April 29, 2020

Rabara Pilates Studio Stays Busy Despite Temporary Shutdown

GOING GLOBAL: For Princeton Pilates instructor Anthony Rabara, left, the mandatory shutdown order has turned out much better than he feared, gaining him clients from across the world.

When the order came from Gov. Phil Murphy last month to close all non-essential businesses due to the pandemic, Anthony Rabara worried that his Pilates studio might not survive the shutdown. Rabara Pilates, which is across from Princeton Airport, has been offering group classes, private, and semi-private lessons in the popular exercise method since Rabara opened the studio over two decades ago.

His concerns, it turns out, were unfounded. Since switching to online classes via Zoom, Rabara has been teaching not only his regular students, but a growing list of Pilates enthusiasts from as far as Israel, Australia, and South America.

Rabara is one of the original eight master teachers trained by Romana Kryzanowska, the successor to founder Joseph Pilates. He has taught workshops all over the world, gaining a global reputation among Pilates practitioners for rigorous teaching of the method in only its purest form. Once world got out that he would be offering instruction online, the schedule started filling up, especially for private sessions.

“What I’ve come to realize is that this is actually a very good medium,” Rabara said last week after teaching a private lesson online to an instructor in Scranton, Pa. “I can see details as if I’m standing right in front of them. And I’m very concentrated, because I’m looking right at them, not distracted by other things going on in the studio.”

German-born fitness trainer Joseph Pilates developed his exercise system a century ago, to rehabilitate World War I veterans while sequestered in an internment camp in England. The method is based on proper postural alignment, balance, and core strength. After moving to New York, Pilates and his wife, Clara, opened a studio that became popular with dancers, athletes, and actors. For decades, it was the only place to learn the technique. Pilates died in 1967.

A ballet and modern dancer, Rabara first went to the studio in 1979 for treatment of an injury. Kryzanowska rehabilitated him, quickly recognizing his affinity for the system and asking him to help her teach. When she began her certification program, Rabara was among the first to graduate. He moved to Trenton in 1987 and began offering classes in the Princeton area. He teaches regular clients and also mentors students enrolled in the Romana’s Pilates Teacher Certificate Program.

Before she died in 2014, Kryzanowska led special workshops in Rabara’s Princeton studio on a few occasions, drawing a standing-room-only crowd.

“So many people have expressed to me that Romana was the queen of Pilates, and always has been,” said Rabara. “That’s not just because she worked with Joe. It’s also because of how influential she was in making Pilates so important for so many people. As I began teaching, especially working for years with some people who had major physical challenges, I realized how wonderful the system is, and the genius of this man who created it. And Romana made sure to continue his tradition.”

While the shutdown continues, Rabara is teaching all of the 40-minute mat classes. Private and semi-private lessons are shared by him and some of the regular instructors from the studio. Fees range from $20 for a mat class to $75 for a private lesson. The mat classes are given at different levels, from “basic to intermediate” to “intermediate to advanced.” The “mixed” category allows all levels to participate. “At this point, people are responsible for themselves,” Rabara said. “They know that if they don’t know an exercise, they can leave it out. So it kind of works itself out.”

Rabara is not the only Pilates instructor who has been offering online classes, but he is among the most sought after. Just how much of the online instruction he will continue once he is able to welcome staff and clients back to the studio remains to be determined.

“We’ll have to see,” he said. “But one thing I’m sure of is that once the studios reopen, people are going to be physically stronger than before. And that is definitely not what was expected.”