Discussion #631

Jennifer Kries

15 min - Discussion


Jennifer Kries is one of the Pilates greats. Beginning Pilates at 13 with the likes of Eve Gentry and Romana Kryzanowski she then went on to be the first teacher to put out a Pilates DVD now seen by over 15 million people. In the years since, Jennifer has created a library of DVDs for Pilates enthusiasts around the world. She is a Yogi, a Qi Gong Master and so inspirational we thought you'd want to see this short interview we did with her when she visited PA in October 2011.
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Hi everybody. I'm Jennifer crease and I'm thrilled to be here at [inaudible] anytime. And I'd like to talk to you about how I started with Pele's. At age 13. I was studying at school of American ballet and I was privileged to study with Eve Gentry who's no longer with us. Um, it was my very first math class, which at that time was called control ology. We were all, uh, squirted into a room and we were told to sit down on a mat.

And before I knew it, I was flapping my arms up and down doing the hundred, but I didn't know that then. Uh, and I remember very distinctly thinking to myself, this is agonizing. I don't think I like this very much. This hurts, you know, I really felt my abdominals in a way that I never had before. And in fact, I should say that I don't think I was ever aware that I had abdominals before that class. Um, and I went through the whole class and I remember at the end of it feeling really long and I was very tall anyway at that age I had a short torso and long legs, which was the kind of city ballet body, um, quite cultish, but I lacked a kind of core strength. And I called my mother up right after that class and I said, mom, I have no idea what we just did, but I hated it and I'm not doing it again. And she said, you know, I think you should keep an open mind and I think you should try it again at the end of the week. And later on that day we had rehearsal and one of my favorite things to do was jump and turn. I was a really good Turner, but I wasn't able to pull off a triple pair of wet.

And I went into the studio and I prepared and I went one, two, three, like it was nothing. I just did a triple wet the first ever and I thought whatever we did this morning, I'm doing it again, was like the highlight of my young life. So that was the beginning of my, uh, introduction to [inaudible]. So at age 17, I was on tour in London. I was on tour with Pennsylvania ballet and we were performing at a place called Royal festival hall for the queen actually. And, um, I used to jump with the boys. I was, I was quite feminine, but I was a jock kind of, you know, behind the screen. And I had simultaneously discovered caffeine.

So I had probably like six cups of strong British tea that day. And I was onstage and in rehearsal again. And I did something called a Gulf [inaudible] where your legs split. And I tore my tensor fascia Lata in midair. And I was in the most excruciating agony you can imagine.

And I was sidelined, um, for the next several weeks. And I was pretty devastated because add to that, that, um, you all remember little house on the Prairie and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Nellie. So Nellie took my part, a girl who was really not so nice to me, took my part, I don't know where you are Nelly, but um, I was very motivated, needless to say, to do my rehab. And I located, uh, the Pilati Xanax at the pineapple dance center. And when I went to an osteopath there, they were really concerned because it was a very severe injury and they said, you'll be lucky if you're walking well in the next few months, let alone dancing. Um, but again, the miraculous method of Palladio was I went into it this time for rehab and I was not only walking really well, but I did the final performance for the queen in London. And uh, after that I came back to the States and I knew that I was hooked because I think as a teenager we think we're omnipotent. We think that we don't need something once we're exposed to it, we just are strong anyway. So it was really very humbling for me.

And it was also the beginning, I would say to my introduction to the healing path and where I have found myself today who was my most influential Pilates teacher. And it's a challenging question to answer. So I'm actually going to choose two of the master inheritors who I again was very privileged to study under. The first is Eve, who was a magnificent human being, was incredibly elegant and powerful but very subtle and I think straddled the world of Pilates rehab and strength training. And I met her at 13. So I think that's a very poignant kind of tender beginning. And she's the one who set me on my path and it actually makes me feel quite emotional even thinking about her. Um, and then after my infamous London injury and I came back to the States, I studied with Romana and she without a doubt, really, really made me fall in love with the method, I think as a more mature young woman and inspired and me that kind of incredible dedication and fire because, um, she used to love girls who push themselves, like boys.

And, uh, I remember feeling like that was very natural for me to do and feeling like I was dancing even when I was doing Pele's. So it was just this really beautiful crossover from class, um, to doing the work with her. And so it was this really beautiful crossover from class into the studio where we were doing the sessions with her. And I remember feeling a kind of fear and awe of her and was really delighted in those moments where I could see her humanity. And she taught me many things, not just about the technique itself, but I was always a keen observer of body language and what people did.

I remember her hands on work that she did, what it felt like to me and how few people have touched me that same way and made the exercises, um, really connect with the deepest part of who I am. And I think that that exposure to one of her many talents has carried through for me. And aside from loving massage, she was one of the first who really exposed me to the art of touch and hands on. And she's the one who's responsible, I would say. So what was Pilati is like in 1990 it was actually two 92 and 93. Um, and I'm giggling in advance in answer to your question because I had one of the first studios in the West village and uh, it's a funny story.

I approached the owner of what was then crunch fitness. It was a very popular chain and I told him that I wanted to teach something called polarities and he said, what is that like a Greek yogurt or something like no one else you pronounce it Pilates. Like, okay, you're not going to do very well but good luck. So I, I was always an entrepreneur and I said, look, I'm going to make you a deal. I'll pay you 10 bucks a person for rent. And within, I want to say three months, he was making about $2,000 a month rent from me. And who was one of my first employees was Alicia and Gorrow who has since become one of my dear, dear friends, longtime friends.

