Discussion #1766

Students of Romana


Listen to stories from a few of Romana Kryzanowska's students. They talk about her love of the work and her family, her energy and passion, and how those factors contributed to making her a such a great teacher. In addition, they describe the atmosphere at Drago's Gym and how you never knew who would be at the studio. This is a small representation of the many students who promised to carry on the work that Romana learned from Joseph Pilates.

We want to thank Alycea Ungaro, Amy Taylor Alpers, Brett Howard, Sean Gallagher, David Freeman, Kathryn Ross-Nash, MeJo Wiggin, and Rachel Taylor Segel for taking the time to film these interviews. From their stories and descriptions, you can tell how special Romana was and how she influenced them.
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Jul 07, 2014
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My first impression of Romana was that this was a deeply funny woman. Immediately I sensed from her that this wasn't, Oh, a woman that you said no to. There was this little woman that was coming out from the hallway. There was a hallway in the back and she was coming out and I've kind of looked over and it was like more of a silhouette at the time. And I saw this hair with this little woman and she had so much energy that I was like, Oh, you know, I didn't expect it from the silhouette coming.

There was a a buttress of Joe polarities and she comes waltzing through the door, waltz's to the Palladia to the, to Joe's buttress, kisses him on the head and says, hi, Uncle Joe. And continues waltzing through the studio. And I thought, oh my God, who is that lady? It was so funny. I just thought, who is that? Is that a student? Is that a client that turned out that was Romana they all kind of looked at me. They're like, that's Romana.

And you know, when I first met Romana I said, I have question. I asked her, I said, where is the fountain of youth that you have drunk from? And um, she laughed and she said, it's right here. And she had this energy to her. I can't even explain, but it was an energy. It was a passion and was a love for the work. She wanted to give us the work for me. Ramana was a bit of an intuit, you know, she uh, went with her gut on many things. She went with all of the information available, not just the script or what the book said, but who is this person?

What is their experience? And that's what makes a great teacher because she never told you what not to do. She hardly ever said no, she just told you what to do. Do this, more of this without all of the negatives. So in her sessions, you felt that you really could do it all. You were invincible and if you weren't, you were going to try to be anybody who studied with Ramana. Got It. Like you got it. You got, you got that.

This thing is amazing. You got them. Yeah. That it's, it's a whole thing. You don't have to change it. There was no reason to doubt the immense power of this thing when she came to my studio, when I opened my studio, when we were on TV together, she said to the public, you know, [inaudible] is a workout and it's not being taught as a workout anymore. It's being watered down, I believe was the word she said. People weren't sweating, they weren't moving. They weren't body's worn changing because instructors were teaching too much.

They were just trying to make money. She always had a limit as to how many hours you should teach so that you can give the best to each client. She never let you get down on your knees to teach. She wanted the energy always flowing up. So it was, um, it was a hole and you had to study her, not just the book and see if you just studied the book and learn the exercises. That's not, that's one third of [inaudible]. Look at what's going to happen 10 years from now.

You're working now for what you're going to be like 10 years from now. Not Today, you'll feel good today. Um, but five or 10 years from now, you'll thank me. When I walked to her apartment with her on Columbus Avenue and she walked up five flights of stairs and she was in her late seventies carrying bundles and, you know, and that's, if you want to be something that's the way you want to be, we're living longer, right? I mean, medicine's keeping us alive longer. You know, you're going to be into your eighties and nineties, but you want those years to be fruitful. And I saw that back then and I want them to be like her.

When I took a session with Romana, I literally felt the juice being squeezed out of my body. See, there's a catch phrase, squeeze the juice out of it. But you really did, you felt the juice. Like I would come out of there and everything would just be wrung out of me and open and my circulation would be, I just felt I felt alive. Why she left her life. She totally loved her life. And, and you got that. So the ivory tower affectionately I call a was Dragos gym. Um, and it was a hub.

Then I remember walking in and thinking this is a crazy place. And also that it wasn't, is because when I, when you first got off the elevator back in the day, uh, there was a whole gymnastics arena at the very front happening in eyesight, direct eye line of the elevator. So people were doing gymnastics, classical gymnastics that the parallel bars, you know, tumbling. Um, and a lot of people, very dedicated, hardworking people. Uh, and the plot is, was sort of in the back, you know, like the dirty little secret of the gym because Dragos Jim was also a a gymnastic studio and you'd see this like these 80 year old people swinging from the rings and doing the parallel bars. And uh, it was, that was amazing in itself. I remember my first time when I walked into the studio, I said, what is this place? But, um, it was very exciting. Um, so you learn the exercises from Romana, but you also start to see how she taught, how she taught to each individual. And I called them lone nuggets. Like you need it to be there. Cause you needed to get those nuggets. Okay.

