We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephanie Y Jolivet and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephanie, what role has risk played in your life or career?
You know, I’ve never thought of myself as a risk taker. But when people learn that I hiked the 40 miles of the Maryland portion of the Appalachian Trail in a single day; or that I climb aerial fabric; or when they see I ride a motorcycle; or when I introduce myself as an east coast transplant who moved to Los Angeles nearly 7 years ago with her husband and two dear friends all without jobs, I get a chance to see myself from the outside, and say to myself, “Huh. But those aren’t risky behaviors. I followed my gut in all of those adventures.”
Life is full of risk. We literally do not know what tomorrow will bring. So I prefer to see “risk” not as willingly exposing myself to danger, but rather as an opportunity, an adventure. And not willy-nilly either. All the big decisions in my life have come from a place of deep knowing, of grounding, of listening to my gut. I recognize that uprooting my life and moving away from my family, my job, my clients, my friends, my performing life in DC to begin my MFA in Experimental Choreography at UC Riverside and to move my Pilates biz, Sayezz Pilates & Beyond to its own brick and mortar space across the country could be qualified as “risky”.
But because I viewed this, admittedly large, life change as a move toward adventure, toward opportunity, toward growing and shifting and changing for the better, it just plain didn’t feel risky. It felt exciting. Of course it takes time to find your people and to build a business in a new place. It was werk energizing the studio after finishing graduate school. It took a lot of designing business cards, handing out business cards, shaking hands with folx who gave me their business cards at networking meetings, walking down the street and asking if I could leave business cards for the manager. But like any Pilates instructor knows, it’s simply about putting in the time and effort to connect to your core that makes all the difference. I saw those business cards bloom into amazing, supportive, loyal clients and friends, who share their time and space with me each week, their homegrown produce and pets, who continue down the path of feeling strong and at home in their bodies, even during a pandemic.
And now I can take a look outside myself, maybe even give my back a little pat, and say, “Wow. I did that thing. And it was a big shift. It was a big change.” Was it risky business? Nah. It’s just another adventure to me.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Sure! My mission at Sayezz Pilates & Beyond is to help folx understand that they are already a badass rockstar! I’m simply here as a witness to support their own practice. While I’ve spent most of my professional life in studios and theaters rehearsing with all kinds of dance companies – modern, improvisation, aerial dance, Indian fusion – and choreographing and performing all over the US, Canada, England, India, and Bangladesh, I’ve recently begun to understand that my purpose here, especially during this stay-at-home time is to focus on the joy of sharing the beautiful, intelligent Pilates & GYTROTONIC® methods, and synthesizing them with intuitive reader practices, literally putting the “spirit” in “body-mind-spirit”. People are craving movement. They are getting strong, getting connected, going deeper in their own homes, their own bodies. I am in awe of their commitment to themselves, to the ownership of their own strength, their own intuition.
Sayezz Pilates & Beyond is a space for all kinds of bodies, abilities, ages and learners to feel their absolute best. We offer one-on-one sessions, duets, classes, intuitive body readings, monthly memberships, and zoomshops – why “work” when you can play?! I literally teach three generations of a family in one day – a 12-year old gymnast, her mom, and her grandfather. All on Zoom. All supporting their unique needs and abilities. It’s freaking awesome!
