Founder teacher Chris Hocking's pledge to her students has always been to teach group Matwork classes to the same standard as her impressive training in the early UK Pilates studios, the same attention to detail, application of corrective and remedial material, anatomical insight and a broad, progressive, forever fascinating range of effective body-sculpting material.
PBA has much to offer to the new student estranged from exercise and looking for considered tuition, and to a more experienced student looking for an expert in the field and progression into authentic, advanced, Pilates body-work. Pilates Body Awareness, is an enduring and unique Central London school of graded Pilates Matwork evening and Saturday classes offering a rather special training experience to interested adults, teaching the principals of the Pilates technique within a broader perspective of health management, injury prevention and bio-mechanical analysis.
These classes also reference a range of movement, art forms and physical training including the, now rarely taught, original 20th century choreography of Joseph Pilates. Founder teacher and school director, Chris Hocking, has trained in middle distance running, Yoga, Karate and professionally in Ballet, Contemporary & Jazz Dance and uses all this experience and education to bring Pilates alive and deliver classes that are well paced, relevant and effective. Fundamentally Pilates is corrective movement, but it is the manner in which it is used and applied that matters and potentially makes it into such a special class.
Portrait from Chris Hocking's Ballet career
Petronella Carter (BA Hons) is PBA’s senior teacher. She began attending classes in 1988 and brings to this role not only her years of committed study and practice within the school itself, but also the skills she has as a professional dancer and choreographer, one-time trapeze artist, and martial arts training.
Petronella’s passion for dance and movement began as a child, with regular ballet classes as well as Synchronised swimming - she became a champion at the age of 11. Her dance training as a young adult was at the London School of Contemporary Dance, and also with other dance and physical theatre teachers including: Lloyd Newson, Lindsay Kemp, Josephine Wise (Egyptian Dance), and Philippe Gaulier (clown and physical theatre). She was a founding member of the Circus Space (now the National Centre for Circus) where she studied flying and static trapeze.
Her career in the performing arts has been diverse, from street performing in Covent Garden to performing swinging trapeze and web rope in nightclubs and exquisitely made-up living statues for festivals and high-end promotions such as Swatch Watches and Nude Records. Her film work includes Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and numerous independent films and pop promotions. Petronella played Cinderella at The Duke of York’s (West End) and an all-singing, all-dancing (while heavily pregnant) fairy at the Blackheath Concert Hall. Recently, Petronella choreographed and rehearsed over 30 dancers for Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World at the Globe Theatre.
Petronella began teaching dance at the age of 21, essential regular work that supported her freelance career. Soon after joining PBA Petronella became keen to become a Pilates teacher, and Chris Hocking, seeing her potential, took her on as an apprentice. At first Petronella covered the occasional class, then as her knowledge and skills grew she progressed to teaching her own classes for the school at Riverside Racquets Club and the London Studio Centre.
Away from PBA she now teaches Pilates matwork to both private clients and classes in community centres. Petronella also incorporates many aspects of Pilates when teaching dance, including the Seated Creative Dance classes she has developed for the residents of care homes - she has several students who are over 100 years old! Her teaching style is fun but firm, confident, always inquisitive and genuinely very caring.
Petronella asserts that ‘Pilates has underpinned my whole adult life: as a professional body worker and performer, through motherhood and indeed through day to day life and I feel privileged to be able to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for this amazing method within the PBA school’.
The Taster Class
This class gives people the opportunity to sample this particular approach to Pilates Matwork. The regular students work with a yoga mat, brick, 2.5m strap (best purchase YogaMad) and a hand towel (to create a friction free surface) but new students will be able to participate to a good level with 2 towels (one small, one large) a thick book and a long scarf. See Joining
The Inaugural Course and Level 1
The fundamentals of the technique; re-conditioning of muscles to improve posture, breathing patterns and avoidance of strain are explained. Realistic training covers issues of alignment, strength and flexibility. The feet and their need for placement and alignment, explained. The structure of the spine and movement potential, explained. Students learn management of the 4 PBA items of equipment to enhance accuracy and efficacy of movement.
Elementary: Level 2
Students become cleaner in their movements and body shape starts to change. Control of form, grace and stamina are all appearing. Core strength is now fairly successfully engaged as is the mind which makes it safe to explore progressively robust movement sequences.
Intermediate: Level 3
Class participants are now ready to face moderately tough challenges enjoying them as stimulating and energizing. The range of movement has improved along with enhanced concentration, mindfulness, strength, stamina and agility. Many report leaving class relaxed and refreshed....time away from all the other problems of life. Students get to try out their first Classical Matwork (original material and choreography of Joseph Pilates dating back to last century)....incredibly demanding, but only if you do it properly of course, something that requires absolute concentration and the investment of good training.
Advanced: Level 4
Athletic fitness material suitable for well trained students with good levels of knowledge, muscle balance, skeletal alignment attention to detail, memory for corrections and sequences... and focus. Graceful, fluid, expansive movements characterise this level. If you want to get fit you must move and JP certainly taught this. Some use of external rotation of the hip joint for greater range of movement. Hard work and addictive, these classes are a life-line for many of these high level students keeping them calm, engrossed and healthy. The Classical component, now more ambitious, is supported by analysis and modifications allowing all to participate without breaking the cardinal rules of Pilates...grace, form, movement control, breath control, co-ordination, energy efficiency...and the avoidance of strain, inappropriate force and time wasted doing things badly. The aim is to educate progressively and by correction and repetition eliminate bad posture and/or bio-mechanics.
Finally for the super-human ....by invitation ...if in possession of determination, a sound frame and strong technique....
Classical: Level 5
This is the toughest class of the week and a challenge to even the most talented of students...which seems to keep them happy and engaged. "Joseph Pilates was an amazing body worker. The more I teach his original material the more I wonder at his insights and genius." Chris Hocking. This work is difficult, but even so PBA has a group loyal to class at this level. They seem to thrive on it, the challenges being both mental and physical. Here we have a unique UK training....the original 36 matwork exercises taught on a regular basis with the back-up of a programme of graded, progressive training. Yes, we do modify, but many PBA students are also capable of the form just as Joseph Pilates designed and taught it in his original 20th century New York studio, 60 years or so ago. Amazing!
Teaching Material Downloads
All exercises are fully explained in class, but for those who wish to take understanding to the next level you might enjoy the following material prepared by the PBA teaching team.
See Teacher's Notes
Chris Hocking demonstrating 'Open Leg Rocker'