A part-time Pilates instructor with over 15 years’ experience, Holly Durant is also a dancer and full-time student at the Victorian College of the Arts. First discovering Pilates as part of her ballet training in Queensland, the busy creative’s passion for the practice has only grown.
Here, Holly discusses the roots of Pilates, one very common misconception, and what you can expect from her reformer Pilates classes at The Alignment Studio.
How long have you been teaching Pilates?
Officially, since 2004. But I was doing bits and pieces with the ballet and apprenticing for a few years before that.
When did you first start your personal practice?
I began doing Pilates as a young dancer because it has always been connected with ballet since its inception. Joseph Pilates was a very close friend of George Balanchine who is the founder of the New York City Ballet.
Joseph began working with a lot of male boxers and gymnasts and became associated with George and the ballet and we had this sort of explosion of cross training. You can see the influences of yoga and dance and a lot of plyometrics and early calisthenics in a lot of Pilates shapes.
Pilates became very closely aligned with dance so, as a young ballerina, I was always sent off to summer school and I would do Pilates. In high school I joined the Queensland Ballet development program and alongside of that was Pilates training. I ended up becoming an apprentice to my Pilates teacher there and teaching mat classes when I was about 16. From there I went on to continue studying and continuing to learn more and more.
How did Pilates help you as a dancer?
In Grade 12 I was training very hard and, perhaps not having the best suited body to ballet, I ended up with a fairly serious spinal injury. I was very determined to try and hang on to or salvage my career as a dancer, so I went through a number of different processes. I ended up doing Pilates religiously which kept me off the surgeon’s bench and in my pointe shoes, which I was delighted about!
Pilates has always run alongside a professional dance career for me. I still work in dance professionally as an artist. Pilates has been very nurturing in many ways – it has been an excellent adjunct to my career.
When did you move to Melbourne?
I moved here in 2003, to go to the Victorian College of the Arts. Again, I became an apprentice here and eventually in 2004 I joined the National Pilates Training academy, part of the Pilates International Training Centre Australia.
What is your favourite part of your job?
Those aha moments where people get some huge changes in their posture or their thinking about movement and it really shifts something for them.
What’s the biggest misconception about Pilates?
To make Pilates mainstream and marketable there is this very big thing about core, core, core. People are misunderstanding that, thinking core means strong abs and I think that’s a really deep understanding. The system of the abdominal core is made up of four or five muscular ideas – the deep abdominal muscles, the obliques, the deep spinal extensors, pelvic floor etc. All of that makes up your tummy core, not just your waist.
It’s a huge misconception that abdominal strength in itself cures back pain or back injuries. In fact, the greater system of what makes that up is what cures and extends and lengthens the spine over time.
What style of class do you teach at The Alignment Studio?
I teach a contemporary style of Pilates class that has reference to certain classical shapes or understandings. I try and teach a class that is fairly routed in self-acceptance and self-love. Not trying to achieve impossible things for our body, but trying to make it move beautifully and comfortably and well. Concentrating on what’s possible within each of our own bodies, not these ‘ideal’ bodies.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I don’t have any spare time! If I can get out of town for a weekend and go and visit some beautiful parts of nature, I am very happy. My life is very full and I am happy with that.
For better posture, strength and mobility, book a Melbourne CBD Pilates class at The Alignment Studio today.