The West Coast
...this was a new thing for them to discover and try, and talk about. It was in the "right" location and “Ron Fletcher”
had done some good work, and was a “real character.” Judith Krantz, Ali Macgraw, Candice Bergen, Dyan Cannon, Steven
Speilberg, Striesand, Gabor… all came. They recognized it as “good stuff.” They liked the change in their bodies,
they felt good, they told their friends, and they came and the place became an oasis for these people to gather and chat and
work and behave like the real people they are. I became very close to several of these people and we remain friends today.
That first studio in Beverly Hills became a singular, warm, fine, friendly place to work and teach and learn for many years. I
was strongly supported by Diane Severino and Michael Podwal, dancers from NewYork who had been led wondrously up those stairs,
intially to “see what was going on.” Both stayed to study with me as teachers. They learned very fast and they
understood what it was really about. They were gifted and they moved beautifully. They became tough, loving, inspirational
teachers (still are!) and they helped me to keep that studio “zinging” with learning and laughter and they also
stayed on and ran the Ron Fletcher Studio for many years after I began traveling the world presenting workshops.
The issue of a Certification Process for Training in the Ron Fletcher Work first arose in June of 1983 when Diane, Michael and
I were asked to participate in a prestigious Los Angeles Dance clinic. A key speaker at the clinic was Dr. James Garrick, an
eminent surgeon and head of the Sports Medicine Department and Dance Rehabilitation Division at St. Francis hospital in San
Dr. Garrick was intrigued by our demonstration of the Pilates Work, and he sent his assistant, Patrice Whiteside,
to our studio to study Body Contrology with emphasis on the therapeutic aspects of the work. Shortly after, a Pilates facility
was opened at St. Francis Hospital under the direction of Patrice Whiteside, and Diane and Michael returned often in order
to add to/update the curriculum. We were asked by the hospital officials for a certificate of sorts to add credibility and
“weight” to the program and our first certification, given to Patrice Whiteside, stated simply:
Ron Fletcher Company
This certifies that Patrice Whiteside
has successfully completed the
Basic Course in BODY CONTROLOGY.
The success and popularity of the Beverly Hills Studio and the St. Francis Hospital facility brought in more and more people interested
in teaching the work. They came to our studio for lengthy periods of time, learning the basic concepts of the work and serving
as apprentice teachers before receiving certifications like the one described above.
The Evolution of the Ron Fletcher Work…
Joe had always exhorted us to “breathe… you got to OUT de air to IN de air!” However, there was not a clearly shaped
breathing pattern for the various moves, and Graham’s response to “where and when do I breathe?” was “I
don’t care as long as it doesn’t show.” This is the way dancers and athletes work, grabbing a breath when
you can. Martha’s concept of contraction and release was closing the body and sinking down to the floor on a deep exhalation,
and opening the body and filling your “space” on inhalation. Graham often said: “let the inhalation be the
inspiration for the movement.” It was the coupling of these ideas that influenced the development of my own concept of
I did lengthy research on THE BREATH when I began to write my book. I read and was astounded after the following excerpt: “Each
of us is made up of seventy trillion cells and every cell is hungry for oxygen all the time.” I observed and experimented
more and I found, like Joe said, we have to OUT the oxygen-depleted air so that we can IN more oxygen-rich air. So, I began
adding structured breathing patterns to the movements… developing what I call PERCUSSIVE BREATHING, breath with rhythm and
sound... exhaling more completely in order to inhale more fully, expanding the lungs, delivering more oxygen to those 70 trillion
cells (from brain to the toenails). My beathing patterns support and bring vitality, exuberance, spirit and enthusiasm to the
every piece of movement.
After the publication of my book, with its attendant publicity and television exposure, I was asked more and more to come out to
various facilities around the country to conduct workshops. The original Pilates Work of Joe and Clara had all been done on
various pieces of equipment of Joe’s design. However, many dance studios with no Pilates equipment, some at university
level, asked me to teach “Ron Fletcher Classes” and I began to develop a full curriculum of exercises and movement-
standing in place, seated on the floor and moving across the floor (also see TECHNIQUES section for detailed descriptions)
that could be done without Pilates equipment.
