Twenty years ago, Christine Becker brought her training in movement and bodywork into solid form and opened The Moving Body. At 1 p.m. Saturday, June 13 an Open House at the 276 Tinker Street establishment will commemorate the Pilates and Gyrotonic studio’s milestone anniversary.
“It was a long time dream of Chris’ to open a studio and to have extraordinary teachers to work alongside her,” says John Holland, owner. “From the very beginning, she offered weekly teacher training sessions, and only accepted teachers, or students in training, who were willing to undergo a rigorous training process. Chris was always good at picking up on talents and helped people to develop into skilled and sensitive teachers.”
Becker wanted The Moving Body to be a community resource, he adds. “She offered a range of study options, including mat classes that were inexpensive enough for virtually anyone to take advantage of them. She steered away from becoming ‘a studio to the stars,’ and knowingly lost a few real stars by not forcing others to adjust to their schedules. It was important to Chris to keep the studio available to everyone, despite the wishes of some celebrity students who wanted an empty studio when they came for lessons. Nobody ever bothered or hassled them anyway. And that philosophy remains,” he says.
Since Becker’s untimely death last year, Holland has maintained the studio’s commitment to inclusiveness. In addition to Pilates and Gyrontonic classes, an acupuncturist and a massage therapist have joined the studio: there is space in the historic 1799 farmhouse for one more practitioner of the healing and movement arts.
The studio space is serene, focused and welcoming, with wide planked wood floors, plenty of light and plants. Students range from young children with disabilities and ballet dancers in training to men and women of all ages, people recovering from injuries, and anyone ready to develop flexibility, range of motion and core strength.
Karen Mines began taking classes at The Moving Body in 2006. “I could do almost nothing back then,” she says. “I was about to turn 60. I had problems with both of my rotator cuffs, asthma, bone density issues and very little stamina. I couldn’t sit cross-legged on the floor, though I had studied classical ballet for ten years when I was younger. I noticed the difference in a girlfriend’s posture and in her body after she had been going to the studio. I decided I could go the old lady route or I could try to retain the strength, stamina and mobility I had in my youth.” Six months later, Mines went to Paris to visit her daughter. “They walk everywhere, and I was able to keep up with her.”
Mines studies with instructor Kristina Deimel twice weekly, and says, “To me, going to The Moving Body is essential. It suits me, and my sensibilities. This is not aerobics — it’s slow, it’s stretching, and it affects you mentally too. When I leave there, I always feel stronger and taller.”
“The teachers at the studio are so patient — it took me three years to do a roll-up, but then I knew I had core strength,” Mines continues. “After three years, my bone density issues had corrected themselves. My range of motion was good and so was my stamina. My lungs got better, and I had many fewer asthma attacks. My knees and my back used to go out a few times a year, and now they don’t, because I developed strength in surrounding muscles.”
Anne Marie Zanchetti, a former professional modern dancer, has taught at The Moving Body for 18 years. What distinguishes the place, aside from working out in a charming, restored farmhouse, is that teachers follow Becker’s intention to make it a safe and comfortable place for students. “Not just safe in terms of making sure you don’t fall off the equipment, but in offering a great experience for people who perhaps didn’t have good experiences with physical education classes or other exercise places. Wherever you are right now is a good place to start and that’s fine.
“I’ve really learned to work with people whose bodies are not ‘there’ for them, due to aging, sickness, or injuries. Chris passed her knowledge of anatomy and dealing with injuries on to us, and chose teachers who were interested in that. Also,” Zanchetti continues, “students do other things in their lives, and learning how to work with the entire person is important. One gentleman works as a biochemist, and has a very scientific background. I use anatomical terms when teaching him because he wants to know about musculature or movement principles.”
Three of the four Pilates instructors at the studio — Zanchetti, Deimel and clyde forth — have taught there for over a decade, and all offer private as well as small group sessions. In addition, Deimel gives regular mat classes and instructor Ruth Beyl offers mat classes for students with osteoporosis and arthritis, “Pilates for Buff Bones.” During intake, students’ goals help determine realistic plans for what can be accomplished in sessions. “One young ballet dancer needed to strengthen her feet so she could go up en pointe. A man wanted to turn his head so he could keep driving. Another person was really getting deeply into meditation and wanted to be less uncomfortable with sitting poses,” says Zanchetti. “This is an important place for so many people.”
At the June 13 Open House, Holland will offer an overview of the 20-year history of The Moving Body, and instructors will give demonstrations and a short mat class. Acupuncture therapist Katherine Rosko and massage therapist Anne Mulvaney will be available to provide information about their offerings. Refreshments will be served.
The Moving Body’s 20th Anniversary Open House; Saturday, June 13, 1p.m.-3 p.m.; The Moving Body is at 276 Tinker Street, Woodstock; See www.themovingbody.com for more information.