2001: The defining moment that set my path with BASI Pilates and my mentor, Rael Isacowitz was the day of my exam when Rael asked me if I would be interested in working at his studio in Costa Mesa, California! What do think I said?
At that time my studio, Body Intellect, was literally still in its infant shoes with one other instructor working there, Anel. And I just couldn’t let this unique and wonderful opportunity pass. So, I asked my best friend, Madelein Hartzer if she would be interested in running my new studio for six months while I go and teach Pilates in America. You know how best friends are, they’ll do anything for you! To this day I cannot thank Madelein enough because a friendship like this is rare. At that time, Madelein had limited Pilates training, but was a brilliant dance teacher. so my only request really was that she looked after the clients, open the doors every day and teach from her heart. She did a brilliant job, and the studio grew in my absence.
With my Studio in safe hands off I went, bags packed and this Free State farm girl was ready to take on whatever was coming her way. I was going to learn and teach Pilates in America in Rael’s studio called “On Centre” at the time. It was on the 6th storey of an office building with almost a 360 Degree view over the ocean and the mountains, it was beautiful and felt like me my dreams had come true.
Luckily another South African instructor joined me, Liza Human which made it easier on the days when we were homesick.
The running of the studio was very different to what we are used to in South Africa and I suppose some other countries too. We worked in shifts of 5 hours and in some shifts we would teach over 50 clients. That sounds impossible right? Well, if you are BASI trained and you are familiar with the Block System then it is like working in a well-oiled machine. Any time that you stepped ‘onto the floor’ you knew where a client was in their program and you could carry on. All the instructors on the floor taught all the clients. I know it sounds ludicrous, but it worked so well. It was quite intimidating and at the same time thrilling to teach next to Rael and he would call us in afterwards if he thought we taught something wrong or could have made a better choice for a specific client. The experience was gold.
Oh, and before I forget, we had to write down every clients class they did. It was called a progress report. Today I write short hand Pilates…. Ha ha ha.
I tried to adopt this system in Body Intellect, but I guess our clients were just too used to the individual and undivided attention from one instructor…
In the 6 months I spent at “On Centre” I met the most amazing people from the clients, staff, students, instructors, to the friends that we made from all over the world. I must say, I really got to know the American people. Today many of the students I assisted with on courses are well known in the industry. It’s incredible to think that over the past 20 years I have had the privilege to witness their growth and development.
I had another job while in America… babysitter for Rael and Adele’s son, Elan who at that time was only a few months old. Today Elan is a handsome young man in college. I cannot believe how time has passed.
Then 9/11 happened, I remember that day like yesterday. The time, the place and the impact it had on everybody around the globe. I was buying a coffee at the seven-eleven just before my shift started at 7am and while standing at the counter the guy at the counter said: ‘a plane just went into one of the twin towers in New York’. While we were standing there, the second plane went into the other tower. It was like watching a horror movie. Chills and an incredible fear mixed with raw emotion ran through my veins. It was surreal.
Needless to say the next few days in the States were chaos. An incredible sadness encompassed the American nation and the one thing that I can say about Americans is that they have a love and pride for their country like no other. I’ve never witnessed patriotism like it and probably never will ever again. Cars were painted in the colours of the American flag, flags were hoisted in every yard, TV stations went ballistic and people were glued to their TV screens. Any news from loved ones in New York was celebrated or mourned, it was heart wrenching.
I was planning a trip to New York over that time, but I guess God intervened.
Luckily there was some time for travelling and I saw some beautiful places while I was there. Disneyland was not far from the studio and I remember running after Mickey Mouse like a four year old. The coast line is incredible where we stayed and I always wanted to roller blade next to the beach between the palm trees like they did in Baywatch, but I didn’t get the rollerblading down like I envisioned I would… I saw San Francisco, Alcatraz, San Diego, Yosemite, Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon, The Hoover Dam and many more beautiful places. It was truly a great experience.
After 6 amazing months, it was time to come home. I made a mistake with the date on my return ticket and missed the whole welcoming party at the airport as I arrived a day later. It was not funny at the time, but now we laugh about it. My dad had to do a trip from the Free State to OR Tambo twice in two days,oops!
It was good to be back and I was anxious to implement all the new things at Body Intellect.
What very few people know is that Rael asked me to come back, but the lady at the American Consulate had other ideas so I stayed, which in retrospect was the right thing. Thank you lady at the American Consulate!
It was time to work on my baby, Body Intellect, and I was looking forward to grow it and change people’s lives. There was still interesting things to come, many highs and many lows, but more on that in the coming episodes.