And Brooke Siler was working as the receptionist at this gym. And my math class was actually her very first exposure to Polonius. And it's just incredible what happened in that space because we were all very good friends. We worked beautifully together and one thing led to another and the fire just caught. And you know, I have a warm feeling in my heart when I see what has become of that time in history. And you know, I didn't realize, I think when the first video came out really what kind of an impact it would make. And uh, there again, I was a kid, so I, you know, if you talk about numbers and what's happened, that first video sold something close to 15 million units. Um, and yeah, it was just incredible.

And so I think a lot of the professionals who we know today saw that video. Little did I know because I was just a young ballet dancer. I really wanted to be an artist and I didn't want to be a fitness bunny. I want it to be in T, you know, intelligently represented. But a guy who went to crunch and took class there kept coming me and saying, you know, you're great with people you love teaching.

You have this passion for this thing. You know, and no one really knows about it. You should do a video. And I said, no, no, yeah, thanks. Anyway. But he came several times and then I found out that he was born on my birthday and since I believe in the metaphysical, I said yes. And so the rest is history. What advice would I give to somebody who's just starting out? Um, and this is going to sound like I'm being paid to say this, but I actually really want to pay homage to you, Christy Cooper white, um, for starting this extraordinary online venue for education. Because if I were just starting out, I would want to have the opportunity to expose myself to the full spectrum of instructors and really get a taste for what exists out there. Um, and you've done it. I mean, I think it's just extraordinary and I don't think you realize the extent to which your, your input, your ingenuity, your forethought has really reached.

And the reason I say that is because, you know, a lot of people write to me or they call and they say, I want to be a [inaudible] teacher. I saw your DVD, I think I want to teach people. And they really, they haven't even had a session yet. And I think we as instructors in the industry encounter that quite a bit. And um, I, I need to go back to you once again and say that you are a very significant missing link in that picture because many of us are in remote locations. So if I get someone writing to me who's in Kansas, I can't exactly, and I could invite her, but who knows if she could fly in and do the work with me, she can literally go to your site and she can see my classes or she can see your classes or she can see Alicia's classes. She can really get a feel for what [inaudible] is.

And I think before anyone begins or accepts that mission, you know, if you accept this mission, because it really is before they do that, they need to understand what an art it is, how much dedication is involved, how much discipline and they need to feel it themselves. And I say that to all the teachers who I work with and a lot of the workshops that, another missing piece is that the, how shall I say this, the better we become as teachers, the more popular we are, the harder we work, the less we do the work. And this is a secret that's not discussed very often, but all it takes is doing one exercise to feel it. You channel the work in its entirety by doing one thing. And I love to remind teachers of that and I love to tell new people who are just coming into it now that they must, must live the work before they think about teaching it.

And, um, and that's another thing that I got from those early teachers and the exposure to those powerful women who worked with Joe right from the source, you know, and to feel it in your body, you know, really enlivening your spirit and creating the sense of total wellbeing, which is why the method was invented. I love to bring people back to that and that's what I love to tell people who are just starting out. I would love for you to reach me. You're all welcome. My website is my name, so it's Jennifer creased.com and uh, the other way to reach me is via email through that site. And I'm doing a lot of traveling now obviously here in Santa Barbara and loving every minute so far. Um, and I'm going to be working with Alicia Ongaro very soon. Teaching to hands on workshops.

Something that we're doing here at Pilati is anytime we're doing part one in November, November 12th, and then part two December 3rd. Um, and then lots of wonderful, exciting things are coming up in addition to, um, something called waking energy, which is another wonderful modality that I have evolved into that Palladio's inspired.


3 people like this.
Gosh! I just did your class, then I listened to your interview. It felt as if you were speaking to me...my heart was moved.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights, and some of your past.
I'm one of those who knows what generation instructors, so it is invaluable to me to have had the opportunity to have heard some of your experience with Eve and Romana.
You are a light, and thank you again1
2 people like this.
Thank you for sharing your journey. I completely agree with you that we are all connected by our passion to the method. As always, you are truly inspiring!
Reiner G
1 person likes this.
Thank you Jennifer. A wonderful interview.
1 person likes this.
Great interview! Looking forward to the hands on workshop, it sounds wonderful.
Hi Amy, Annie, Reiner, Yoly~ My sincere thanks to each of you who wrote here. I so appreciate your kind words and I'm glad that you enjoyed the interview! I had a wonderful time with Kristi and her amazing group of teachers and students at Padaro Beach and here on Pilates Anytime- what a pleasure.
And yes, The Hands-On Workshop, I believe should be up on the site soon!
My warmest wishes to each of you!
1 person likes this.
Woa!! So, so interesting hearing some details about the early '90's, your studio, your 'employees'- Alycea and Brooke, your video's and how you jumpstarted an amazing dream. I especially love that your teaching is accessible on PA.....(aloha to Kristi!!!)
If I never get the opportunity to one day study with you in person I still feel totally fortunate to be able to watch and listen on-line. Love, love Jennifer Kries!
1 person likes this.
Thanks! :)
Heikki how did you make those hearts?!!! I wanna do that too!
(smiley face is all I've got in my arsenal and I know that guy that writes the code for the site!)
I just watched your interview and related completely to your pirouette experience. I recently became an instructor a little over a year ago and at that time purchased all of your Master Trainer Series DVD's. I can not tell you how invaluable those have been to me and how invaluable Pilates Anytime has been as an instructor. You are inspiring and gifted and I always enjoy your classes and insight.
Love this interview! I love Jennifer Kries's Dance series and can definitely feel the strong influence of Pilates in her instruction. Great teacher of movement! I hope to learn more from her as I continue to explore Pilates.
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