photo by Shira Koopman

Leila Kester

Leila has been teaching Pilates to the dancers of NDT and HNB, and the National Ballet Academy for more than two decades. Over the years the  focus of her work became more specifically focused on offering dancers strategies to meet the high demands of their professional dance career. With this many years of experience, she knows the type of problems dancers typically have to cope with, and has designed a varied and challenging class to increase awareness, mobility, stability and strength, to find a more balanced way of working.

Leila took her first Pilates class in 1985, in London, where she also started teaching. After she stopped her professional dance career, she took up teaching ballet and Pilates full time. She studied with Clarice Marshall, Jane Paris, Paula Baird Colt, Elizabeth Larkam, Karen Clippenger and Brent Anderson, amongst others. 

Leila is an Educator for Polestar Pilates in Amsterdam and Athens. She presented for IADMS three times, with colleagues from other dance companies. Leila’s Pilates, her own studio, is located right  in the centre of Amsterdam.

“As the lockdown started it was clear that this would last a while, and that teaching online would be the only possibility to continue to work. Within a week some of the dancers from HNB and NDT I started experimenting to teach through Zoom, which to my surprise was far more effective than I had anticipated. The joy to connect with the dancers, and  to offer them the possibility to connect with themselves in this very surrealistic time proved to help us stay grounded and inspired. I am very grateful that this opportunity was there, as it challenged me to be creative and encouraged me to expand the content of my classes. I am very excited to use all that experience to connect to dancers through HJS, and further explore this way of teaching.”

Content of the class
This Pilates class is designed specifically to support you to broaden your routines of self-maintenance exercises thus enabling you to create a bridge between the demands of the profession and the reality of your  body. In one hour the class takes you through a flow of exercises, addressing all the major parts of the dancing body, meanwhile offering you strategies to deepen your understanding. The aim of the class is to provide you with tools to find  access your full physical potential. The last 15 minutes Leila will teach some basic barre exercises, to give you the opportunity to explore ways to implement the work in your technique.

This class is suitable for all dancers and dance teachers. If you have injuries please check with a health professional what your restrictions are, and modify exercises where needed.

What people say about Leila’s (live stream) Pilates classes:

Quarantine was a difficult moment for a lot of dancers because we were forced to maintain our training by ourselves at home. I find myself so fortunate to have been able to join Leila’s online Pilates classes during these weeks. Not only did it give me motivation to stay active everyday, her classes allowed me to pick up my professional activities in the appropriate mental and physical shape. Plus, I came out of it with so many more tools to carry with in my various freelance projects around the world, and a feeling that I have an ally out there to support me in my journey.

Eve Marie DalcourtFreelance dancer

Before entering quarantine I had never invested much time into exploring pilates as a supplement for my career as a dancer. Leila offered five classes a week to dancers throughout the Netherlands over Zoom, and I would typically be in all five. What I appreciate about Pilates is that it aids the body in keeping in its most stable and aligned position, along with a really excellent workout to get there. Leila, with her past experience as a dancer, knew how to connect with what we know and the processes our bodies are used to. She also understands dancers’ common weaknesses, and how to strengthen them.

Since then, I have returned back to work with Nederlands Dans Theater, and my body is feeling healthier and more stable than it ever has.

Austin MeiteenDancer NDT 2

In this nebulous, uncertain time, it is easy to feel out of control, or aimless, but Leila’s classes have been a constant source of comfort and routine. Through your effort and attention, and your calming presence, we are able to gather our collective energy. The classes have helped me to rekindle my relationship with my body and its awareness.

Dustin TrueDancer Dutch National Ballet

I’ve worked with Leila from the school into the company, and feel so grateful that she has been there all along!

 When I was going through a long and complicated injury, she was always there guiding me along. I learn something new every time we work together, and I really value those experiences. She always finds a way to challenge you, and is incredibly creative- able to find ways to work on each and every part of your body, even with a cast on one leg! Working with Leila is wonderful- I couldn’t have made it back to the stage without her.

Alexandria Marxdancer Dutch National Ballet

Leila’s understanding of the body in combination with her knowledge about dance, both classical and contemporary, makes her a unique person to work with for me as a dancer. I feel very lucky to have gotten in contact with her and that I’ve been exposed to her holistic and curious approach to movement and the human body. For me as a dancer she has helped me to understand my physique in a better way, so that the demands of both classical and modern dance are taking less toll on my body. I have learnt to approach my work in an interested, curious manner, and got to understand how to work with my body rather than ‘against’ it, which gives me much more freedom, joy and satisfaction while on stage and in the studio.  Leila’s work has influenced my development as a dancer and as an artist tremendously. It has become a part of my daily training, and I feel very lucky be working with her.

Douwe DekkersPrincipal Norwegian National Ballet