room? So it was kind of like two rooms, but the wall had been knocked out and they were all linked up. If there was a funny little hallway where she had the hanging bar across the doorway that had been knocked out and a lounge chair there where people could rest. I took formula four oh nine and went around and sprayed and cleaned all of the finger marks that had accumulated during the day.

I was gorilla was fanatic about cleaning. I mean it looked beautiful curl. His place was immaculate. Um, you know, not a piece of [inaudible] just anywhere. I mean it was very impressed that you could eat off the floor. The windows sparkled all the time. She always had fresh flowers on the desk.

There was classical music and background. It was a busy place. So there was a lot going on. She had a dressing room in the back. It was one dressing room for men and women with a really cool old fashion sliding thing. So if it was the men, you slid it to the men's side and women, you slid it to the women's side. There was a man, a French man there, and um, he had terrible body odor and when all the teachers complained to Corolla, Corolla went knocking on the door and she knocks she and then doesn't wait for him to say, come in. She just opens the door, sticks her hand in and says, Ms [inaudible] here in America, our gentleman use this punching handed of a can of deodorant.

[inaudible] that I thought she handled well. She made every client special when they started. What about my clients? They come as a long phase in the morning. They get out smiling. Why? So I know this person doesn't feel good. Does that not just put him down, let him do it. They go on the apparatus.

They are angry with the apparatus that I agree with the world. [inaudible] the most poverty too. Right. And that slowly, if you see all this, see it's packed a day. Yeah. You talk to them, you make them feel good and then they do the exercise and enjoy them and they could go out and say, thank you. [inaudible] the first thing the Corolla did with me was to put me in front of a mirror and she very specifically talked about placement alignment and proper posture and uh, that in the swing five years, I saw her do that with everyone. She had this great mirror that was two sided on wheels and it had handles on the sides so the client could stand and hold on and Corolla would start from their feet. She would be able to look at somebody's partial complex and basically pinpoint what they were doing wrong, how their foot placement was wrong, where their hips aligned over their knees and this and that.

So in the first session they had a really good idea of what Peloton was, what their goals were, and what their sessions would be like. And then they, we're out of there except that they were required to rest. Why? Because Corolla said the springs were very powerful and you were really stretching and lengthening your body in such a way that you are not to go out into the world having just stretched and then go into your contraction world outside of the streets of New York and then you would spasm. You can spasm really quickly the other way. So the idea was to, after doing all the stretching and strengthening was to rest your muscles for about 10 15 minutes, let your muscles come back to restless and then you were ready for the outside world in July. You would be coming in and she'd say, well now let's book. She'd have her book fresh and she wanted to book your first September appointment, but she was closed for an entire month and she would go back to Europe and visit with her friends there.

And everyone just made their first appointment in September and came back. Can you imagine today closing down for an entire month and having your clients come back? [inaudible] in her teaching garb when I worked for her, she wore a long sleeve black leotard, pantyhose and ballet flats. And somehow she looked like she was wearing evening where we all had to wear pink tights and Black Leotard. We were not allowed to wear any hairpins, any jewelry and your hair had to be tied up. You weren't, your hair was not allowed to sweep her floors because the hair could get into the, um, springs and into the, uh, wheels wrapped around and her reformers, it was, uh, it had a, a pole right down the middle and it rode along the pole, which kept it very stable, but you couldn't remove it to clean it very easily. So she was very strict about the hair. It was like going into a new office.

Only it was this, you know, this was it. So she ran it very, very high class. Corolla was a petite woman with a huge persona. She had beautiful European manners except for her moody meltdowns. Let me just start with the premise. Corolla and I really had a good relationship on until she died.

Our beginning was the least of the whole relationship. Corolla. We get progressively more agitated if there was too much discussion in the studio. She didn't like a lot of where she would say too much, talk, too much talk Corolla. Never liked to answer questions from the client. And here was a client who was asking a million questions. She never yelled at me. She, she adored me and I was kind of a little her favorite little girl.

She sometimes that a habit of not treating her, her clients or her other assistants very well. And that bothered me. You could hear her across the room when she was, hey cre, you knew the whole studio knew and we would all kind of freeze. There were several people that um, fall, Corolla, abrasive, I should say, actually abusive. She would lose her temper. And when people stood up to her, I said, okay, she's a bully. Once that that happened and she did something that I considered unpleasant to me, I changed our relationship.

I confronting her in a big way and then it was wonderful. I was the last teacher that Corolla trained before she retired. Any cues or any phrasings that curl use I attributed to curl was saying them. My favorite one being doing long stretch Corolla would say with your, with your hands on the flip bar and your feet on the shoulders from the hedges are here you are a piece of steel in her German accent. Maybe that was Joe. I don't know.

Karola did not talk about Joe and Clara very much when I was there. She had so much press of her own. She had done a whole series of articles for dance magazine. She worked with um, two different orthopedic doctors. She asked me to model for some of her, uh, for some articles that were being done about her, but she never compromised the [inaudible] philosophy or exercises as she had learned them from Jo and Clara when she varied from them, she told the teachers very specifically what changes she made.

Corolla raised the idea of what [inaudible] had as a gym. She made it classy and she brought it up to a studio of Salon. It, she really raised the bar on exercises. We were interservice it. Carola's Corolla charged more than Joe did and I think she probably charged warrant then Kathy as well.

