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On the Moves

One of the world’s leading Fletcher Pilates instructors lives right here in Chicago. No wonder the masses are flocking... 

Pilates pro Jenna Zaffino in her Roscoe Village studio

Jenna Zaffino is to the Pilates movement what Grant Achatz is to the Chicago food scene. They are both masters, teachers and innovators—and people flock to Chicago to get a taste of their talents. While for Achatz that literally means tasting his cutting-edge cuisine, for Zaffino it entails wannabe Pilates teachers and serious students from around the globe heading to her 3,000-square-foot Helios Center for Movement (heliosmovement.com) to learn and train—primarily in the Fletcher Method of Pilates, which incorporates Martha Graham-based elements of movement and dance into the equipment-centric structure of Joseph Pilates’ original system.

“We’ve had attendees from across the nation to The Fletcher Pilates Program of Study, our teacher training program,” she says. “It’s very rigorous and exclusive, and there is a pretty intense application process. In addition, we host licensing programs for those teachers, both Fletcher and from other lineages, to become licensed to teach. Our last two programs had attendees from Singapore, Israel, Korea, London, Los Angeles, Canada and more.”

Here’s how it all went down: Ron Fletcher, the founder of Fletcher Pilates who worked with Barbra Streisand and Ali MacGraw, was one of six so-called “first generation” Pilates instructors studying directly under Joe and Clara Pilates. Zaffino met Fletcher in 2004 during her training in Arizona. Soon, Fletcher personally enlisted her (and just eight others across the globe) to carry on his teachings. Her studio offers everything from Fletcher Floorwook and Fletcher Barre classes to basic offerings like Pilates Mat and Equipment Classes.

“The responsibility that Ron entrusted in me to teach this work in Chicago has sent me on a mission to educate and empower people through movement,” says the 35-year-old Zaffino. “While he was living, he would call the studio often to talk about movement, check in with my work and even leave messages for my dog, Horatio.”

If Pilates isn’t your thing, the studio also offers TRX classes, Ballates (a mix of ballet and Pilates) and The Girls Movement, a class for girls ages 9 to 12 to learn self-empowerment through movement.

And Zaffino’s star continues to rise: She currently teaches nationally and internationally, and was recently named the Athleta Sponsored Athlete of 2013, acting as an ambassador for the lifestyle brand in Chicago. “Working with a teacher who has studied Pilates as a career and not a hobby can be the difference in seeing benefits in your body,” she says. “That is why people seek us out.”