Wednesday is Judy Kranz day at the YMCA — a day when the professional dancer turned Pilates guru closes her Oak Bluffs Pilates studio and shows up at the Y at 10 am to showcase her versatility, teaching four popular classes: Mat Pilates, Everfit, Broadway Dance, and Aging Backwards.
As Judy’s expertise in these four classes suggests, she’s a woman capable of reinventing herself, changing career paths when life throws her a curveball, and mastering new skills for the good of her client community.
As a young woman, Judy arrived in New York, an aspiring actress and dancer, hoping to make it to Broadway. Instead, she found her calling as a teacher, first in New York, later on the Vineyard — her childhood vacation home since she was three.
But back to those Broadway aspirations. Judy explained she went to a lot of auditions, but only made it into off-Broadway productions. “When you go to an open call for a Broadway show, there are at least 500 dancers present,” Judy told The Times. “You take a number and are shown on the huge Broadway stage in smaller groups. If you are chosen for how you look, you are ‘kept’ and will be asked to dance, after which you may be ‘kept’ again, or be told thank you. I was frequently asked to stay for one or two rounds, but I never did get cast in a Broadway show. Sadly, I never snagged commercial success, much like 98 percent of the artists in AEA [Actor’s Equity Association] or SAG [Screen Actors Guild].”
So, she reinvented herself as a teacher, getting a break when dance teacher “the great Luigi” asked Judy to teach classes at his studio. “I lept at the chance, and became more successful as a teacher,” Judy said.
Luigi, the late Eugene Louis Faccuito, was a famous jazz dancer who danced in all of Gene Kelly’s movies, according to Judy. From Gene, he got his nickname Luigi, because there couldn’t be two Genes on set.
In 2001, Judy again reinvented herself due to dance related injuries. She found the Pilates Method and was amazed to see how much stronger she became and how much her joint pain was reduced. She became a Comprehensively Certified Pilates instructor in 2004.
Judy teaches Pilates at the Y on Wednesday and Sunday mornings, regularly at Island Pilates of Martha’s Vineyard, her Oak Bluffs studio on 56 Narragansett Ave., and also at the Field Club in Edgartown. Both Y classes are classical mat-based Pilates she described as “a total body workout emphasizing core strength, muscle length, and flexibility for a spectrum of participants from novice to fit athlete.” Mat Pilates involves a mat and minimal amount of equipment, and only about a quarter of Pilates exercises. The higher level of Pilates, so called apparatus training, utilizes a variety of larger equipment and takes place at Judy’s boutique studio.
She describes her workout space as “humble.” It’s actually the front room of her apartment in a historic Victorian house. The studio contains some rather intimidating sounding equipment to provide “Reformer and Apparatus training.” “The Reformer was originally called the Universal Reformer, aptly named for universally reforming the body,” Judy explained. A full complement of equipment and accessories designed by Joseph Pilates are found in the studio: the Cadillac,
Wunda Chair, High “Electric Chair”, Spine Corrector, Ladder Barrel, and Ped-o-Pul.
Judy’s Broadway Dance class at the Y capitalizes on the style and knowledge Judy gained dancing and teaching in New York. “‘Broadway Dance’ is a term for the style of dance that I have taught for some 30 years,” Judy said. “It is a really fun class, dancing ‘Broadway style’ like old time show dancing, a mix of ballet, tap, jazz, afro-cuban, ballroom etc.”
The class starts with a series of flowing exercises that are set to music. These exercises stretch and strengthen the body and help improve one’s dance ‘technique,’ i.e. the quality of movement and the style of movement. The movement styles are a mishmash of ballet, tap, Afro-cuban and ballroom styles and steps. “Think of old MGM musicals full of show dancing and throw in some mambo and chacha and some kicks choreographed to some real fun music and pretty soon you are getting a workout,” Judy said. “It is not like Zumba, however, because the dancing is more controlled and therein lies the challenge. Keep moving, keep dancing with control, and stay in time with the music, and pretty soon you can keep dancing with more and more abandon even as your control increases.”
The Aging Backwards class, based on the teachings of PBS personality Miranda Esmond-White, is the newest addition to Judy’s Y repertoire (and a personal favorite of this reporter). I first tried it just after spending a month in the hospital with a fractured pelvis. I was
doing a slew of rehab exercises, none of them much fun. Then along came Aging Backwards to make me feel really, really good for the first time in weeks. “This class allows one to exercise without weights and no pounding or repetitive movement,” Judy said, “which provides a full body workout that will strengthen and stretch 650 muscles and rebalance 360 joints, loosen connective tissue, and improve range of motion for better body alignment and posture without lifting a single weight.”
Everfit, Judy’s fourth Y class, attracts over a dozen regulars every Wednesday, and some holdovers from the day’s earlier Mat Pilates class. It is billed as “a full body workout for the active adult, utilizing light weights to improve muscle strength and bone density, to increase your energy, stamina and balance with mobility and functional movement.”
Judy’s Y classes are open to and attract all ages of women and men, including a few couples who attend together, but are promoted as part of the Y’s Healthy Aging initiative that was rolled out last year to focus on older members of the community.
Calling Judy a dedicated professional, Healthy Aging’s silver haired coordinator Betty Robie said, “Judy understands the limits of many of us and wants to be sure we don’t hurt ourselves as we move, stretch, strengthen our core, and improve flexibility. She welcomes newcomers, encouraging all to have a good time, not to overthink, ‘don’t worry, be happy.’ The Y is lucky to have her.”