Although she had a dancer rate always it was a discount. But uh, we were fetching and carrying long spinal straps, short spinal straps, changing gears, changing springs. People did not have to memorize their routines at gorillas. All of the teachers shared responsibility for the running of the studio. So you didn't just teach, you had to count the towels you had to clean before the cleaner came just in case he missed something. You had to do the books, write out bills. Uh, we really learned every facet of the business and I guess that's why we all handily opened our own studios. Her sprayings, she changed her springs. I don't remember how often they were. There was a lot of traffic, so she was always, she taught us how to check them to see if they were worn out and we would run our fingers through the, the, the actual cook to make sure there was no wear and tear.

And if it was at all worn, springs were thrown away. But she would throw her springs away anyway, just as a matter of course, every few months. And the teachers would all go in the trash and take them out and take them home and attach them to the door and use them because they weren't necessarily worn out. But she had very high standards and she didn't want anything to look cheap or used or skimpy. She was a fabulous businesswoman. I set up my business exactly as she set up hers.

She had a business in the 1950s when most women wear 'em Ozzie and Harriet housewife type. And her husband was an accountant and he kind of helped her set up everything. But she had her whole, her whole bookkeeping system and everything was just so, well, she had these specially printed to her specifications as to how she would like to breed, you know, have the clients, um, balancing what they owed, et cetera along the way. I remember her telling me they start new next time. It's not that it's their last lesson and that whole, she just had an intuitive grasp of how to please the client. That's one point.

Um, I was very upset with Carola's behavior about something. I can't remember what the thing was and I decided I wanted to do this somewhere else. So I went to a couple of other studios, um, and I looked at how they were run and how they worked and I sort of sat there and I thought, okay, um, I'm sticking with Corolla even though she was difficult at times. It was excellent. It was quality. Corolla published this children's book in 1982, uh, with the help of one of her clients, Elizabeth Shupe, who worked for Greenwell oh books. And at the time I thought that it was a lovely little children's book.

Corolla gave me a copy, I put it away and when I took it out 15 or 20 years later and read it, I realized that this is the nugget of the purpose of Pele's exercise and it's as good for adults as it is for children. The introduction says, you play ball, jump, run, go to gym, ride your bicycle, you go to dance in class. Why should you exercise as well? The answer is to do all these things better. Corolla ran her studio until approximately 1986 when she retired and moved into a smaller apartment in the same building and she passed away in October of 2000. I was with Karola at a very interesting time in her life. She wrote the book exercise, was it, what it is, what it does, which is a tremendous children's book.

So then she decided after that success that she was going to write her memoirs and she started doing that and I would come in and she would be a wreck in the morning. She was reliving a lot of her, uh, time in Europe during the Nazis in World War Two. And, um, building up to World War II and losing friends and family and she could not talk about it. And she dropped the project. She couldn't, she couldn't do it. I wanted to work for Corolla, which is really what I wanted. I wanted to stay there forever. And I told her how much I loved her. And then it was only a couple of weeks after that that she went into the hospital. And um, she has, if she knew she had a heart condition and she told me that she thought of me as a daughter, you know, she's always of me that way and now that I'm older I know how fast 25 years passes. It seems like nothing.

[inaudible] as I said, she was loading and so you could tell when you came in, what kind of mood she was in. But she liked laughing. She did like laughing. I guess she was always looking or waiting for that person to, to tell them the thing that was going to make or when I went to get the belays equipment, Romana made me sign something that I could not say that I was teaching polite, so I said no problem because I wasn't teaching palladium, I was teaching Corolla. She really broke the ground for us and I don't think she's as known as she deserves to be. The most important thing that I learned from Corolla, which I try to important in part to the teachers I train as well as my clients, is that you have to have a firm base. You can't go any place unless you come from some place.

And that place is where we have to live. The more you advance in your technique, the more you have to return to that place and go over the basics. It's not necessary to do a half an hour of super advanced exercises. As an advanced practitioner. You have to do a simple exercise beautifully.

I think of her almost every day, and she reassures me of the validity of the work and challenges me to be the best that I can be. You get more back? I fully expected [inaudible]. It's amazing. So it's kind of [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] uh, uh, [inaudible] mm [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible].


2 people like this.
Reiner G
2 people like this.
All these wonderful Legacy Project films are incredible. Each of them brings one closer to our Pilates grand parents. Allthough I own a bunch of DVDs like Carola Shares etc., these Pilates Anytime films add to that a lot. So thank you so much!
AMAZING, thank you all in PA for sharing and bring us closer to our history.
Jennifer W
2 people like this.
Such an amazing project! Thank you!!
Karin H
1 person likes this.
Reminds me of my days dancing at Lou Conte Dance studio in Chicago! Beautiful!
1 person likes this.
amazing film.My English is very bad, sometime during the film I lose the dialogue because the music make me fly ...beatiful music...congratulation for the proyet.. thank you very much
Thank you all SO much. This is such a gift to us Pilates teachers. I am so grateful
Is it possible to get a copy of Carola's book anywhere?
1 person likes this.
Bravo Deb and PA I love this film. I am watching them all and I am in awe. Thank you.
4 people like this.
I'm watching these videos, these collections of time, work and memories and am speechless. The gratitude I'm feeling right now is unmeasurable.....that I found the Pilates work when I die (at 20 years old in college) and that Pilates found it's way to me. Thank you PA for providing this platform for our community to see, hear and learn from!
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