Heritage of a Lifetime

by Jillian Hessel

If you’re a teacher or avid student of Pilates, you can trace your roots back to a mentor or formative teacher. Since Pilates is life-changing,many of us decide to become teachers ourselves. This is how the living chain of Pilates lineage works: Our mentors change our lives, and we teach the next genera-tion of students, inspiring them with the transformative magic of Pilates.

I initially studied with two Pilates elders simultaneously: Kathy Grant and Carola Trier. In 1981, I was dancing professionally in New York City, but years of ballet training had taken their toll on my body. A fellow dancer told me about her teacher, Kathy Grant, who had helped her with a chronically painful back condition, so I decided to give it a try.

My first impression of Kathy’s studio was intimidating. It was very small, and filled with all sorts of strange-looking apparatus. But oh, the beautiful movements her clients performed on that equipment! To my untrained eye, it looked like a combination of gymnastics, yoga and underwater ballet. I longed to do it immediately; after all, I was a professional dancer, so why not? All too soon, I learned why not.
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All Roads Lead to Joe

A road with many twists and turns: Cheerleader, Gymnast, Modern Dancer, Iyengar Yoga Teacher, Communication and Wellness Consultant and last but not least Pilates Aficionado. While teaching Pilates and managing a studio is where I am now, the various paths that led to here are most definitely connected. Let’s start with the Cliff Notes version of Midwest Girl goes to New York City then on to The Netherlands and ends up in sunny California.

I grew up Quincy, Illinois, daughter of a successful basketball coach, Mom of many talents and brother extraordinaire.Took my first dance class at age three and was hooked from that moment on. At that same time, I became the mascot for our father’s team, the Quincy Blue Devils. This passion for dance, cheerleading and gymnastics all morphed into one huge dream of life = movement. (little did I know that would later be Pilates)

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The GRATZ Archive Reformer – Feel a Subtle but Different Connection

archive classical pilates reformer by gratz

by Gratz Pilates

In celebration of our 50th year of manufacturing the finest Pilates apparatus we are excited to reveal a new version of our Classic Reformer – the Gratz Archive Reformer!

During the past year, we have examined extensively the details and designs of older pieces of apparatus, and discovered some Gratz apparatus from the past with assorted details, variations in parts, and other small customizations. Alongside this research we also sought feedback and insight from our industry experts on what we could do to elevate the experience our equipment provides.

What we have crafted is a Reformer that brings together all of these features combined for the very first time.

The Gratz Archive Reformer delivers increased feedback, less resistance during transitions and allows for more fluid movement that we hope ultra-enthusiasts of the Pilates method (from the beginner to advanced practitioner) will enjoy!


  • Thinner, Stiffer Foam On Carriage And Box
  • Spring Angle Adjustment For Variable Tension
  • Lower Shoulder Blocks
  • Modified “Raw” Aluminum” Foot Bar Assembly
  • “Old School” Bent Wire And Wood Handles
  • Deeper Gear Angle
  • Higher Strap Attachment

All of this means you will feel a subtle but different sensation and connection as you flow through the exercises.

Try it out at these locations

We have had a lot of fun with members of our local Philadelphia Pilates community trying out and testing the Gratz Archive Reformer and wanted to share these images below. Our thanks to our amazing friends including Brie Neff, Patience Owen, Nicole Alvarez, Antoine Overton and photographer Mike Whitson.

Brie Neff owner Equilibrium Pilates Philadelphia using the Archive Reformer by Gratz

Brie spotting Equilibrium Pilates instructor Patience Owen on Gratz Archive Reformer

Nicole Alvarez freelance Pilates instructor Philadelphia teaching on Gratz Archive Reformer