Discussion #1871

Brett on Romana

20 min - Discussion


Romana Kryzanowska passed her knowledge and joy of the Pilates method to all of her students. Brett Howard shares his thoughts on her and how her felt his education with her was very well-rounded. Brett also shares how excited he was when Romana let him teach prima ballerina, Suzanne Farrell, and how Suzanne taught him more than he taught her!
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Oct 06, 2014
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I first met Romana in December of 1997 I had already started the New York Claudia's teacher certification program. And a first I have trained with Bob Lukens and, uh, he, I went to the school of, uh, the Dan's conservatee at purchase college and he came and he started us there. There was a group before and, um, we are training through the New York PyLadies studio teacher certification program and, uh, Ramonda was in the city. She was in New York. So I decided to, on my winter break, uh, not go home to Pittsburgh. I decided to stay in New York and just spend a good, like five weeks with her because I really didn't have a lot of chance before to do that. And so I, um, came into a Dragos early in the morning, so I'd draw goes when you worked with Romana? Uh, she was there, uh, from seven o'clock till one o'clock.

And so first day I arrived at seven because I knew the first day should not be late and I didn't know what to do. So I just sat there. I had my notebook. I tried not to get in the way and actually the first day she put attention to you and so I wasn't formally introduced like, hi, I'm Brad. Hi, I'm Ramona. But um, she comes over and she, she will ask you, um, who you are, um, where you came from in terms of not really like I'm from Pittsburgh, but like where you came from in terms of who are your teachers, uh, kind of what was your experience before and you know, she gets kind of your, uh, your history and um, it wasn't formal, it was fairly informal. You just observed and watched and you just stood there and you, um, if she wanted you to do some things, she would say something. And um, over time that started to change. So first you would kind of observe or uh, either standing right next to her if she asked you to or by, um, observing elsewhere out of the way. And then over time she would say, okay, I want you to come and work with me with this client right now.

And she would teach them, but every once in a while she would like, she might put her hand on on the client and give them a stretch and sometimes she would, you know, she put her hand there and she'd put my hand on top or him on top. And she's a feel that she's like, this is the type of stretch I want you to give. Now I want you to give him that stretch. Then the next week, uh, then you're supposed to give this stretch. And then about three weeks later, maybe not even weeks, it was, you know, cause you're there like every day, but over a series of time you actually were giving that client that session. So that's how it was when you worked with Ramona. But everyone had a little bit of a different uh, situation.

So with my situation was very different because there is four of us who are at purchase who are dance and they, um, we actually weren't given a scholarship because they needed extra students, extra people to teach at the purchase studio. And so, uh, Sean gave us a scholarship to, um, start training. So then they can have, um, staff. And so, um, I actually didn't have to deal with a lot of people had to do, most people had to do a evaluation to get in. I didn't have to do that. Um, so my, my circumstance was definitely different, but most people would evaluate with Romana and she would say, uh, whether you are ready or not to start the program. Uh, it wasn't always with Romana though. Sometimes it was with Shari as well. Um, sometimes it also was with Bob. Um, but I think the reason also why I didn't have to do the evaluation is because we were dance majors. So I felt that they felt that we, um, had a circuit, certain amount of movement background that would, we would be okay. I was going in as an apprentice when I met Romana. Uh, I started the program. Um, I was either in the end of September or very beginning of October, and then I met Romana in December, and then I did my final test out in August. So I started in 1997 in the fall. My final test stout was, uh, in August of 1998 that summer I stayed throughout.

So, um, when I was working with her, I still was in school, so as a sophomore in college and uh, so I came down for those five weeks for my Christmas break and then I would come down, um, uh, on Fridays and I would work with her cause I didn't have, um, a full class schedule on Friday. And then that year actually I had a stress fracture in my shinbone so I actually had to stop dancing for a couple of months. So I still was expected to go to most classes and observe and um, I still had to do a, we didn't really do academics, but the academics that we did have, I had to do and, but I did have a little extra time to go down in the spring, uh, more than I would have to work with her. But it was really that summer that I really just plowed it out. That summer I was training at the Alvin Ailey school, also at the Merce Cunningham school. And then I was doing my apprenticeship.

When you went, you would start at seven o'clock and you would work till one o'clock with Romana and then you would go up to the New York studio, which was at that time it was that 2121 and that's where Bob was. And a lot of other really great teachers were, I know that you guys interviewed ton of my goal. They were there. Um, uh, John, he was there not at that time, a little bit later, but there was a lot of us who are at that studio and um, you would go there, you get there about one, one 30, two o'clock and you would stay until eight o'clock. And so it was really nice cause you had um, your learning from two different sources and there were slightly different approaches at both. And so it was really nice to have that balance. My personal dynamics were much different than a lot of my other contemporaries. I was 19 and a lot of the other people were not 19.

