What is the definition of the original, classical, pure Pilates? This is a question that does not have an absolute answer that will resonate with everyone who participates in the Pilates method. Since the passing of the first generation, there is a resurgence of the argument. Joe and Clara are not here to answer that question.
The term natural selection is not evolution. Natural selection means that those organisms that best adapt to the environment as it changes, will survive to reproduce. Those that do not adapt will gradually disappear. It is a mechanism that allows for survival of the life forms or the market forces through changing circumstances. Pilates is a system that must adapt to market forces. Just because it is good for health and lifestyle does not equate with prosperity and vitality in the market.
The laws of natural selection, which many still call evolution, could be applied to any exercise form including Pilates. Evolution implies that there is a preordained plan to move from one design to another and the next adaptation is better. Organisms do not think “Oh, I guess I will develop lungs and then I will be able to crawl onto dry land and eat the food there”.
There can be the assumption the next generation will be better just because there is change. An example of the evolution of Pilates is equipment design. Joe Pilates was tinkering with equipment as his perception of what would best serve his vision of the exercises changed. Where will the consumer purchase the “original” equipment if no one can agree on the definition of the product? Today the equipment available is a determining element in the way teachers present Pilates. You might say that those Pilates teachers who cannot adapt their teaching style and repertoire to suit the newer equipment designs that are currently available for purchase will not be as successful. The style of the education that they chose may require some thoughtful adaption to meet a different studio environment. The natural selection is the selection of purchase choices available to the consumer. The equipment design is not the problem, it is the environment.
The First Generation of Master Teachers, those who actually learned from Joe and Clara, also made changes based on natural selection. If the student has dysfunction or disease, the original Mat list may not be the first movement presented. The teacher will adapt to the environment, the individual in this instance, or the student may leave. Each lineage stemming from those first teachers has examples of how each of those early mentors adapted Joe Pilates’ work while still seeking to maintain the integrity of the system. Those teachers who cannot reproduce a client base and be able to earn an income return on investment will not be able to survive. Therefore they will not persist long enough to mentor the next generation. Who knows how many of Uncle Joe’s progeny continued teaching in small arenas of influence with intelligence and integrity, and did not ascend to notoriety and are forgotten?
The argument for many Pilates’ teachers stems from the determination to teach exactly the way Joe taught. Again, it may be uncertain what that definition would be. The admiration for these classic teachers by many non-classical Pilates educators is profound. That is not necessarily reciprocated due to the misconception of those classicists that the balance of the community is misinformed, badly trained and intent on the path to bastardize the truth.
It is my belief that adaptation for the sake of something new for the purpose of selling another product is not better. It is my belief that the integration of current science, culture, and education within the dissemination of Pilates is good. There is a balance between respect of the origin and the integration of science based research for the good of the public. If Pilates is not able to adapt to the environment which includes culture, current trends, science, and respect for all lineages, it will not survive as we know it.