I made adaptations to the classical pieces of Joe’s equipment work, variations on themes, so that this material could be
presented on the floor effectively, and I sought to create pieces of movement rather than just a series of exercises. My aim
was, and is, to have every piece of vertical body work that is on the floor- seated, standing or moving across the floor, relate
to work on the equipment in some way- adding a breath pattern to each piece, stressing both the esthetic and therapeutic aspects
of the work- I thought of Clara’s admonition, “This machine is your partner,” and over a long period of time
developed (still am developing) a syllabus of Fletcher Floorwork®, which, to a great degree, can be transferred back to the
various pieces of equipment- some including the Fletcher Towelwork®, all of it using the Percussive Breathing patterns. I consistently
strive to teach the Pilates concept of working from the low pelvic area “bolting” the pubic bone back to the tailbone,
“centering” the body, getting all of its parts into correct alignment, from the foot centers to the top of the
back of the head. I used as inspiration for floor work, exercises such as the hundreds (the abdominals), the mermaid, the dolphin,
coordination, the elephant and the teaser.
My background as a Graham dancer helped me to develop this material for a floor class that did not depart from the intention of
Joe’s reformer material. The artistry of the Graham work also influenced my performance and interpretation of the work.
I was greatly impressed with Martha’s original concept of contraction and release work. This expanded my awareness of
the articulation of the spine emphasized by Joe throughout his program. Joe Pilates was adamant regarding his concept of how
the body should be placed in an elongated position on the floor. I adapted my roll down series on the floor with the legs in
the diamond position from Joe’s work on the ped-i-pul. Furthermore, my adaptations on the Spine Corrector gave us the
increased abdominal strength and centering in the trunk muscles necessary to perform these new variations of Joe’s exercises
correctly. I took this awareness with me into the deep contraction and high release of the Graham work, and over time these
elements became woven together into a body of work that would challenge and fulfill the workshop students, and have value as
a total movement experience.
Many instructors of the Pilates work protested vehemently: “Ron Fletcher does not teach classic Pilates, don’t study
with him etcetera… I was irritated and bored with all of the litigation going on about who could teach Pilates, who could use
the name, and who could not. The quality of work was diminishing as more and more unqualified instructors paid their way into
the field in order to cash in on this hot new “old” exercise regimen. I pulled away from using the name Pilates,
because first, I wanted to avoid being associated with all the unqualified people out there claiming to be Pilates Teachers.
Secondly, I didn’t want my teachers, or me to be harassed and possibly sued by a zany person claiming to have the “rights”
to everything connected with the name Pilates.
Consequently, I obtained a trademark for The Ron Fletcher Work® in 1993 and put together a movement regimen strongly based on my
early work with Joe, using Pilates equipment, my high-level, detailed study with Clara, paying heed to her wisdom and depth
of knowledge of how and why the work “worked.” I brought in much of what I had learned from Martha Graham, Yeichi
Nimura, and Alma Hawkins. All of these people were brilliant visionaries. They all presented movement that was true, organic
and therapeutically “right.” They simply packaged their products differently. This became apparent to me as I explored
their work through the years. As I opened their packages the “work” inside went leaping together, mingling and
marrying – and with thought and channeling from me – they now present an impressive Body of Work.
A great many people helped me to pull this Fletcher Work® together. They hung in with me and studied and experimented with me,
and many of them have become proud Teachers of the Fletcher Work®. I need them – their questioning, devotion, eagerness to
try new pieces or variations on themes, and their total support in helping me to keep the work ALIVE and MOVING. I love and
respect every one of them and they are listed on this site- with more on the way. Clara said to me “it is in your blood,
take it and go!” And that’s what we’re striving to do!!!