And um, sometimes you're like, oh my God, I could have one today. Full work just watching and, and moving and the whole studio, it's like walking into a discotheque at like three in the morning. I might've done that once or twice and everybody moving. That's the way it was when you walked into Dragos there were um, acrobats rolling on the floor. There were people on the parallel bars. Um, there were eight or nine reformers moving these big men with these pot bellies doing polities, stretching and rolling. I mean, you'd see them do the red cheeks huffing and puffing and doing their fives and you know, it was just great. It was so much fun. Drag. Oh, coming. I know.

Cassie take the pushup. Ours, you know, do a Bush. You take your legs, he'd split you. It flip your through. Dragos was magic. Dragos was such a fabulous place to be back then, just walking in the door. It just was such an incredible place. You never know. You never knew who was going to be in the studio that day, whether it was just a news reporter, a news team, um, a professional ballet dancer, a comedian, somebody literally coming right out of back surgery, uh, Romana and Drago together, having a bald swinging from the rings. It was just, it was just magic every single day. You always remember some of the things Ramana said, I, I, when I teach, I try and use some of them lead with the heels. Um, navel to spine, I use the word powerhouse a lot in with the air out with the, in with the air up, exhale, the air reach [inaudible] little mushroom, long string bean, little mushroom lunch, like things that would come out, pushed, put, you know, push you would, it's just when you're teaching it comes out.

And she would quote Joel out in the air out there should always, and that way you had to say it like that. And so now to this day, you can't say it any other way. She said about the reformer, the reformer. They're like braces on your teeth. They're there to reform you, to make you straight and even, and whatever braces, whatever she thought braces were going to do, that was what the reformer was going to do. And he was always, always incredibly clear. It is not a machine. Don't call it a machine that, yeah, it was an apparatus and but what she meant was you moved it. It didn't have an on off switch. You didn't ride it, you didn't get on and have it do stuff to you. You got on and then you moved the, the emphasis you put on certain words when she taught, I mean without being a catch phrase, you know, we shouldn't end. She would say, exhale, exhale, exhale, exhale, exhale until you had nothing left in your lungs. And the same with the inhale. Inhale, keep inhaling, keep inhaling. Now exhale, slowly.

Keep exhaling. She wouldn't let you just stop. She wanted those lungs to fully expand and to fully can track. I always remember when you would finish the a day Romano would be sitting on these couches. On the R, there's these elevators and then there's the studio and in between there's these couches. And Dragos was at his desk and she'd sit there and she got down one. Did you learn something today? And you're like, [inaudible]. And then she'd go, what did you learn? And then you had to think of something. I showed up for a session one day, I was doing long spine the way I had been taught by her. And she ran over and whispered in my ear, I've been teaching this wrong for years.

I took checked my notes last night and we don't bring the kerogen. And I was upside down with the legs over my head. And I was like, if you've been teaching it wrong for years, we've all been teaching it wrong for years. But she laughed. And it was such a funny moment because it just showed us she, it's just exercise, you know, we don't all take it so seriously and we make mistakes sometimes and you can fix those mistakes and nobody got hurt in the meantime. So it was interesting to me too, as a reminder. It always go back and check my notes also that, you know, even the people we look up to, our mentors, these great, these great larger than life characters are, are fallible.

There are mistakes that get made and that's, that's okay too. Ramana and I got along pretty well. I mean, I understood what, you know, she, where she was coming from and what her needs were. And I think she understood mine on a personal and an a and a business level. We, we, I think we liked each other and we enjoyed art, you know, at the time together we did a lot of, you know, we spent a lot of time together, you know, and I always enjoy going up to her house. You know, she'd make a little dinner. We didn't have, you know, have a good time. She drinking a little, you know, have a glass of wine. I drink my water and we'd have nice discussions and talks.

And so I think we got along fairly well. Clara, you know, chose Romana to carry on the studio and trained her to do that. Trained her to carry on their method cause other people had, you know, studied with Joe or trained but they weren't trained to carry on the work. There's no more one anymore. Nobody has that connection with Joe. And I don't think the others had that same connection as she did the other elders. I don't think they had that same connection. So she met him as a young dancer.