I want to reach folx who really want to live holistically in their bodies, their environments, their lives! I’m so grateful to now have the training that supports our holistic alignment – body, mind, and spirit. Plus, now that Sayezz is online, I can reach more people and truly develop my own methodology. I’m able in real time to incorporate flow, creative problem-solving, and my experience as a dancer and an athlete in my weekly classes. I’m so excited about my monthly membership that includes free access to virtual live classes, access to the live class video archive, and a half hour one-on-one check-in. I’m offering monthly Holistic Movers Retreat zoomshops, where we bring consciousness to our intuitive powers and explore more improvisational movement. I’m creating my Step Intuit™ foundation training that explores how intuitive practices can live side by side with Pilates methods and expand both. One of my favorite creative practices each week is to partner with my husband, a photographer and videographer to create free YouTube Pilates and beyond videos on my channel, and to deliver “Monday Moves” – quickie Pilates films that take less than 5 minutes to practice – straight to my mailing list. I’m energized with this practice and I want YOU to be too. I’ve been teaching Pilates and movement for nearly 20 years; it’s so exciting to know there’s always room to grow into a structure that settles so naturally around you.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
So… The first thing I’d do with a friend who came for a visit – what we’ve already been doing – is take them on an ebike tour of the winding hills next to our loft in Altadena. We’ve been offering vélo-tes™ and vélo-kinesis™ to our clients already – a 25 minute bike ride to a lovely open space; 40 minutes of a Pilates or GYROKINESIS® flow; and then another 25-minute route back home on the bikes. We love it. Our clients love it. Our friends who we’ve taken out love it! The Los Angeles National Forest and JPL are our backdrop, so it’s totally a must.
Then I’d take them – probably on the ebikes – to the Huntington Library and Gardens. Fun fact: when I moved to LA, I worked at Pilates Metro in Atwater Village, and one of my first clients there (thanks Allison!) was Natalie Portman. Yup. She was also one of the first people to tell me that I absolutely had to visit the Huntington. The desert garden is my fav – it’s like a Dr. Seuss fantasy land. And the members-only, after hours jazz in the garden is a great opportunity for a summertime picnic.
And finally, we’d order a vegan pizza from Pizza of Venice with a side of their Belgian fries and a curry dipping sauce each to go. Mmmm. My mouth is watering just thinking of those potato wedges, and the thin crust of that vegetable-loaded pie. And you know what? “Hoopla! An Emporium of Good Things” is just down the street on Fair Oaks, so I’d take my friend there to shop their local artist-made goods. Every time I go there to drop off a package – they’re also a UPS outpost – I find a pair of handmade unicorn earrings, or a tiger’s eye bracelet, or I learn about a mask artist who I now follow on Instagram. It’s an off-the-beaten-path kind of diamond-in-the-rough place full of beautiful surprises. Much like Altadena itself.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Oh my gosh – soooo many people! But the first person I want to give a shoutout to is my mother, Karen Marie Yezek. I joke that my sister inherited my mom’s organizational skills, and I inherited her personality. It’s served me well too. Being able to talk to people, to be authentic and candid is a trait I’m extremely grateful for. My energy, my approach to life is enthusiastic – just like my mother. I have a lot of laugher to share – just like my mom. I’m direct, have broad shoulders, stand tall, and can use my words with authority – just like my mama. Above all, there’s her support. All through my life. As a dancer in DC after college, living at home, eating her food, sleeping in my childhood bed, she called herself “a patron of the arts.” I can’t tell you how many times she’s said and how many little presents she’s given with phrases like, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” Or “Dream big.” She has a way of letting you know you’re loved, and simultaneously, letting you know you’re free to make your own decisions and to be your own person.
My mother, who grew up as second-generation Italian American woman in Pennsylvania where you could tell the ethnicity of the neighborhood by the smells wafting from the windows at dinner time; who was slapped on the wrist with a ruler by a nun for asking too many questions in Catholic school; who moved to Columbia, MD, the first planned community in MD and the second in the nation when it was still farm land to give her kids opportunity; who still asks what Christmas cookies her four grown kids want each year; this woman gave me the childhood that one of my friends out here in LA calls, “Mayberry.” For that, I am forever grateful. It has allowed me to grow wings and fly. To be big in my life. I always have that safe, beautiful, childhood to remember, to ground, to root me wherever I am. So much love and light shined on me – and all my siblings – and her love and stability has made me who I am, has given me the ability to travel far from home, deep within myself, and to believe – really, from a deep place of knowing – that I can do things – any and every thing, if I so choose. I am privileged in that childhood. I am honored to have this mother. Karen Marie Yezek, this shoutout is for YOU!
All photos by Ludovic Jolivet