Fourteen years ago, long before Santa Monica Boulevard was chic and Pilates was the go-to workout of the telegenic (or those looking to be), Karen Schwalbe-Jones, a fitness vet who could see a need for a boutique workout that catered to a Hollywood clientele, opened the doors to her Pilates studio.
Now the pretty West Hollywood Pilates gym has a schedule full of group mat and Reformer classes, plus Pilates Tower, TRX, Gyrotonics, and Power Plate in private and group sessions. And actors and Hollywood Hills housewives stream in and out with perfect hair and little waists.
“When I opened Harmony, there were just two other teachers and 2,000 less square feet,” Schwalbe-Jones says. “I now have about twenty teachers and about twenty more pieces of equipment, as well as a massage and a biofeedback spa room.”
At an hour-long lunchtime Pilates Reformer class (for six students at a time), former ballet dancer Brian Frette lead us through a well-organized class that moved from leg and hip toning to upper body work, all with core-activating cues.
After we moved the Reformer up and down by contracting our core, it was almost a relief to use the arm pulleys. Then we set up blocks on the top of the Reformer and held postures, like boat pose. “Harmony is definitely more forward thinking,” Schwalbe-Jones says of the studio’s modern Pilates method. “There are so many different exercises and bodies that it seems a shame to limit ourselves.”
While it seemed like a class designed to please the immaculately coiffed clientele, Frette encouraged us to change the resistance with each move, so if you practiced the honor system, you’d break a sweat. And instead of those super serious Pilates pros, he comically interspersed directions with a hilarious recounting of the now infamous Miley Cyrus VMA performance.
Only the next day, when I was more sore than expected, did I realize Frette’s cunning use of distraction, entertaining us with Ms. Cyrus’s foibles so we didn’t suffer through the work we were actually doing. —Jamie McKillop
Who’s it for: Hollywood Hills housewives, actors, and producers. Those who don’t want to sweat through their makeup on a reformer. Pilates lovers who want a chatty, fun community, not a traditional Joseph Pilates one. Those who like personal attention and direction on which class and instructor is best for them.
Harmony Studios, $36 per class, 8440 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 323-822-9584, www.harmonystudiosla.com