He helped her in that very early phase of her career and then a little bit later and then he was there when she got married. And then when she moved to Peru, he stayed in touch with her and he sent her for his, his grand babies. You know, like when Romana had children then he wanted to know how were they doing with Peloton. And as soon as she got back to New York after leaving Peru and coming home again, she was right back there with them. So she was with him in so many different eras of her life and kind of growing up the whole time. And once she came back, she just simply stayed and she stayed until he died and she stayed until Clara died. And then she just stayed on, you know, so it was, she was family. It was good to be around her to see that. Also to hear the stories is good to hear the stories of her talking about Gel.

And every time she talked about Joe, you even see a little sparkle in her eye energy in her body and in her voice. You can see that excitement in that love. And that Addison, she certainly felt that she had been charged with passing on a, uh, heritage, um, upon upon discharge I'd say, or upon graduation. I know many of us were asked to promise to make a promise, promise me that you and she did with me as well. Promise me you won't teach anything else other than what you've learned here. And, um, we all, you know, obeyed and took it seriously.

And I think most of us had tickets seriously, but the fact that she felt obliged to, to extract that promise speaks to her belief that this method should be carried out this way. She believed it. She felt it was true. I don't think she felt that at this. She was spinning her wheels. She felt truly that this was how the method should be preserved. She was the one who tried to keep the spirit in the philosophy of the work alive. Without Romana, there would be not, there would not be much lineage directly to Joe Palladio's teaching. I think Romana has been very adamant in how Pele's is being taught.

It's being taught. She's very adamant about pellet is being taught a very specific way. When you see something that is so perfect and you, why would you want to change it? It would make you mad. That's what she's doing. So what in her eyes, something that is meant to be a specific way is so perfect. When it's changed, she would get mad.

So I think that's where that was coming from. She good for classical, which wasn't even a term yet. [inaudible] and you know, she was, she would say, you know, if you want to take this work and go on with it, do it. Just call it something else. Call it by your name. This is [inaudible]. And that was always her. If she ever had any agreement that was it, you know, like [inaudible] is this, Joe made it. Anything other than this is not polite.

It could be parties based or it could be the gentry work, but it's not politeness, you know, with other teachers, you know, Ramana, she was the one, she care in the work and she was the one that carried on and she didn't want the other teachers necessarily. She wanted people that she knew that trained with her and that were doing what she felt was the potties method and what she was carrying and the way she wanted to carry it on. And, and I think that she felt that most of the other teachers had added too much of their own, their own exercises and ways of thinking and, and things and such to make it something different. And so she wasn't really interested in, in working with them unless they were willing to come. And none of them were really willing, is my understanding. We were willing to come and do what she taught.

They wanted to continue to teach what they were teaching, which I understand, but so the, I think that was where, you know, some, you know, that was where some of her ego came in and, but it's also because she was, you know, again, this was, it was supposed to be taught to my Joe taught to not how your interpretation of what Doe Joe taught it and you're adding your information to it as well. And so she understood what I was trying to do and she saw what I was trying to do and what I was trying to do was to make this a professional program and a professional training and do it the way it was. It should have been done, you know, that, that the Joe wanted the way Joe wanted it to be. You know, he wanted it to be out there and he didn't want it to be all over the place. And, and bastardize and all, you know, so I was loyal to that and I was loyal to her because of that as well. The trademark trial affected Ramana like I don't think we could ever get to Nami lane. It was, it had to have been a nightmare for her. I think it started out okay. She was used to the, the situation of kind of handing over some of her power to some guy that she found who would own this business or run this business so she could teach.

So when we met her, we, ty home owned it and then Steve Giordano came into the picture and I think she had very high hopes for him and he was the one who helped us start our training program with her. And he was the one who brought Shawn into the industry and helped Sean and Romana Stark, the training program as well. So our programs really came from the same seeds of Ramana and Steve. Shawn was over here and we were over here and at some point, you know there started to be some, an animosity between Steve and Shawn and Romana had to pick Andy for whatever reason she picked Sean and I don't think it was ever the same. I think she felt pretty good about it at the beginning cause I think he did take good care of her for quite some time. But he had a mission, which wasn't, I don't think necessarily a bad one, but not necessarily something that fit her personality, which was he began to then start these teacher training programs all over the place and then she would have to fly in and certify people.

Like she would be dropped down in Seattle and she'd have these 25 people she'd never met. And she was supposed to say, okay, I say you're qualified. And that was when you started to see her kind of tighten up and say, well we're not doing that exercise anymore and Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah. And this would change and this would change in, this would change. And, and other things would get really rigid and hardcore and we'd be like, Whoa, really? She says that now. Cause that's not how she used to say it. Um, and, and the, and then as it got closer to trial and then the trial itself, I think that that was almost like a death blow for her. I think she recovered again. But honestly I think it was the beginning of the end when I bought the trademark from we tie in 91 what I wanted to do was develop a professional training program and Romana was the best choice for them.

