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Gratz had an opportunity to learn more about the “Influencers” and high profile teachers in the Pilates community to share their experiences in 2020-21. We interviewed Brett Howard to tell his history, present situations and hopes for the future.


ABOUT BRETT HOWARD

Brett Howard is the Director of Education of the United States Pilates Association™ and a Senior Teacher of Teacher of the Certification Program. He is the Director of Education of the Classic Pilates Institute in South Korea. He is an Owner and a Director of the Pilates Studio the Pilates Haus.

Brett Howard was certified by the New York Pilates Studio® Teacher Certification Program under the tutelage of Romana Kryzanowska in 1998. He has trained extensively with Pilates Elders Mary Bowen, Jay Grimes and Lolita San Miguel, as well as Master Teachers Bob Liekens, Sari Mejia Santo, Kathy Corey, Cary Regan, Blossom Crawford, Deborah Lessen and Steve Giordano.  He is a PMA Certified Pilates Teacher.  He is a co- author of the book Pilates for Children and Adolescents and a contributing essay author of the book Voices of Classical Pilates. He is featured in the Pilates book, The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning and has appeared and contributed articles in Pilates Style Magazine.  He is a "Distinguished Instructor" and “Legacy Curator” on Pilates Anytime and is an Instructor on Pilatesology, both are global online Pilates Studios, created for people all over the world to explore Pilates with highly skilled, well-trained instructors. 


Please share any family or childhood memories or interests related to sports, hobbies, education, music, health and fitness history


Sports Interest/ health and fitness history
When I was very young I often had a great deal of pain in my muscles, particularly in my legs. I was diagnosed with Myotonic Dystrophy which is fairly rare in children. The prescription that was prescribed for me was for my parents to keep me as active as possible. Swimming became a huge part of my life. I was a competitive swimmer for 12 years. During swim season I would swim 3 times a day, early in the morning before the start of school, and twice after school. I loved and excelled at swimming. I broke and established many records during my swimming career.

Education
I started learning German at the age of 6 and had it in school from first to twelfth grades. For elementary school I attend the German school, where our subjects were taught in German and English. For middle school I attended the International school. I enjoyed learning German and to this day I am still very interested in learning languages.I hold a B.F.A. in Dance Performance from S.U.N.Y Purchase College Conservatory of Dance and a M.A. in Dance Education from New York University Steinhardt School of Education, Culture and Human Development.

Music
I studied the Piano and the Saxophone as a child.

Hobbies
When I was young I loved learning about astronomy and paleontology. My dream was to become a paleontologist. In high school I became involved in Musical Theater. There was a children’s musical theater group in Pittsburgh called the Civic Light Opera Mini-stars that I was apart of, which was a branch of the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera. I was chosen to be in the group for my dance ability. After I had auditioned for the Min-stars I was asked where I had trained and how long I had been dancing. I informed them that I had never trained in danced before. They were in disbelief. I was told that I did as well as others who had been dancing for years. I was immediately made to enroll in dance classes. I started taking Ballet, Jazz and Tap at the Civic Light Opera’s Academy of Musical Theater. I took also took Ballet, Modern, Jazz and Tap at the Pittsburgh High School for Creative and Performing Arts. Overtime I became less interested in Musical Theater and decided to devote all of my energy to just Dance.

What brought you to Pilates? Please describe your evolution as a student, apprentice and certification, organizational alliances, etc.


I started Pilates at 17 years old. I was a young dancer who was prone to injury, because of the hyper-mobility of my joints. Pilates was introduced to me as a tool find strength and help me learn how to best use my flexibility by using my muscles efficiently and not relying on my joints. I first studied Pilates in Pittsburgh. I remember it being pretty challenging, but there was a familiarity to it that reminded me of dance training and I could feel how it was going to help me with dance.

When I first attended the Ailey School’s Summer Intensive all the students were made to take a class called Body Conditioning. During the first class I remember thinking to myself “how do I already know all of these exercises?”. The woman who taught the class was Wendy Amos who was a student of Kathy Grant’s. The class was a wonderful pure Pilates Mat class.Later when I went to S.U. N.Y. Purchase College there was a Pilates Studio operated by the New York Pilates Studio in the basement of the dance building. All of the dance majors were able to take Mat classes for free and Private sessions were offered at a discounted rate, I believe the rate was $40. Surprisingly not many of my fellow dancers took advantage of the opportunity. Having had Pilates prior, I realized the benefit and took all of the classes offered and trained privately as well.

At the time the teachers at the studio where, Carol Dodge Baker, Vandy Lipman, Simona Cipriani and a teacher named Tracy Anderson. I trained the most with Tracy and she suggested that I look into becoming certified. The studio was a training center for the New York Pilates Studio Teacher Certification program. Sean Gallagher provided free Physical Therapy to the Dancers twice a week. When I informed him that I was interested in the program he told me if I could gather three more dance students from the college he would create a special certification group for us. I was able to gather three fellow dance majors and he provided us all with scholarships to take the program.

