Inside the Pilates Studio: Clare Dunphy
During my education extravaganza that was 2012 I traveled to New Jersey to visit my good friend Junghee Won.
We were excited to attend Kathi’s Pillow, a weekend of Pilates education, socializing and merriment at Kathi Ross Nash‘s home in Allendale.
Kathi has named her event in homage to Jacob’s Pillow. A dance retreat begun in 1931, Jacob’s Pillow is the brainchild of modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn and his wife Ruth St. Denis who were America’s premier dance couple at the time and longtime clients of Joe Pilates.
One of my favorite memories of Kathi’s Pillow 2012 was meeting the lovely and fierce Clare Dunphy. My colleague and Pilates bestie Amy Kellow (of Classical Pilates Convention UK fame) trained under Clare so already I had a sneaking suspicion she would be awesome.
Clare is an incredibly knowledgeable and generous teacher and just a lovely human being to hang around with poolside or in the studio. It was a complete pleasure to get to know her a little bit over the summer weekend. Pilates educational trip to Boston anyone? Maybe in the Spring…
LOL Spring! Perfect.
Some Kathi’s Pillow highlights:
- On one afternoon a small group of us, Clare included, worked all around the studio to strengthen our handstands. Clare amazingly busted out the handstand on the Reformer – a fun, circus-inspired balancing act on a moving carriage. Avec assistance, bien sûr. Michael Johnson was an excellent handstand coach and I believe his tutelage enabled me to bust out a back walkover on the lawn later that day. My first back walkover in years.
But alas, what happened at Kathi’s Pillow stayed at Kathi’s pillow…
- Here you can see Clare’s husband Sadru joining us for Mat class. That’s him in the red shirt on the right rockin’ the teaser. I often think of this lovely Pilates couple as Joe (husband) and I do our mat exercises every morning. We have a good time sharing occasional banter – not to mention the intermittent groan – that erupts during our workout. It’s nice to be pals.
1. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?
Clare Dunphy: If I had to pick my favorite exercise today, it would probably be the footwork series (it’s a toss up with the Twist on the Wunda chair). The 3 main reasons are that it’s a full body exercise, it reveals so much, and everyone can do it. Personally, I love the feeling of length through my feet up through to my head and the way my deep powerhouse muscles wake up, especially as the carriage returns those last few inches. It’s amazing after all these years I still discover something new each time I do it and how each time it feels different! It centers my mind and brings me into the present moment right at the start of the workout both physically and mentally. I think about the reflexology points in the feet in each position, get my breath moving, feel the opening of the springs just a bit more each time, feel the left and right sides of my body working, and generally scan each body part as I move. I can tell what my energy level is that day and play with the tempo and dynamics to work with whatever shows up. When I teach the Footwork Series, I encourage students to tune in as they move so I can watch their “story” unfold that particular day. I look at the Footwork Series as a time for students to connect with themselves, for me to see where they are right now, and together we set the tone for the session. I could go on and on about all the things I notice during footwork but I like to observe during this time and don’t try to over fix, then choose any remarks once I have given them time to feel their own body and make their own adjustments. I don’t use footwork as chat time but invite students to enter the footwork series mindfully.
2. What exercise is your least favorite? Pick only one.
CD: My least favorite exercise has changed over the years, but it is probably Swimming. My spine just doesn’t lift the way it used to. Ah well, I do it anyway!
3. What turns you on creatively, mentally or physically about the Pilates method?
CD: Return to playfulness and joy of movement. It’s still hard work, but “good” hard work.
The Pilates method has so much to offer each person with so many variables in play each session. I love letting the work do its magic and try my best to serve the individual and keep myself out of the way.
4. What is your idea of earthly happiness?
CD: Earthly happiness is for all people to realize their power as creators of their reality so they can enjoy recreation, human connection, service to others, clean air and water, tolerance of differences, and world Peace.
5. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?
CD: The greatest human misfortune is the propagation of hate. In our profession, it would be a great misfortune to see the work of Joe Pilates become unrecognizable. The system is very rich and powerful in its simplicity.
6. What is your favorite Pilates word?
7. What is your least favorite Pilates word?
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
CD: I think it would be fascinating to help women in war torn countries develop small businesses to rebuild their communities and find hope. Educating the women educates the next generation.
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?
CD: It’s been great watching you work! Then we would toast and Romana would pour some champagne.
10. What did you learn today?
CD: There is still so much to learn still as both a student and teacher. The Pilates method keeps unfolding itself and I learn something everyday from my students.
Got a pressing question for Clare? Leave a comment below 🙂