Entries in Pilates History (22)
It was a full house at the Ailey Citigroup Theater in New York Monday night as members of the Pilates and dance communities gathered to pay tribute to Kathleen Stanford Grant (1921-2010), a first-generation Pilates teacher who studied directly with Joseph Pilates and taught the Pilates method for more than 50 years. The celebratory evening was filled with laughter, dance, music and stories about the life and spirit of this multi-faceted woman who “dedicated her life to making all others dreams come true,” as Sarita Allen, one of her students, said. The celebration began with an African drumming processional and was followed by a mixture of dance performances, video footage and almost a dozen speeches from family members, students, colleagues and friends. For those who weren’t able to make it, I’d like to share some highlights from this special evening.
On Monday, September 27, a memorial service will be held in honor of Kathleen Stanford Grant at the Ailey Citigroup Theater in New York City. Kathy, a first-generation Pilates teacher who taught for more than 50 years, passed away in May 2010.
The organizers of the memorial, Blossom Leilani Crawford, Cara Reeser, Keith Sabado and Sarita Allen, cordially invite the Pilates community to join them in celebrating and remembering Kathy Grant. If you would like to share a memory, they will be creating an album for Kathy’s family. At the memorial they will be collecting any copies of photos or written memories you would like to contribute.
Monday, Sept. 27
The Ailey Citigroup Theater
405 West 55th Street
New York, NY 10019
1, A, C, B, and D trains to 59th St - Columbus Circle
Pilates-Pro.com is happy to share another tribute to Kathy Grant from one of her closest proteges, Blossom Leilani Crawford.
By Blossom Leilani Crawford
I remember my teacher, mentor and friend as being a unique, magnetic life force. She was always a symphony of ideas and oppositions, expressing herself and her opinions at the expense of no one and nothing. She was tough as nails.
We met in 1993 when I was a freshman dance student at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. Before I even met Kathy I heard that she would push the students, but that she would help me “find my center.” What I found was a woman whose incredible career as a dancer and arts administrator made her a Pilates teacher, and a person, like no other.
Kathy treated everyone with the same nurturing, iron hand and with an eagle’s eye on the details. She insisted on excellence, both from herself and from her students. She had a work ethic that never wavered - always arriving early and always wanting to do better the next time. Not better than anyone else, just better than she did before.
I can remember just a couple of years ago - the subway outside her house was out of service, it was about 85 degrees outside and she was about 85 years old. No matter - she walked the mile to the next train station and got to her NYU class ON TIME! She always said, “I have no patience, but I won’t give up.”
She is well loved and remembered by countless people from all walks of life. We students remember her now with a shake of our heads and a laugh - and many irreplaceable memories. She helped so many of us in a way that was completely her own. I think I speak for many of us when I say that she did help me find my center and so much more. There isn’t, and never will be, anyone else like her, and I miss her already.
Blossom Leilani Crawford had the great fortune to meet the late Kathy Grant, a Pilates Elder, in 1993 at the Dance Department at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where Blossom was a new dance student. In the ensuing years, Blossom had the honor of being a student, a teaching assistant and ultimately a protege to Ms. Grant. At the suggestion of Ms. Grant, Blossom was certified by Romanna Kryzanowska in 1999 and has since been teaching Pilates throughout New York City and around the country. Blossom owns Bridge Pilates in Brooklyn, NY, and teaches mat classes at the Mark Morris Dance Center.
The Pilates community was saddened by last week’s news that Kathleen Stanford Grant passed away at age 89. A dancer, choreographer and protege of Joseph Pilates, Kathy taught the Pilates Method for more than 50 years, most recently at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. Here is a touching portrait of this influential teacher from her longtime friend and fellow first-generation teacher, Lolita San Miguel.
By Lolita San Miguel
There are certain relationships one makes which quickly and deeply evolve to form the unbreakable bond of true friendship that neither time, nor the distancing that personal or professional commitments usually cause, can ever shatter.
Kathleen Stanford Grant and I had that type of friendship for 52 years. We would see each other after not communicating for months and pick up as if we had just seen each other the day before.
I first met Kathy when in 1958 I suffered an injury, and upon the advice of Dr. Henry Jordan, a renowned doctor who treated injured dancers, I went to Carola Trier for rehabilitation. Kathy and Romana Kryzanowska were Carola’s assistants at the time. Kathy was a thin, muscular, ex-modern dancer with short-cropped red hair, freckles, polite and disciplined and already had that wonderful “eye” for corrections. My sessions were in the early afternoon, which coincided with Kathy’s shift.