They're a little bit older. There was a couple of us who were Daria actually was there and we're the same age and uh, we had both started around the same time. She, uh, actually was at, uh, I believe she was at Boston Conservatory during the year and then she, uh, was there, uh, in the summer. And so there was a lot of us there. There was, like I said, Daria, there was Kathy Ross Mash. There was Peter drome was there, there was, there was a lot of people and a lot of good energy. And uh, you really immersed yourself with Vermont when I was with Romana, there's two dynamics. I felt there was the dynamic when you're doing all the superstar exercises and then there was the dynamic when you watched her with her clients and you were just really watching, um, her hands on approach. You were watching her relationship and the rapport she had with her clients.

You are watching the different variations she gave. Romanelli would always say, you always have to teach to the body in front of you. And, um, it's like I could a little bit upset because a lot of times people feel like Ramana was like this and that this isn't the only way. And Ramana was very specific that she didn't want plebes diluted, but she was also very specific that you would always teach the body in front of you. And so that is where you really wanted to watch how she worked with that body because nobody is the same and no one was perfect and add up. Dragos a lot of the clients were, I'm not young, I should say. They were, I'm pretty up there in age and so they needed a lot of different variations for their body. Um, then you would get the athletes and you would see what she would do with the athletes.

She would get the dancers and he would see what she would do with them. Um, I remember Romana when she had me teach Susanna Pharell and Suzanne Pharell, uh, was Ramana's, um, daughter in law. And, um, she was a very, very, very famous dancer. And so, especially for me being a dance student, that was amazing because it was like, oh my God, I'm teaching right now is very intimidating. But I really love that she let me have that experience. And I was teaching her, but Suzanne was actually teaching me because, um, you know, she had been doing plays for a very long time and she had double hip replacement. And, um, I learned the different variations to do with her. I remember, uh, working, there's many clients that, you know, you talk to people who are there, they will say, oh, there was Mr Glick. There was Christine and you would work with them.

And sometimes they needed many different things. I remember one guy, he had actually not like, like plots pillows, like pillows, like a, you had a prop behind him because he couldn't sit up. And so you had to really give him those pillows so then he can have the range of motion and have the support. And those were the, um, the really, uh, valuable things that you got from Romana. You got total, um, uh, different ends of the spectrum and you got, it was a dichotomy really. You had 'em here and you had here and then he had everything in between and it was very well rounded with Romana.

Vermont actually did a lot of pre potties and uh, yeah, people don't think she did, but she had a very, very large, um, repertory of [inaudible] and you, we had a manual but that was not in the manual. And um, really when you're with Romana you actually learn all the stuff that wasn't in the manual. And I have to say there was a lot more that was not in the manual then was because you can't put everything in the manual and you really, I don't think he really should learn that way and it's good to have the reference. But it was experiential. It was experiential learning with Romano. Was I ever social with Romana and, and was it all work? No. Play with Romana. It was definitely not all work, no play. Cause Romana was a very playful, I remember, uh, times when you would do a Pa to do with her.

And you would all start dancing and you would do a little lift with her and she'd throw her head back and leg up. And uh, she loved doing that. And, uh, but my dynamic was much different than a lot of my contemporaries because I was much younger. So a lot of people were invited, uh, after to, um, go to Vermonters house for parties and for dinners. I actually didn't have that experience. I think it's more because of my age. Um, but I, I've had very valuable experiences with her. One of my favorite experiences with her was, uh, we had a continuing education and, uh, how the continuing eds work.

So this was after I was certified already, but, um, every year you had to do, I believe it was, I think it was 16 hours of continuing Ed. So it was eight hours on a Saturday, eight hours on a Sunday. And, um, you went through the entire repertory and there was a lot of people there from all over the world actually because they were scheduled those, uh, continuing eds. Um, so I got there very early and I wanted waffle. So I went to a diner that was around the corner and Mana was there and she's asked me to join her. She was by herself and it was a really, it was a really great experience. So it was a really memorable moment and a very cherished moment because we got to just talk and not, you know, we talked about plot days, but we talked about dance a lot because we had that in common and she got to learn a little bit more about me and I got to learn a little bit more even about her things that I didn't know. We talked about, um, everyday experiences in real life. It was a really, really lovely experience and I'm really grateful for that. Yeah. Did Vermont Inspire me? Um, definitely. Definitely.

