Health Pilates

The State of Pilates

You may be aware that there is another lawsuit brewing in Pilates-land. Sean Gallagher owns the Pilates estate, and therefore many of the old photos of Joe, Clara, and their clients. 

He and his crew have taken to reporting any social media account that uses a photo he owns, and often these accounts are taken down by Meta. One studio, True Pilates Boston, decided to fight him, and their fundraiser is now called The Pilates Transparency Project.

Now, when I first saw posts about this, I instinctively wanted to help, and actually set up some fundraising classes. I called Joan Breibart, because I wanted to offer a Tye4 class as part of this, and she thought it was just a bad idea. Needless to say, we had some discussions about why. 

For background, Joan was the first person sued by Sean in 1994. In that suit she lost the rights to her mini-reformer, quickly changed the name of her business, and still spent 7 figures in legal fees. Since then, she patented 9 new pieces of apparatus. 

While the NY Times did just publish a piece about how Pilates is having a moment, the fact is that 25% of Pilates studios in the US have closed, and the ones doing the best are the franchises, like Club Pilates, offering lower ticket, large group classes to the masses. Plus, online is still going strong, as many people still don’t want to be breathing and sweating in close proximity to others.

In reality, our industry is at a crossroads, and I’m not convinced that spending time, money, and energy on reclaiming old photos is the way forward. Plus, Sean may have a good case based on ownership. 

I believe that Joe Pilates would have continued inventing new apparatus and new exercises, and that he would have embraced anything that made it easier for people to do Contrology anywhere. Bands, tubing, and bungee cords weren’t easily available to him. But does that mean he wouldn’t have used them? I mean, we’re all OK with magic circles that aren’t made of metal and wood!

Sean Gallagher likes to divide. Let’s face it, he could have bought the trademark and offered to grandfather in the 500 studios at the time for an annual fee. Imagine how much money he would have made then, and would be making now! Instead, he immediately started sending cease and desist letters and suing people. He also caused the Classical/Contemporary division. Before the big lawsuit, we all just taught different styles of Pilates, and it was all fine.

Let’s stop feeding this obsession with the past. While I appreciate archives and photos as much as anyone, I believe the way forward is innovation towards making Pilates available to as many people as possible. That, my friend, is exactly what Joe would have wanted!

Listen to my full interview with Joan Breibart and leave a comment. How do you feel about the future of Pilates?

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