Cross training and exercising can be extremely helpful tools for dancers to increase strength and stamina, prevent injury, and develop greater control throughout the body. It can also be a great way to help maintain strength while recovering from an injury.
One dancer, Katie Pilone, was doing just that when she realized that Pilates was not only helping her recover from injury but also engaging her body and mind together to form a low impact, healthy, and balanced way of exercising.
She knew if she was able to offer an easily accessible, non-intimidating entry point to Pilates, that this method could also benefit so many other people in their daily lives. With this philosophy, she and another dancer, Brianna Moriarty, co-created a Pilates company, Pop Up Pilates USA, to do just that!
Name: Katie Pilone
Hometown: Mason, OH
Where you currently live/dance/work:
I currently live in Oklahoma City, OK. I am dancing with Oklahoma City Ballet in the Studio Company. I also teach ballet at two local dance studios.
How did you get your start in dance?
I started dancing when I was four years old. My mom used to be a dancer and put me in classes. I immediately fell in love with it and knew around age 12 that I wanted to become more serious about ballet.
I received my training from Cincinnati Ballet’s Otto M. Budig Academy and also attended summer programs to extend my training at places such as American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Kaatsbaan, BalletMet, and Kansas City Ballet.
After I graduated high school, I attended Butler University where I received my Bachelors of Science degree in Dance Arts Administration with a minor in Marketing. Butler’s Dance program allowed me to continue my dance training and education simultaneously.
Can you tell us a little about your dance journey, where you currently dance, and how it led you to Pilates?
After graduating from Butler University, I danced with Kentucky Ballet Theatre for one season. I then moved to Oklahoma City to dance with the Oklahoma City Ballet in the Studio Company.
There is a local Pilates studio in OKC where the dancers are able to take reformer classes. They also offer Pilates training through Balanced Body. At the time, I was injured with a stress fracture in my foot and was using Pilates to help rehab my injury. I saw it as the perfect time to jump in and start learning more about Pilates. I started with Mat Pilates training and eventually worked my way up to Reformer, Trapeze Table, and Barrel over the past two years.
What was it about Pilates that got you hooked?
When I was injured with a stress fracture, my physical abilities were very limited; Pilates is what helped keep my body fit without compromising my injury.
I love that there are so many modifications and exercises you can do even if you have a physical limitation. I also love that Pilates focuses on engaging the mind and body together to create exercises that involve the whole person.
The exercises are safe, low impact, and appropriate for anyone from 10 to 100. Pilates focuses on learning to move better so the benefits are felt in everyday life.
Obviously, Pilates can be beneficial to everyone, but is it especially helpful for dancers? Why?
Joseph Pilates originally worked on ballet dancers in New York City Ballet, so a lot of his exercises are geared towards dancers.
Pilates strengthens the core, improves balance, and increases coordination. It also serves as a great way to cross train because you are able to simulate movements done in ballet. Every exercise is performed with attention to the breath, proper form, and efficient movement patterns, just like ballet.
Tell us about your company, Pop Up Pilates USA! Who is it for, and what is the goal?
Pop Up Pilates USA is a company that my friend, Brianna Moriarty and I started together.
We wanted to introduce people to Pilates who might otherwise feel intimidated by working on the equipment. We encourage people to “come as you are, all you need is a mat!”
We make Pilates accessible to everyone by popping up in different locations around the city, and our mission is to positively influence the community of Oklahoma City by teaching Pilates in unique locations. Pop Up Pilates USA will establish an environment for people to come as they are and leave with a fulfilled mind, body, and spirit.
Our vision is to pop up around the country, creating a larger community across the United States, and our hope is to introduce Pilates to everyday people and display its value in their daily lives.
When did you realize you wanted to start your own company, and how did you go about doing so?
Honestly, it just kind of happened.
After receiving Pilates training, Brianna and I realized how amazing it is for people, (not just dancers) to incorporate into their lives. We both felt the urge to bring it to everyone’s attention, so we jumped right in and sought out a few places to “pop up.”
We started doing classes in local parks, dance studios, and even our friend’s front yard! We started by inviting our friends and dance students to the classes. We created a website and social media platforms to market all of our events. We then teamed up with Riversport OKC, a recreational facility that offers anything from white water rafting to Olympic training facilities. This has allowed us to expand our audience from friends and students to new faces that are curious about Pilates.
Our mission to positively influence the community of Oklahoma City through Pilates was coming to life before our eyes.
We went on to create classes like, “Pilates and Mimosas,” where we would teach a beginner and intermediate Mat class, each followed by mimosas! We then expanded to classes like “Pilates with a Partner,” “Pilates with your Puppies,” etc.
So I guess you could say that I wanted to start my own company when I realized there was a way to make a positive impact on other people’s lives through something that I love, Pilates.
Do you feel that Pilates has helped to improve your ballet technique?
Pilates has become a major part of my warm-up routine before ballet class. It is a great way to warm up the whole body and get it ready to use the appropriate muscles.
I also think that Pilates helped me to become a smarter dancer. It has allowed me to have a deeper understanding of the reason behind each movement in ballet and where things should initiate.