She inspired me. Uh, she inspired me in so many different ways. Um, I would say definitely as a teacher, um, because, uh, you know, I, I did formal education in terms of, uh, teaching, you know, my master's was in education, but Ramana is more to that being a good teacher. And Romano was a intuitive teacher. She, um, maybe she didn't, didn't take anatomy classes and you know, you know, but she knew the body and her hands were genius and she knew how to teach. She knew how to bring someone from here to here. And, uh, she knew how to make people feel good. Uh, she knew how to give people a workout. And Ramana would always say, when you leave plot is you should always, I'll leave feeling lifted and invigorated. So we had a, we actually have specific, I learned from Ramana's specific ending exercises. And the reason why certain exercises were specific to end with and not others is because you want, wanted to leave feeling square and unbalanced and you wanted to leave feeling lifted up and invigorated and everyone left for Mana feeling that way. And so that's, that's very powerful to be able to, uh, have people really love that. You know, the experience of plot is, and um, she made people love it.

And uh, so she definitely inspired me. She inspired me as a teacher now teaching other teachers, um, things that I didn't, maybe maybe things that didn't make sense to me before. Over time they start to unravel and a lot of things that I might've been slightly confused about or maybe even had a slight like, hm, I'm not sure about this. Make total sense to me now that maybe they didn't back then and now I have even a greater appreciation for her. I had an appreciation for her then, but now more and more, even in greater appreciation, not just with teaching my, my students, but also with my clients. And uh, so she definitely inspired me. I do feel like she had risk. She felt like she had a responsibility to Joe to keep plot his planets.

And actually she always said that she said, keep Polonius plot is, and I'm me now, I do feel the same. Definitely having my own influences that I bring as well. But it's fine for you to do anything, but it's good to know where you came from. And it's good to know where the exercises came from. And um, and in my opinion, and this was also over Mona's opinion, she would always say, um, it works. Um, you don't, she Ramana would say actually you don't need to change it. It works how it is. It's beautiful how it is. And now I, I mean definitely you have to break things down like she did and you have to make it fit the person. That's one thing. Romano would always say, you don't make the person fit the exercise and make the exercise fit the person.

She definitely made variations for specific people, but um, she did keep a structure and she kept it pure. And I do think it is a responsibility. So four of the people that train with her and to carry that on everything else is beautiful. But I think it's important to know where it came from. What do I think from Ana's greatest contribution to plot ease was? I think there are many, I think definitely the greatest contribution was holding it alive.

And, uh, you know, we have to give Romana credit because, um, when Joe passed, she was there with Clara and she stayed and she, um, kept the studio going and many times that the studio was up and down chance for to ownership, the name transferred ownership. But she always went with where plots was. And, um, because she felt like that was her duty and she felt that she needed to let people know what plot is was. And so I think without Romana [inaudible] wouldn't be what it is today and there might not even be around anymore or, um, I think she's owed a lot of gratitude and, uh, because she was there and she kept it going. How do I think for Mona would want to be remembered? I think more than just the, you know, the passing of the torch or the keeper of the flame.

I think Romano would more want to be remembered as a fun, lively person. I do because, uh, Romano was energy and Ramana, she was fun. She, Ramana loved life. And, uh, you know, isn't that what plot is, is about, is to really give you a great quality of life and, um, you know, return to life as Joe's book and it's about getting the most out of your life. And, uh, I think that's Ramana, she got the most out of her life and she loved, she loved it and she loved to enjoy it and she loved having good times. She loves champagne. She loved to laugh. She loved to dance, loved art, she loved life. And I think that, uh, that's how she would want to be remembered as someone who really lived their life and loved their life. If Romana was sitting next to me right now, what would I tell her? I would definitely tell her thank you for all of your perseverance.

Thank you for all of your hard work. Thank you for teaching me. I wouldn't be who I am without Romana. You know, it sounds funny, but, uh, I'm teaching plots right now and a plot is right now, it's, that's my livelihood. And I love it. And uh, thank you for passing that joy on to me and thank you for giving me your knowledge and letting me know, give my knowledge and experience to other people.

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Thank You for sharing this Brett, as you said Romana passed Pilates to you and you pass her to us. I love taking your classes because you also share her laughter and love of life in sharing your sense of humor. My students know it was you who said "don't get fresh" (ribs)
1 person likes this.
Hi Brett, it was wonderful seeing you speaking about Romana. What impresses me the most, is how humble you always are. I hope to see you soon again. Best, Reiner
Such a lovely interview! Thank you for sharing your experience with Romana. It was wonderful to hear that she would modify the work to fit the client and I appreciate the respect and love you showed towards your teacher.
Thank you, Brett! Just watched this and hadn't seen it before. Love to you and thanks for sharing. Hope to see you soon!!!! xo
1 person likes this.
Great Interview...well done Brett Howard - Master Teacher, who's always referencing Romana in his Workshops!

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