Classical Pilates Just Makes Sense – by Elena Bartley

Hi I am Elena Bartley, formerly Elena Dominguez!! Sunni asked me to write my story, or rather my journey into going more Joe, ☺

I was born in Mexico City, a long time ago. I wanted to be a ballerina as far back as I can remember, on 3rd. birthday my Mon made me my first TU-TU and I danced “Copelia” …lol. I still remember the steps my Mom taught me. I love it and it still makes me smile.

I moved to NYC in 1980, I became a Professional dancer at the Famous “Dance Theater of Harlem”, a dream come true! How did a small, brown ballerina get into a dance company that was 99% African American?? Sometimes I still find it hard to believe. It did not matter that I did not understand a word of English, I rejoiced at the challenge ….I am so glad the dance vocabulary is in French! Oh boy, after 5 years I finally understood my first sentence spoken by Director Arthur Mitchell: “It doesn’t make sense.“ It …… doesn’t…make…sense! After that, it never made sense, but I loved every second of it! That summer of 1980, I was fortunate to take a class with Kathy Grant. I did not know who she was until much later, but I loved the strengthening class she gave us during that summer. It was Pilates! Who knew!

Like many of us, I got into Pilates because of an injury. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to take Pilates like some of my colleges at DTH, but it was very expensive. $35 a session… oh boy impossible! I was making $75 a week, paying for rent and food. I really tried saving some pennies and not taking the subway, but with winter around the corner and me from sunny Mexico? Not!

But yes, I did get injured but it was a blessing in disguise. Our Osteopath was Dr. Ross, and he was amazing! I begged him for a Pilate’s prescription in place of Physical Therapy and he granted me a full year of Pilates’ session at the studio of Sean Gallagher. I was a happy camper! My first teacher was Steve Giordano, I also took classes with Leah and Carol Summer.

They got me back on my feet sooner and stronger than I ever imagined and the year went by so quickly. Time flies when you are having fun! Then another light into my life and career came when Sean asked me if I wanted to get certified in Pilates with Romana Kryzanowska. I had no idea who was she, but I just said yes because that meant to be able to use the Pilates studio as long as it took me to get certified. So I began “Going more Joe”. As I was becoming certified, Bob Liekens joined the Pilates Studio as the Head teacher in the studio! ☺ What a treat!
I eventually finished my certification! Since I was still a ballerina traveling 8 month out of the year, it took me 3 years to finish. But now, looking back, I can say I was a horrible student! I think I was an arrogant ballerina that only wanted Pilates for herself! I was not interested in becoming a teacher. How wrong was I! Romana Kryzansowska was amazing as we all now, but I truly didn’t understand how lucky I was to be in the first group of teacher training at The Pilates Studio with her. I guess I was not ready for her yet! I finished my 6 months service at Dragos and I was done!

Life took me into other paths of teaching, but still not Pilates. I moved from concrete jungle of New York to the jungles of Phuket, Thailand. I started teaching Pilates a bit there in 1998, but they had no idea; “It did not make sense“ for them. My family and I moved again, this time, to Toledo Ohio! Yes, a bit different! Here, there was a Pilates studio, but oh boy, it was so different from my training with Romana! I could not recognize a single exercise! Not even the 100’s! Luckily the owner of the studio liked my Pilates and let me teach her what I knew and how I learned it! Later on, I would go visit my parents in Mexico and start teaching there. Yet again, I had no idea what kind of Pilates they were teaching down there! I can understand different styles, I even practiced contemporary Pilates for a couple of years, but what was taught down in Mexico was strange and confusing. My brain is wired for classical! It just makes more sense to me! And I realized how much I still needed to learn, so I started studying anatomy, taking private classes with different teachers, going to conferences; anything to expand my knowledge!

I opened my own center: Pilates Center of Las Vegas, and started traveling all over the world like Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain, Brazil, France, Italy, and Chile to teach the basis of the classical Pilates method as I understand it! Also I am the owner of! I recently finished “The Work,” with Jay Grimes. I am still trying to understand this marvelous method that is so simple, yet so challenging. There is so much more to learn, and I love it! I am very excited for next year as I will start yet another journey with Kathy Ross-Nash… and yes… the journey just started….definitely “I am going more Joe”.

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