Yeah. I know she was getting older too. So I was going to say she was getting older and I think Sean probably represented for her the possibility of not having to earn her living by the hour. You know, up until that time, she literally earned her living hour by hour. If she didn't teach, she didn't make any money, you know. And here she was in her late sixties, early seventies still earning her living by the hour. And I'm sure Sean could say to her, look, we're going to make this big organization. You will have a salary. You won't have to teach, you'll be [inaudible]. That's what we always assumed. And, and I, I, I think that it sounded like a great idea to her, to him with auto was a great idea because we really did want the classical entity of the [inaudible] method to maintain its integrity. It wasn't just the trial.

The trademark was even before that I was sending letters and you know, Romana would bring me stuff and say somebody, you know, students brought this in and you know, so we work together all the time on that side. You know, it wasn't just me and you know, somebody wins and somebody loses and whoever loses, you know, they're, they're on the short end of the stick. So I was on the short end of the stack. I was with her, I was around her a lot during the trademark trial and it exhausted her, it wore her out because I don't think that she understood what it really was about. I think that that it was something that she felt was personal and it drained her. It definitely drained her, definitely aged her [inaudible] and I knew very well that there was no way that she was going to be able to withstand such a trial. Um, being cross examined on, on something she knew so well and them telling her it was not special. It was generic. So I think after the trademark, they lost the trademark suit. She lost a little bit of focus, um, because she knew PyLadies then was going to go every way that she didn't want it to go. And, um, so I think at that time, um, she was very disappointed. Um, very sad. Um, p she had gone through very, very difficult time in preparing for that trial. You know, some something that a woman that age wants to hear another attorney coming at you telling you, you don't know what you're talking about. It's not special.

Anybody can do it. That type of thing. I had done all the work to do a franchise. If I'd a one had a franchise and we would have been, you know, all the Kalani studios out there, it would have been [inaudible] and they would've been what Joe Pilati is taught. And the way we taught it, I lost. And now it's, you know, you know, and, and the system is designed, you know, you either protect the, the uh, the inventor or you, you, you provide it for the consumer and the consumer is your buyer beware. And that's what it is today. It's buyer beware because you know, there's no consistency in what the PMA says they're trying to do.

I W it was already being done. The trademark was to provide the quality control and make sure that when you walked in the door and somebody said plot is, you knew what you were getting and now you don't. So everywhere, and again, it was a commercially based decision to incur that lawsuit. Not that I think that Pilati should only be one person and being the source of plot A's. I mean, again, there are brilliant people who can study the technique and get best out of it and create new techniques, incorporating what is in this technique. But you know, this is, this is its own body of work. You know, to add onto a body of work is fine. I mean, we're smarter now than we were in a hundred years ago. So I find nothing wrong with things being added to it. I always just found wrong.

Was calling piteous going Yoga Lotta, you know, calling all these other things. Polonius you know, you could say it's based on [inaudible] principles, core work. Um, but where's the spirit? You know, where's the transformational character? Where is that embodied in these new methodologies that are calling themselves [inaudible] I don't see it as a woman. She's also really put her family first. And it was interesting to see how she held court, uh, in that gym with such a attendance and, um, and tenderness to her family. You know, she, she put them before everything. Uh, you know, Romana kept asking me to ensure, to ensure to her that, you know, when she was done that I would make Shari the, the next person. So a little nepotism and I told her I would not do that. She decided, um, along with her daughter and her granddaughter to start their own Palladio's program and break away from what was then called the New York studio program.

Everybody with four or five, 600 teachers in the world, they all knew one way of teaching it basically. Um, and then, you know, it went in a different direction. It went commercial and it was never commercial. Well, we could see occur and then later in some of the DVDs and things that came out around, I'm not even sure, early two thousands, 2005, something like that, you could at this point now you basically saw it with sort of a caricature. It was like a condensed version of her. Like it was just the Shtick by that point, you know, and the people who were doing the work in the films, you were like, oh, they're just doing the shtick. You know, there, there wasn't, there wasn't the depth, there wasn't the honesty anymore.

Didn't feel like it are the passion. It looked like a bunch of exercises and then beautifully it's like, let's rock star this stuff. Let's show you how hard it is. Let's make it harder. And I was like, that was never, ever part of the intention. There was not a race to get to the advanced work. There was no showing off. There wasn't anything like that. And pretty soon that's all there was.

