It’s a Stretch

Beautiful body movement is a lifelong interest for Martens

by Virginia Lindauer Simmon

pilates-leadFormer dancer Lynne Martens opened Absolute Pilates in South Burlington in 2007 to pass on the training she learned from the director of Joseph Pilates’s studio in New York.

Lynne Martens is a New York City girl whose bona fides include a career in dance — both performing and teaching. And while dance continues to be a pastime, her focus these days is teaching Pilates in a small, light-filled studio just off of Williston Road in South Burlington.

Martens learned Pilates from the best: the late Romana Kryzanowska, director of The Pilates Studio in New York and a former student of the method’s originator, Joseph Pilates, and his wife, Clara.

The daughter of a dermatologist and a schoolteacher, Martens says she “traveled all over the place” with her family from age 5 as they followed her father’s Navy career.

When they returned to New York, she was 12. She enrolled in the Professional Children’s School on West 60th Street to study acting. One of her classmates was Marvin Hamlisch, the composer and conductor who would become known and awarded for his prolific work on the scores of productions such as The Way We Were, The Sting, and A Chorus Line.

She started dancing in high school when she was 15. “I went to Europe,” she says, “studied there, but not seriously. I was kind of a bum traveling, as so many my age. Then I came back and got a scholarship at the Martha Graham School, and then studied under other teachers.” After a short, three-year dancing career, she began to teach.

Along the way, Martens was married — “We met doing a show at the 92nd Street Y in New York — he was the star and I was the dancer with seven roles,” she says with a chuckle. They lived in a tiny Brooklyn apartment, and she continued teaching while they began their family. “I had three children in five years,” says Martens. It was the 1970s.

By the 1980s, they were in Huntington, Long Island, where she taught and studied dance for about 12 years before returning to New York. “It was 1994 when I came back to New York City, because I remember the blizzard of that year,” she says with a laugh. “We lived on Houston Street for about four years, then moved to East 34th for one year. It was tiny place that was suffocating when my husband gave up his photography business.”

The strain was too much for the marriage, which ended in 1999. Martens moved uptown to Hudson View Gardens, “a little neat neighborhood,” where she shared an apartment with a roommate. She had begun studying Pilates and became certified in 2000 after 600 hours of practice, teaching, seminar studies, and testing.

In 2004, with rent increasing, her roommate moving, and unable to find another roommate, she says, “In great fear, I called my daughter, who was living here.”

Her daughter, Shannon Lashua, who had come to Vermont to visit a friend and decided to stay, suggested that she move here. “So I did,” Martens says.

Lashua is also a Pilates instructor, with a studio in Williston. Martens taught at the University of Vermont and at her daughter’s studio, and in 2007, opened her own studio.

She says she “did a little bit of moving around” before she found a spot in Vergennes, where her brother, Bill, who owns and operates the Emerson Guest House, lived. Also wanting to leave New York City, Bill and his family had followed Martens to Vermont a few months after she arrived. Eventually, the Vergennes place proved a bit too expensive, so she found an apartment in South Burlington.

In the meantime, she had met Caroline Perkins of Perk Fitness and leased studio space from her. “We got along pretty well, and each time she moved, I moved. We moved three times: from Gregory Drive, then up the road a piece behind Rose Computers, where we were for three years, and then moved here a year ago.”

pilates-mirror_0916Martens holds small classes or works one-on-one with clients in her light-filled studio just off Williston Road.

A lot of Martens’s work is one-on-one with clients like Kathy Gutting, who found Martens about eight years ago when she decided to give Pilates a try and “Absolute Pilates was first in the list. She’s a wonderful, wonderful teacher,” says Gutting. “I had never done Pilates at all. Initially I was going five days a week, and I live in Charlotte. That’s testimony because I get myself there by 8 or 9 o’clock.

“A lot of Pilates can be classes at gyms that are more generic, but she really is very intuitive and has an idea of how to individualize your program based on needs and availability.”

Martens is happy with five individual clients, and can handle as many as six, “but this is kind of exhausting work. You have to work with their needs, what their issues are, what their aspirations are. So I see one client at a time, although sometimes I have a duet” (a two person private lesson).

She also teaches small group classes of up to six per class, but is careful to block out two mornings a week for herself. “That’s really important,” she says. “I take a class with my daughter, take a ballet class, and then the end of September, I’ve blocked Thursday morning for a French class.”

Martens’s studio consists of two mirrored rooms: one is a mat room containing barres, mats, foam rollers, and balls — the accoutrements of exercise — and one features resistance apparatus such as reformers, a Cadillac wall unit, and Wunda chairs.

Competition has increased over the years, she says, noting that when she started, there wasn’t much. Other modalities have come along such as CrossFit Ripped, “but those who stick around with Pilates really notice the benefit. Pilates is a great system for core and general conditioning that gets people in great shape for sports like skiing, hiking, biking — it builds strength and flexibility.”

Sisters Susan Bloom and Pamela Mittel of South Burlington are two who have stuck around. A client for over eight years, “absolutely twice a week,” Bloom and her husband, Jonathan, found Absolute Pilates shortly after moving to Vermont from San Francisco. Jonathan attends a class in the winter, says Bloom, “and he says it’s helped his golf game.”

“We had a wonderful Pilates studio in San Francisco, classic Pilates modeled after Joe Pilates. Then, moving to Vermont, I thought, Oh, my goodness, what am I going to do? And they did hook us up with Lynne. She so tailors and individualizes all of her instruction.”

Mittel came to Vermont three years ago to be near her sister. She and Bloom do a duet. “We’ve had a lot of teachers,” she says, “and not all are bona fide and classically trained. And she has a dancing background. I can’t say enough good about her.”

Outside of the studio, Martens has “a great love of music, both classical and jazz.” Her weekends are spent coming up with good lesson plans for clients, “and because I’m a sole proprietor, I have to keep track of who’s coming; who’s paid.”

She recently began studying Spanish, and enjoys movies and a good book in addition to working out. On her nightstand is The Children Act by Ian McEwan, “but right now, I’ve got so many interests that my reading has fallen behind to two pages a night.”

She’s under no illusions about being able to do this forever. “You get older and things change,” she says. “But I’d love to keep doing it like Romana Kryzanowska. She was very well known in Pilates, and she taught all the way up till she was 85.” •