Kathy Grant was my first Pilates teacher. If it wasn’t for her I don’t think I would have pursued a career in Pilates. So when Blossom Leilani Crawford asked me to contribute to her site “KathyGrantPilates.com” , I was thrilled to oblige. If you’d like to learn more about Kathy I would like to encourage you to visit Blossom’s site, it is filled with wonderful stories and anecdotes about Kathy. Following is my story.
WHAT MADE YOU GO TO KATHY GRANT IN THE FIRST PLACE? HOW LONG DID YOU STAY?
Like many dancers majors attending NYU, Tisch School of the Arts I was referred to Kathy to help with the multiple overuse injuries I was beginning to develop.
When I walked into her studio in 1988 she probably saw a scared, young dancer with an earnest desire to improve and a yet willfulness that was getting in her own way. My passion to become a dancer translated into me inadvertently working with a lot of tension and missing a deeper strength. After that day, I worked with Kathy on and off for the next 10-12 years. Through this time, Kathy helped me unearth my deeper power and stay true to my movement practice.
Did KSG ever make up an exercise for you? If so, what was it? Do you still do it?
At Kathy’s studio all of us had our own set of warm ups that prepared us to move, to dance or to do Joe’s exercises. Many of these warm ups she created out of a necessity for a particular student – the dancer with the tight hip had one thing, the business women with a painful neck had another and the older women with a bad back had yet another.
I don’t recall if my many injuries inspired an exercise made expressly for me. What I do know is that I had an especially long pre-pilates warm up , which meant it wasn’t unusual for me to be there upwards of two hours!
Is there something in your movement practice or teaching practice that came from or evolved from a movement or an image from Kathy Grant?
The pre-pilates exercises that she taught me have morphed over the last 20 years . I too have created my own versions , both out of need and , because time has a way of changing things. I think Kathy would have wanted it that way. She recognized that nothing stays the same – each body is different and each day presents different needs.
What has stayed with me most is not so much a particular exercise but the process of working from the inside out. Kathy worked with our minds, our inner strength and our imaginations. She treated us more like actors than dancers. Kathy insisted that we embody the movement from inside, become baby birds or a weathervane, or a wave of water or a key in a lock. She was relentless in saying “no, that’s not right” as many times as she needed to until we either burst into tears or become the “baby bird”.
And to my surprise, only when I embodied what it meant to be her image from deep inside was the movement right. The day that I expressed the spirit of a tiny helpless bird just learning to move its wings for the first time was the day I realized how transformative imagination could be and that I was capable of it – not to mention the healing power it had on my troubled and painful shoulder.
What do you think is an important thing for people to remember about Kathy?
Although the Pilates community has made a wonderful effort to preserve Kathy’s work, sometimes I think her process defied codification. I am not sure anyone can really know her exercises unless they worked closely with her.
How do you think Kathy would feel about the current atmosphere of
the Pilates world?
Kathy used to warn us about the unmindful way of doing Pilates. In her words she would say, “ Don’t slam the door shut. If you keep slamming the door shut , its eventually going to break.” That was her way of describing how some studios taught Pilates, always slamming the door. She was advising us to take care of our bodies, to listen to them.
Kathy’s packaging was sometimes harsh but her messaging was often something soft and tender. There was love and understanding at the core of her work.
If you could ask Kathy one more question, or say one more thing to her, what would it be?
Thank you for teaching me how to dig deep- really deep, to stretch my imagination and for inspiring my life long career.
How do you think Kathy would want to be remembered today? Or what do you think Kathy Grant’s legacy is?
I think Kathy was proud that she launched so many careers in Pilates, helped so many dancers prolong their professions, and reached a wide diversity of people.
Her legacy is in her out-of –the-box thinking, adapting exercises for the needs at hand and using the mind to change the body. She was way ahead of her time!