Kathy and I had two additional strong bonds: dance and being very proud of our heritages. The 1960s and ‘70s were passionate years of change, and we both felt a responsibility to give to our people, she to the African-American community through Dance Theater of Harlem and her husband’s Broadway projects as a producer, and I to the Hispanic community in New York through the Puerto Rican Dance Theater and other Hispanic activities. Our training and background and the talent and privileges we had received gave us a strong social conscience. So these two “kindred spirits” became friends instantly and often we socialized and went to dinner with our husbands.
It was Kathy who gave me one of the biggest surprises of my life one day while we were talking in front of Carola’s studio at 200 West 58th Street in Manhattan. After many years as Carola’s client, I had decided to train as a Pilates instructor and possibly open my own studio and was about to finish my 6-month, 520-hour apprenticeship with Carola. I expressed my concerns to Kathy, however, for I didn’t feel ready to open my own studio and told her that I would just integrate Pilates into my ballet teaching.
Kathy casually said, “Why don’t you go to Joe’s?”
“Joe who?” I asked back.
“Joseph Pilates,” Kathy said.
First-generation Pilates teacher Lolita San Miguel is one of only a handful of practitioners to receive an official teaching certificate from Joseph Pilates himself. Lately, she has been hard at work running her Master Mentor Program, and is soon to return to Dusseldorf, Germany, 10 miles away from Joe Pilates’ birthplace, to teach the European leg of her program. Last year, in May 2009, she was able to celebrate Pilates Day in a festival hall in Mönchengladbach, the town where Joe was born, teaching a free mat class to more than 150 people. Pilates Day was created as a way to raise the profile of the Pilates method. As it draws near this year on May 1, we’re excited to share Lolita’s plans for celebrating again in Joseph Pilates’ hometown and helping Mönchengladbach commemorate him.
By Lolita San Miguel
Mönchengladbach was a memorable experience and it was an honor to spend Pilates Day there, but unfortunately Joe Pilates is not really known in his hometown. It truly hurt me to find this out. Joe’s dream was to reform the world with his Pilates Method, and I will never forget his “bad days,” before he died, when he felt he had not succeeded. I resolved to do something for Joe in Mönchengladbach.
By Nicole Rogers
Continuing education workshops are something I go back and forth on. Don’t get me wrong; they are absolutely essential to high quality teaching. Yet, sadly, I often zone out at some point. Sitting on the floor for eight hours makes me want to jump out the window and I don’t like eating raisins out of my purse for “lunch.” But if I learn even one good cue or variation from a workshop, it makes all of the discomfort worth it. The infusion of knowledge enriches my teaching and gets me excited about the process all over again.
Jillian Hessel’s new DVD, Learning From Two Masters, basically solves my problems with workshops since I can watch and review at my own pace. And there is a bounty of information to review. No matter what your background, you would be hard-pressed not to find something of interest here. Though Hessel started her Pilates education in New York, plenty of variations have found their way into her work. And I think there is something here for everyone with an open mind. Hessel trained with many of the elders, and most intensively with Kathy Grant and Carola Trier. Here, she teaches a workshop sharing her vast knowledge as an instructor, specifically as influenced by Grant and Trier.
By Stacey Redfield
The life history of Joseph Pilates appears to be covered, to some extent, in just about every Pilates book, workshop, conference and training program.
The narrative that’s passed on about his life generally goes like this: He was born in Germany, and it is rumored that he was a sickly kid who became obsessed with developing his own physical strength. He first wife died in Germany when he was 30, and somehow he made his way to England—Joe stated that he was touring with a circus troupe. When WWI broke out, he was interned on Britain’s Isle of Man because of his German citizenship. It is a common belief in the Pilates community that the rehabilitative work he did with his fellow detainees became part of the foundation of what we know today as Pilates. (Unfortunately, records from the Isle of Man were destroyed in the war and I haven’t found any official account of his work there.) Pilates immigrated to the United States in 1926, and in doing so, made the acquaintance of Anna Clara Zuener, whom we all know as Clara, and with whom he remained until his death in 1967. After arriving in the States, he opened the New York City studio in which he taught for the duration of his life, though exactly when he opened it is unclear.