In the fall of 1997 we enrolled in the certification program and trained under Romana Kryzanowska, Bob Leikens and Sari Meija Pace. Bob Leikens taught our workshops. We did six weekends of training and had an amazing time. I loved having such a small intimate training group. On my days off, during holidays and during my summer vacation, I trained at Drago’s Gym and the New York Pilates Studio. I apprenticed with Romana and Sari in the mornings and Bob (and sometimes Edwina Fontaine) in the afternoons. I completed my certification the Summer of 1998.

I worked at the New York Pilates Studio from 1998-2004. In 2003 I became a Teacher of Teachers and started training apprentices to learn how to teach Pilates. In 2004 I opened my own studio The Pilates Haus. In 2005 I started the United States Pilates Association teacher certification program with David Freeman, who was a fellow apprentice with me at Drago’s and a Pilates instructor named Catherine Cuzzone. In 2018 I started the Classic Pilates Institute teacher certification program with Jason Kim in South Korea.

What do you love about teaching Pilates and teaching clients? What about your training, teaching teachers, and how do you see yourself as a leader and influencer?

Teaching Clients I love helping people feel better, both physically and mentally. It is very rewarding when you see your clients overcome injuries, adversities and have the ability to achieve or master something that they had previously found challenging or impossible. One of the greatest and most rewarding benefits of teaching is having a true ability to make a difference in another individual’s life. Joseph Pilates second book “Return to Life Through Contrology” couldn’t have been titled any better. Pilates gives people their life’s back. Pilates instructors are healers, both mentally and physically. Romana would always say “a client needs to walk out of the studio better than when they came in, they should float out of the studio”. It is amazing to see the transformation in our clients whether it is daily, over weeks, months or years. I love helping clients and students better understand the the method, how to execute the exercises with greater control and efficiency. I love helping people find greater ways to connect to their bodies. I also enjoy creating relationships with my clients. I have learned a great deal about life by connecting with my clients. It has given me greater perception, tolerance and compassion.

Primary Education and Certification  I look at Primary Education/ Certification like the foundation of a building. It is a mechanism for teachers to build from. Without it, it is hard to build upwards soundly. If we stop building after the foundation is formed then are left with a very limited structure. Advanced Training Knowledge is never ending. A teacher must always continue on a path of obtaining greater knowledge. A teacher needs to be a constant student to continue to grow.

As a leader and influencer
I consider myself an educator. I have been provided with a body of work that I believe in that I would like to help preserve and share. I share my experiences with the work/ method, if someone would like to learn from me, then I am happy to share my with them. I would like to be remembered as someone who contributed to spreading the method, as an educator, and as a helper to those who I have taught. I hope I am seen as a teacher who is empathetic and patient. Someone who is observant and communicates well with others. Someone who is kind and able to problem solve.

Due to the pandemic and global health emergencies, COVID has financially impacted the Pilates Community and particularly studio owners pretty hard - how are you dealing with the challenges?


I feel very blessed to have weathered the pandemic fairly well. My studio was forced to shut down in-studio training for three and a half months. Even though the studio was physically closed we still needed to take pay and care of all of the items that go with operating a studio. We moved to virtual training to keep the studio open. I had been very hesitant to virtual training, but when forced to apply it I found it to be very valuable and effective. We applied for a PPP loan early on which received. It was a big help.Once given the green light to reopen, we could only operate at 25% capacity. We organized the schedule between in-studio and virtual to try to create maximum efficiency of space and time. It was like a jigsaw puzzle but we were able to piece it together in a way that worked well. We were and are still very strict with our safety and cleaning protocols. Our clients are very pleased with the efforts that we put in pace to keep them as well as our staff safe.

We have taken a more conservative approach but I believe it will have a greater effect long term.I truly miss traveling to teach, but at the same time I am grateful that I was forced to slow down. I love being home and having a slower pace. Moving forward I will create better balance than I previously had.


"For me, working on Gratz equipment is like being in a stable relationship. I know it inside out and it naturally works. I can’t imagine working on anything else."

HOW DO YOU THINK THE PILATES COMMUNITY WILL ADJUST TO THE NEW REALITY MOVING FORWARD?

Virtual Pilates teaching has made an invaluable contribution to keep people motivated, Newer teachers have been given the most ideal opportunity to learn from the best on Zoom. This would not have been possible without having to travel in the past. Virtual teaching allows us to spread the work. Students and teachers on Zoom are networking and making new contacts. I also have had the time and opportunity to see other teachers at work and I appreciate their different approaches and cues

Adjusting to opening up studios again will be a gradual process. Like me, a lot of teachers have been teaching privates at their studio. However, virtual teaching has kept the method alive and much more awareness and communication has been created.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE CLASSICAL EQUIPMENT to work out in?

For me, working on Gratz equipment is like being in a stable relationship. I know it inside out and it naturally works. I can’t imagine working on anything else. When I travel I don’t always have the opportunity to have Gratz apparatus. I’m always so happy when I can teach or workout on Gratz again, it’s like “lover where have you been?”.



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