Gratz catches up with event host of the upcoming The 2015 Fall Classical Pilates Conference - FT. Worth, TX Laura West Strawser as she prepares to welcome attendees to North Texas. Laura owns and is the lead instructor at Fort Worth Classical Pilates. She came to Pilates through her work in musical theatre and dance while living in New York City. She was fortunate enough to work at the celebrated re:AB® Pilates and completed their Teacher Training Certification Program with Brooke Siler in 2007. Please read our interview with Laura and she answers our questions to "Why did she want to hold a conference and what has been her best experience so far?"
Laura West Strawser: Growing up, I was an athlete, cheerleader, and dancer. I went to college to study dance and was drawn to musical theatre, so of course New York was where I wanted to be! Shortly after moving to New York City to pursue a career in musical theatre, I met a friend for coffee at her work. Little did I know that it was Brooke Siler’s illustrious studio, re:AB® Pilates in downtown New York. While touring on a musical theatre show, I had been introduced to Pilates with Brooke’s book, “The Pilates Body.“ I was amazed when I walked into the re:AB® studio and saw the books up on the shelves! I had inadvertently walked into Brooke’s studio, and by coincidence, they were looking for additional staffing at the front desk. That became my day job. I worked at the studio while auditioning and going to dance and acting classes.
One of the benefits of working there was they encouraged the front desk staff to take private lessons and classes. It made sense - we got to understand the work on a personal level. We could answer questions easier and knew the different teaching styles of the instructors so that we could match prospective clients with who we thought would benefit them the most. All of the instructors at re:AB® were Romana trained in New York, then some came to the studio out of Chicago or Seattle. It was remarkable, while personalities and teaching styles may vary, the work was always constant. I learned as a student from a group of amazing instructors, and I quickly became captivated. I started taking Pilates classes before auditions to find my center and control, and before I knew it, I was taking more Pilates classes than dance classes.
When I decided to move back to Texas, I knew Pilates had to be part of my life. At that point, Brooke had just started her teacher training program at re:AB®, and that was my Pilates home. I trained diligently for about a year in New York, working my 8 hour shift at the desk in the morning and then staying for another 5 hours or so into the afternoon and evening doing my apprentice hours. I was fully immersed – Pilates day and night!
Then in 2007, I completed my certification and returned home to Texas to teach. I worked at different studios for the first couple of years, but none of the studios had GRATZ. So in 2009, I opened my own studio in a small 500 square foot space fully equipped with GRATZ apparatus. A couple of years later, we expanded across the hall and almost doubled our space. And in 2013, we moved buildings and grew into a beautiful 2000 sq ft studio, and Fort Worth Classical Pilates has been thriving ever since.
LWS: That’s so funny – As I’m practicing and as I’m teaching, I still hear many teachers in my head! But namely I consider Brooke Siler as my mentor. Her studio was my home for so many years. Her staff trained me. She taught me how to bring the genius of the Pilates work to others, and mostly she inspires me to be a better teacher. Every time I come to a crossroads, either in my business or in the work, I think, “What would Brooke do?” and try to make decisions that would make her proud.
There was another teacher at re:AB®, Cary Regan, who is an amazing instructor! She started teaching with Romana - I think she said in the 70’s - and has such a breadth of knowledge with the work and how to apply it to different people. I probably observed and trained with Cary the most when I was apprenticing. Every time I come back to the city, I seek out a session with Cary, and I always leave with a new gem to take home with me!
LWS: I actually was drawn to hosting a conference for a number of reasons. I love Conferences! They inspire me to be a better practitioner and a better instructor. There is a confidence and motivation you get from being around like-minded people who all have the same goal, so I try to go as often as I can. But that said, being in the middle of the county I usually have to fly to get to there, and I understand first hand that traveling can be challenging. While we have had some amazing individual instructors come to the DFW Metroplex, we have not had a large scale Conference that brings a number of presenters into one location at one time in many years. So you are going to get one of the best experiences!
Secondly, I learned from so many instructors as a practitioner, I appreciate and value what different instructors have to offer. We all come to the work from our own background and circumstances and all have our set of issues we work on, and because of that, we bring a bit of ourselves to the work. And just like in any sport or activity, if you want to play your best, you have to play with the best. The quality of their play elevates your level of play. So I want to surround myself with the best instructors so that I can become better for myself and for my clients. I believe there are a lot of instructors in this region who want the same thing, so I took a leap of faith and am bringing these world renowned instructors to North Texas and The 2015 Fall Classical Pilates Conference - FT. Worth, TX is now just a few weeks away!
Ultimately, I truly believe that Pilates is the best way to strengthen the body and stimulate overall health, so my number one motivation is to share this great system with a group of people who will share it with others! My best experience so far is in getting to know these four amazing pantheons of instructors, Mari Winsor, MeJo Wiggin, Chris Robinson, and Alisa Wyatt, and to join together in their joy in sharing Joseph Pilates’ amazing work.
LWS: In Pilates, we value quality, and with these four, all bets are off! I am anticipating a weekend of quality all around! We’ve got the highest quality presenters. We’ve got the highest quality apparatus. We’ve got the highest quality venue. And most importantly, we’ve got people eager to learn and grow in their Pilates practice and instruction, and I am thrilled and honored to be a part of that.
LWS: I do. I love the Reformer, and I actually have to regulate myself a little because I will gravitate to the Reformer if I can. Whether one day or one week from my last workout, I start off on Footwork and everything just falls into place.
LWS: Even though I love the Reformer, my favorite exercise is Hanging Pull Up on the Cadillac. It just makes you feel so strong and in control while generating this great ebb and flow in the body, which I love!
LWS: Movement inevitably makes me happy. Whether dancing with my daughter or running a marathon with my husband, movement sends those endorphins through the body and it makes you happy. As a kid, I was an athlete - a competitive swimmer, diver, and gymnast. I played soccer and was a cheerleader. And then I found great enjoyment in dance, and was fortunate to have a career in that for a long time. I feel like Pilates is a natural continuation of that joy of movement. It has an athletic dynamic with the sense of rhythm and flow of a dance. When I get done with a workout, I feel energized, refreshed, joyful, and thankful.
Fort Worth Classical Pilates is located in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex just outside of Downtown Fort Worth. We started just over 5 years ago in a small, one roomed studio and quickly expanded and doubled our space. Today we have grown so much that we recently moved into a newer, fresher, beautiful open and expansive studio with plenty of space to grow and flourish.
Fort Worth Classical Pilates is a full service Pilates studio, and has 4 Reformers, 4 Wall Units, 2 Wunda Chairs, plus multiple barrels, Magic Circles, a Pedi-Pole, Electric Chair, and a Cadillac. We offer Private, Duet, and Trio Sessions, Group Classes, Mat Classes, and will offer Continuing Education Workshops soon. We continue to grow and develop and are becoming a driving force in the Pilates industry in the Dallas Fort Worth area.
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