Ron Fletcher scared the crap out of me. I was standing before him in a freezing cold dance room in Philadelphia. He was stern; the people closest to him did everything he said to the letter and I was trying to hide in the back. I had no chance.
I was attending a weekend seminar on the Spine Corrector, a piece of Pilates apparatus, and there were maybe 80 people in the room (I’m horrible with numbers, it might have been more). We were given a unique set of instructions before we arrived which included: wearing only all black with absolutely no adornment, we had to wear black tights, and no bootleg yoga pants or anything crazy like that. I literally didn’t own any tights and had to zip out to buy some before I left.
I had heard scary things about Mr. Fletcher. I heard that he yelled at you if you screwed up. I heard that he kicked you out of the room if you really screwed up … “Please, God, let me just hang out in the back and quietly absorb,” I whispered. And why was I standing at a ballet barre? Where are the Spine Correctors?
I proceeded to spend the rest of the day at the ballet barre. Doing ballet work. This was actually pretty great (if not what I signed up for), except that I was a gymnast as a kid. I had literally never been to any dance class, never mind ballet.
Mr. Fletcher paced the room, roaming up and down the lines of ballet barres. He came closer and I gripped the bar, praying silently, “Please walk past. Please walk past.”
“Don’t you know first position?!?” he boomed at me.
“Actually, sir, no. I just learned it 20 minutes ago,” I squeaked. I don’t know what possessed me but I added, “How’m I doing?”
He paused. He sized me up. ”Actually, really well … for only 20 minutes.”
That was it. He was a doll the rest of the weekend, helping me a bit here and there and giving me an encouraging smile now and then. I was smitten. Completely smitten. We did ballet barre and reformer work and only for about two hours the entire weekend did I see a Spine Corrector but it didn’t matter. Whatever Mr. Fletcher wanted to teach was fine by me. I learned a ton of new choreography, LOVED how Ron took all I knew about Pilates and turned it on it’s head, and LOVED how he got me to think outside of the sometimes strident East Coast style.
At the end of the weekend, I went up to him and said, “Thank you so much. May I ask for a hug?” He gave me a huge smile and said, “Honey, I’ll give you a big ol’ Texas hug!” and grabbed me in his amazingly strong grasp, so tight I squeaked. I staggered back, happy, and went home to my clients to share my new choreography. They were eagerly waiting to eat it up. Some of my favorite exercises were ones I learned that weekend over five years ago now.
I saw him at a couple of conferences after that and was always surprised he remembered me (or was really great at faking it). His stories are legendary and I loved them all: working with Fred Astaire, becoming sober, the symbolism of the necklace he always wore, working with Joe Pilates, the kindness of Joe’s wife, Clara.
Kyria Sabin heads his organization and has for quite a while now. She has done much to keep his voice and his work alive and I’m privileged that I got to meet her and work with her. I know that she will carry on Mr. Fletcher’s work and continue to make us all think about his unique perspective on Pilates.
Ron Fletcher made me a more open-minded teacher. He taught me that the work has a broad spectrum of “good,” and as long as the client is progressing, then you’re doing the right thing. He also showed me a little kindness when I was off kilter and that will never be forgotten.
Thank you Ron Fletcher. Rest in peace.