History of The Edinburgh Pilates Centre

The Edinburgh Pilates Centre founded by Scotland’s first ever teacher Jane Paris, is the original Scottish Pilates studio.

In 1994 Chris Blagdon took over the running of the Studio; a long time dancer with a keen curiosity of how the human system works in all its facets. Since then the studio has been working flat out teaching people how, with a little hard work, they can achieve results with their body they never thought possible.

“It never ceases to amaze me how responsive the human body can be, and, when a person is given the basic tools, how they can take appropriate action” says Chris.

People with many years of back problems behind them can be taught how to strengthen their weaker muscles, correct their posture and be taught how to avoid problems recurring again.

In 1995 the Centre moved to premises in George Street and went from strength to strength, for a long period having a waiting list that was almost a year long. “The problem” says Chris “was getting good teachers. There were teachers around but few with the kind of experience & expertise that I was looking for”. Over the decade at George Street Chris managed to build a small team of high quality instructors who were able to maintain the high standards he had set for the Centre.

By this time however, ‘Pilates’ had become a household word with classes available from gyms to local halls throughout the country.  In order to keep to his vision of quality and a more personal and individual approach to tuition, Chris decided to move premises once more.  In September 2006, the EPC reopened in new premises in Abbeyhill, with a light and airy studio based in a converted Victorian school owned by Edinburgh Council. The decision to reduce overheads has enabled Chris to keep to his principles regarding the teaching of Pilates, and avoid the commercialisation that has occured in some areas of the ‘Pilates Movement’.

Chris now undertakes all teaching at the EPC, with the valuable assistance of Pat Morais. Pat, a fully qualified teacher of Yoga and Alexander Technique in her own right, transferred from the George Street studios with Chris and teaches at the new Abbeyhill studio on Mondays.

Brief History of Pilates

Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1880. He was a sickly child. To combat this he took up body building. So successful was he that by his mid teens he was posing for anatomy portraits. The next fifteen years were spent becoming an accomplished skier, diver, gymnast, boxer and self-defence expert.

It was 1912 when he came to Britain earning his way as a Circus performer [probably an acrobat] a boxer and self defence teacher. On the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 he, like many German nationals was interred. With this time on his hands he set out to develop his ideas on physicality and mentality. According to one source he later boasted that because they followed his regimen not a single one of his fellow internees was laid low with the terrible flu epidemic that killed millions in Britain in 1918.

The 1920’s saw Pilates in Germany again. The Weimar Republic was in control and the devastating war reparations had increased inflation to monumental proportions. During this period he worked with most of the movement pioneers of the time, including Rudolf Laban inventor of the first dance notation.

Accounts vary, but at some point during the 1920’s Joseph Pilates left Germany for America. He set up his first studio some time after that, again accounts vary although a commonly held view is that the date was 1936. What is clear is that Martha Graham and George Balanchine were early converts. Who influenced who? George Balanchine certainly saw the effects on his dancers and actively encouraged them to go to Pilates’s studio. Martha Graham’s ideas of natural movement from the centre certainly fitted with Joseph Pilates ideas on movement. Anyway the end result was a long, continuing influence with the dance world.

George Balanchine (1904-1983) American choreographer, Founder of New York City Ballet.  Widely regarded as one of the founders of American Ballet.

Martha Graham (1894- 1991) American dancer and choreographer. Founder of Contempory dance now known as the graham technique