There is also plenty of lore about Joe Pilates. For instance, there are many stories about Joe’s love of beer, women and cigars. Though there’s reason to believe them, one might wonder, for example, just how far-fetched is the story of Joe running through the streets of New York in the middle of winter wearing just a pair of skimpy white trunks and his gym shoes?
By Nicole Rogers
Mentorship is extremely important to the Pilates community, as Pilates elder Mary Bowen so eloquently demonstrated here. If Joseph Pilates hadn’t passed his knowledge on to the first generation of teachers, and if they, the Pilates elders, had not passed their knowledge on to the next generation, Pilates simply would not exist. The tradition of mentorship is part of our foundation and our history.
Over the years, Pilates mentor/mentee relationships were rarely formal, yet were profound and long-lasting. The glue of these relationships has always been passion: for the work, for movement, for health, and for improving the lives of others with Pilates. This passion doesn’t fade, rather it’s the fuel that drives Pilates masters to explore throughout their lifetimes and to build on each other’s work. We all learned from someone, and hopefully we all continue to learn every day. Mentorship is important all the way through our careers, not just at the beginning.
When I asked some prominent Pilates personalities about their own mentors, past and present, I was not surprised to hear that their answers were as diverse as the Pilates world itself. (From what they’ve said, it appears that everyone who was taught by Mr. Pilates received a different workout, so it makes sense that no two teachers are the same to this day.) Each mentor/mentee relationship is unique. Nonetheless, a few general themes about the value of mentorship emerged from these conversations.
You’d think someone like Mary Bowen, a Pilates elder who is in demand to teach teachers around the world, would be done with the “learning” part of her 50-plus-year Pilates career by now. It’s just the opposite—one of the most inspiring things about her, and many others at the top of the field, is her never-ending thirst for more learning. Here she explains the importance of the many personal mentors she’s had over the years and why she’ll never stop being a mentee. Stay tuned for more on mentorship this month.
I have had many mentors in my 51 years in Pilates. For me, it all began in 1959 with visits to Joe and Clara Pilates twice a week for six and a half years. Joe and Clara have always remained alive in me. I came out of back pain with them, rapidly, and ate up the whole experience of being close in with their life commitment to total health, breath and their method of exercise. What Joe and Clara gave me was more than a mentorship. They gave me “a way of life” that freed my body, making it strong, flexible and enduring enough for any exploration and development I needed to undertake. Not knowing it at the time, it was turning me into a Pilates teacher myself, by 1975.
From there, I spent 7 years with Bob Seed, which underlined the experience of Joe and Clara, and then 7 years with Romana Kryzanowska, which expanded the movement repertoire for my body and cemented the importance of Pilates in my life, then 7 years with Kathy Grant, which instilled a kind of toughness into the work and yet a freedom to be creative in it at the same time, then 5 years with Bruce King, until he died, which was the closest to what is called “classical Pilates” and a great teacher of the value and lack of boredom in repetition.
With Bruce it was always the same way, the same forms in the same order. I was 50 when I started with him. I had the patience by then for his kind of quest for perfection through repetition. I could always find newness in it. Concurrent with Bruce and beyond his life span were 7 years with Jean Claude West, who had learned Pilates at my studio, Your Own Gym, in Northampton, Mass., and had gone on to study biomechanics and kinesiology at universities in New York City. Jean Claude was on the cutting edge of integrating Pilates with physical therapy techniques and knowledge. This expansion has continued deepening the experience of Pilates and the knowledge that one can attain as a teacher of Pilates. It has advanced the practice of Pilates for oneself and for the teaching of others. From 1995 and continuing into the present, my mentor is Christine Wright, a former professional dancer, student and gifted teacher of the body and how we can better live in it using Pilates as a fundamental grid. With my weekly lessons and my mentors I am just short of 80 and still coming into my body.
By Nicole Rogers
Carola Trier (1913-2000) was the first person to start a Contrology studio outside of Joseph Pilates’ own studio, and she did so with his blessing. Pilates elders like Kathy Grant and Lolita San Miguel started their Pilates training with Carola Trier. And yet, until now I knew little about her other than the fact that she was a contortionist. It turns out she was actually a roller-skating contortionist! This is one of many entertaining insights to be gained from the new DVD Carola Shares, by Jillian Hessel.