It kind of felt like, oh, I see you're just doing the show off stuff now. I think Ramana's role in the history of [inaudible] is, is very clear. It's certainly one of lineage. It's certainly one of, of the future as well for having put so many people, uh, into the mix that have become major players in, in the plot is field. Uh, it saddens me that many people call me today and ask about teacher training or where to go. And they've never heard of her. Uh, or, or many of the elders that it, that, that whole time period, that whole history is lost, that it's become a ne a name of a system and not the name of a person is sort of sad. Um, but her place I I think is fairly secure. I don't think I'm, I don't think she'll, she'll vanish from the roster of important [inaudible] people. I think that that you have to acknowledge her legacy, uh, be it the equipment that she endorsed or the style of [inaudible].

There's always going to be a style of Plata is that associated with her. And uh, and for that I'm grateful. I think that there are so many styles to choose from, but this is a really important one and it should be preserved. And so I think our place is fairly secure in the, in the history and then hopefully in the future got a great sense of humor. And she would, sometimes she was flirty, sometimes she was fine. But in the beginning I thought she was serious and I really realized she's not serious. I mean, she was serious about the work, but she, I said she's not serious at all. She's actually quite funny. And, um, and I realized then how warm she was and how giving she was. I believe, you know, in a way we're all almost like her children and I still think about, you know, as being our part of her, you know, family and I think of in all my contemporaries that were there with me at the time, we are in a way a family and, um, it's very, uh, nice to have that. Well, she was a torchbearer.

She brought the method so that it can be used by the public. Um, I don't think when Joe is teaching based upon what I've seen in, in the films and, um, how he taught, I think people now, um, okay. The methodology, how to become a little bit more standardized, um, that had to be beginner, intermediate, advance. Um, it wasn't like Joe Pushing you around. [inaudible] excuse me. In the studio can't do that anymore. So it had to be a bit more structured. In my whole life, I was very, very hard on myself. I was never good enough.

I was never thin enough. I was never a good enough dancer. I was never pretty enough. I was never, I was never good enough. When I was in that studio with Ramana, I felt good at something. I felt good. I could do this work. I felt this work. [inaudible] so, and she shared that with me. She gave me such a gift that is so much more than just exercise.

She truly gave me something so valuable that goes far beyond the politesse method.


Jennifer W
2 people like this.
Thank you Pilates Anytime and all who contributed to is heart warming film about Romana and her incredible legacy!
2 people like this.
Very special time, Drago's with Romana and Drago and Shari, I will always treasure these memories! Beautiful tribute!
1 person likes this.
After watching this video, I have to ask the question: Which school of Pilates teaches the Pilates repertoire as it was intended to be?
Kimberly I think the founder of any school would say they are teaching the repertoire as it was intended to be. Romana preserved it as she was taught by Mr. Pilates (Romana's Pilates). The New York Pilates Studio is the same training that continues through the USPA. Power Pilates is also a derivative of Romana's original program. The Pilates Center of Boulder same... I can keep going. At some point it becomes a question of what the founder of any program adds of themselves to the training and how that suits you as a student.
Lee B
3 people like this.
thank you for the wonderful and exciting video. at some point David freeman mentions Romana's view of how many hours does a teacher need to teach in order to give the best to each client. I wonder what was her recommendation about that issue. it might sound weird to ask but i think it's really an important point.
It's a good question Lee. I'm not sure David reads the forums or uses his PA account, but maybe one of the other people in the video can help answer that question?
Hey Kristi, just wanted to ask why this film is listed as Brett Howard's. It seems misleading as there are so many others. Is it possible to have it show under each our names or just as Students of Romana instead? Loved it though. Thanks for everything you're doing
3 people like this.
Thank you PA and all the teachers interviewed. This is pure inspiration.
HI Amy, The reason it is listed as Brett Howard's video is because Brett was the curator of Romana's section in the Legacy Project for the first year and it was he who organized all the interviews (including yours and Rachel's) that made this video possible. We usually have an instructor associated with a video so it can be filtered that way too and while we can't add more than two names to any one video I do see your point. I will change the description to include all of your names and will see if I can find a way to have the video filtered by all the PA instructors in it. Thank you for bringing it to my attention! PS: I learned a lot from you in this! Thank you!
Thanks Kristi. I forgot about that. Lol. But thanks for considering having it show up under more names. I think that will give it more exposure.
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