Inside the Pilates Studio: Michael Fritzke and Ton Voogt

Inside the Pilates Studio: Michael Fritzke and Ton Voogt

Michael Fritzke (right) and Ton Voogt (left) are longtime veterans of the Pilates Method. Originally trained by none other than Romana Kryzanowska, who referred to them simply as ‘the boys', Michael and Ton have been educating and training Pilates teachers around the globe since the 1990s.

I was first charmed by this pair way back in 2000. Dianne Garrett, one of my first Pilates teachers, told me a story about Ton. Dianne had weekly lessons with Ton during her apprenticeship at The Pilates Studio (Romana's program at the time).

When Dianne would get to the T-straps exercise on the Long Box, Ton would often question her:

“‘T' for…?”

Dianne admitted to being puzzled every time. Was he asking for the purpose of the exercise? No… What about the song, ‘T (tea) for two?' Was that it? What is he asking??

His response made me giggle: “‘T' for Ton, ‘T' for Ton.”

I think I love this guy already.

Dianne would also give me a specific spot/correction in the Shave exercise (Rowing Series on the Reformer). It was not until just this January that I got to feel the same spot from Michael. Ah! There it is again. I love when my Pilates world comes full circle. I had been experiencing moments of Michael and Ton's brilliance since my first Pilates lessons. How lovely.

Remember when Glinda the Good Witch tells Dorothy that by just using the ruby slippers and her intent she could have gone home to Kansas at any time? It kinda felt like that.

Shortly after my first training program at Excel Pilates, I got to meet Michael and Ton at an Education Seminar. Amazingly I would not see them again until nearly a decade later. But I remembered their fun banter and the warm learning environment they create.

It was a pleasure and a luxury to learn from them for 2 full days this past January at a fantastic event created by Michael, Ton and Elin Benson at Premier Pilates in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Now that their home base is in Arizona, I plan to see much more of them in the next decade.

For more information about Michael and Ton or to find out where they will be teaching next visit www.zenirgy.com.

Inside the Pilates Studio: Michael Fritzke and Ton Voogt

1. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

Michael Fritzke: I don’t have a favorite exercise. It varies from day to day, depending on how my body feels and what it needs to realign and balance. So I guess you could say I have an exercise “du jour.” Today it was extension exercises. It was tax time and I spent too many hours rounded over my desk.

Ton Voogt: Ok to clarify I don’t believe in favorite exercises. Each exercise feels different each day you perform it so sometimes this exercise feels the best and sometimes another exercise feels the best. Having said that, today the Roll Up is one of my favorites. It engages and stretches your entire body. It centers you, you get a great stretch in the front and the back of the body, you feel your abs contracting, and you get a great articulation through the spine.

2. What exercise is your least favorite? Pick only one

MF: I don’t have a least favorite exercise either. I learned early on in my teaching career, not to judge. I believe all exercises, variations and evolutions of the method have merit. The art of teaching is finding the right exercise or variation of the exercise for your client.

TV: Least favorite is a strong word, but the exercise that every time “sneaks” up on me and my mind goes “really….again?” would be Swimming.

3. What turns you on creatively, mentally or physically about the Pilates method?

MF: The fact that the method and our bodies are constantly changing and evolving and we have to adapt and grow with these constant variables. My biggest insight is that the essence of the method is quite simple, but it is this simplicity that challenges you creatively, mentally and physically.

TV: The fact that there is always room for improvement and growth. You are never “done” with any exercise, you are never “perfect”, and the method will never stop evolving and growing. It is a fluent and ever moving and growing field. Can it get any more exciting?

4. What is your idea of earthly happiness?

MF: Love, I found it with Ton.

TV: With a good book, on a beautiful beach, together with Michael of course.

5. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?

MF: Not to have love in your life.

TV: Not to be able to follow your dreams.

6. What is your favorite Pilates word?

MF: Contrology. The art and science of body mind and spirit, development through disciplined movement. Joe’s one word describes the whole method.

TV: Contrology. It explains and defines the entire method.

7. What is your least favorite Pilates word?

MF: I don’t use many of the “Pilates” words with clients. It is my experience that many clients have no idea what you are talking about and therefore it does not really give them the experience of the movement. I don’t think the use of the “Pilates” words is wrong, it is like using anatomical terms, it is about when and how you use them and with whom.

TV: Any word that does not help the client. I see so many instructors rattling off their cues, the set up of exercises etc., but they pay no attention to what the client is actually doing. Their words and the action of the client/group do not match. Such a waste. Your words matter….use your words!

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

MF: I can honestly say, I have pretty much done what I wanted to do. Teaching Pilates is my third career, but if I had to pick a fourth, I would be a philanthropist…. I just need the billions to spread around! To quote a line from Hello Dolly, “money is like manure, it needs to be spread around.”

TV: Philanthropist….is that a profession?

9. If Heaven exists, and by some chance when you arrive at the pearly gates Joseph Pilates is also there, what would you like to hear him say to you? 

MF: Interesting question. I guess he would say, “Hello!” I believe everything ever created has an energetic field and we all have the ability to tap into Joe’s energetic field of creativity, and most of us probably have. So I guess you could say we have already met….energetically that is.

TV: Based on the stories we heard from Romana Kryzanowska and other protégées about Joseph Pilates I would not be surprised if he said: “WE ARE FULL” (of course in his German accent). What I would like him to say is: Willkommen und viel Spaß! (Welcome and enjoy!)

10. What did you learn today? 

MF: When we were in St. Petersburg for a Pilates convention we took some extra days and went to the Hermitage museum. There we saw a painting called Portrait of a Man by Dominico Capriolo. I did not know this painter so I finally googled him to learn more about him. And what I learned today is that there is not a lot of information about him. So the search continues, because now I really want to know about him.

TV: I really should stop procrastinating. Yeah I should. I will start immediately….tomorrow.

Remember to visit zenirgy.com and see where M+T will be teaching near you!

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