It’s hard for me to imagine how I could begin my life as a boy in Dogtown, Missouri, and end up in New York City with Martha Graham and Joe and Clara Pilates as teachers. I think there is a higher power that leads us to our path, and that perhaps, little is left to random chance. I continue to feel that many of my students are drawn to my work by the same higher power that led me to my special teachers.
Ron Fletcher (May 29, 1921 – December 6, 2011) was an American Pilates Master Teacher, an author and a Martha Graham dancer. He was also a Broadway stage, network television, cabaret and International Ice Capades choreographer. Fletcher is identified as a “Pilates Elder” – a “first-generation teacher” who studied directly under Joseph and Clara Pilates.
Originally referred to Joseph Pilates by fellow dancer, Allegra Kent, for treatment of a chronic knee injury, Fletcher was schooled in the principles of Body Contrology (the name Pilates gave to his fitness and conditioning method) by Joseph and Clara Pilates with whom he studied – in their New York City studio at 939 8th Avenue on and off from 1948 until one year after Joseph Pilates’ death in 1967.
Though Fletcher achieved significant notice in the entertainment industry for his choreography, he is best known in the 21st century for having introduced the Pilates conditioning method, from its home base in New York City, to the American west coast via his Ron Fletcher Studio for Body Contrology, which he opened May 1, 1972 on Rodeo Drive at Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, California.
Fletcher’s approach to the Pilates method – originally referred to as “The Ron Fletcher Work” or “Fletcher Work”,(today, simply Fletcher Pilates® – incorporated Graham-based elements of movement and dance into the equipment-centric structure of Joseph Pilates’ original creation. Fletcher was the first to “take the Pilates work vertical.”
Fletcher’s new studio attracted well-known film personalities such as Ali MacGraw, Barbra Streisand, Candice Bergen and Katharine Ross, as well as studio executives, celebrities, dancers and many prominent and influential members of Hollywood society including Betsy Bloomingdale and Nancy Reagan.
Fletcher’s development of his now-trademarked Floorwork and Towelwork – machine-less applications of the Pilates principles that could be performed in a studio, home or workshop setting – was crucial to the spread of the Pilates method.
Writing for The Guardian in June, 2008 (‘Pilates is an Art’), investigative reporter Alice Wignal concluded, “if Fletcher hadn’t come up with a way for people to practise the method without needing the equipment, you probably wouldn’t have heard of Pilates at all.”
By the late 1970s, as the original Pilates studio was “withering away in New York,” Fletcher’s high-profile name, and his celebrated Hollywood clientele, led to a renaissance of the work that is largely credited with keeping the Pilates name alive and in front of the public.
Ron Fletcher on the Phil Donahue Show
Ron’s Hollywood Star Devotés