a.k.a. The continuation of my scenic tour of 8th avenue from this summer…slightly further uptown…
Still heady from our encounter with the bust of Joe Pilates, Junghee Won and I make our way further uptown. We pass what was in Joe Pilates’ day the home of Madison Square Garden (its third incarnation) when boxing was its ‘principle claim to fame'. The venue also hosted basketball teams, the Stanley Cup finals and many notable events of the day. Today this address is home to the Worldwide Plaza.
In the early 1990s I lived on 49th Street and 9th avenue. I frequented this nearby plaza for it's amazingly cheap movie theatre. $2.! And then one sad day it climbed to $3. Frankly I was afraid to investigate the current price…especially given this nearby parking structure which we simply had to document.
Soon we arrive at a row of smaller, older buildings on our left, one of which is the home of Joe’s original studio: 939 8th Avenue. My mouth dropped open as I stood in front of the restaurant that occupies the building on the street level.
Guantanamera! I have been to this restaurant before? Not possible. How did I not know the historical significance of this address?! A big thank you to my dear friend Andrew who my husband and I met for dinner at Guantanamera a few years back. You are the sage for the age, Andy. Okay so, note to self, we shall lunch here after our trek up to the 2nd floor to take a peek at the Pilates studio that currently occupies Joe Pilates' original 2nd floor residence: Rolates Pilates. Apologies for the blurry photo…
SO excited…Can't. Steady. iPhone…
Upon entering the studio we met Roberta Kirschenbaum, the owner, and her friendly staff. The studio was relatively quiet that day which allowed us plenty of time to chat with Roberta, whom I recognized from her facebook page. Roberta was informative, friendly and has been working/rehearsing/dancing in this building for most of her adult life. She opened her studio here in February 2005, and has been a part of the Pilates world since 1984, well before the advent of teacher training programs. Roberta began her study of the Pilates Method with Carola Trier who would become her mentor. She also studied with other disciples of Joe including Romana Kryzanowska, Naja Cori and Kathleen Stanford Grant. She asked if we were new teachers, which I suppose given her history with the method, we are relatively new. Junghee however was quick to answer “I certified in 1999.” Then I had to giggle as the question about being new to Pilates surfaced again to which Junghee again had her answer: ”1999.”
Getting my bearings and thinking about one of Chuck Rapoport’s photos of Joe at the Cadillac, I asked about the space. I remembered the windows overlooking 8th Avenue as a focal point in Rappoport’s iconic photo. You can also see the same vantage point in this video of Joe teaching the mat.
Roberta’s studio is located in the rear of the building where Joe and Clara had their residence while the front of the building (Joe’s studio) is occupied by a dance rehearsal space. I draw the line at visiting and geeking out at non-Pilates businesses despite their rich historical value, so here’s a photo of their door.
I did hear a lot of insistent shouts of “5-6-7-8! Turn and HIT!”…and so on from outside the door of this rehearsal studio. Evidently it is still a place where some serious work gets done. Roberta does not hesitate to inform me that the exact location of her studio within the building has been a bit of a sticking point with True Pilates NY. Oh dear. I am trained by TPNY and inadvertently I have stepped right in it, as it were. Whoopsie…Thankfully she had a Carola Trier DVD, Carola Shares, that I had been seeking for some time which I immediately purchased for reparation. Whew! She was also gracious enough to let us look around her studio and soak up the Pilates past.
I stood in the studio feeling the size and space under those high ceilings and wished I could see a CGI back-in-time film sequence to the 1940s. I mean Joe and Clara lived here, right? In my imagination I pictured the living room in this video, which, if the video was indeed filmed in the Pilates' home, was their home from their arrival in the US circa 1925 until around 1972.
Roberta also had quite the fetching collection of foot correctors, one of my favorites of the small apparatuses.
So I must say a grand day was had by all and we soon wandered back down to the street and into Guantanamera for some cool refreshment on this gloriously warm August day in Manhattan.