Simply and lovingly referred to as “Kathy” by her students, Kathleen Stanford Grant (Kathy Grant) is considered a Pilates Elder, as much as a pioneer and innovator. She was born in Boston, MA, on the 1 August 1921, which means that this month we celebrate what would have been her 100th birthday!
Her resilience, confidence and passion made her a wonderful teacher, mentor, and friend to her students. Her tough-love attitude was followed by encouraging words such as, “you did it!”.
Kathy’s dream was to become a ballerina. At the time, ballet was considered a “white dance” in the United States. However, it didn’t stop her from being accepted in the Boston Conservatory of Music in 1930, where she took ballet classes. In 1945 she moved to NYC, where she worked as a performer at the Zanzibar Club, a venue where African Americans entertained a white audience. She worked with all the best current entertainers, including Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong.
Introduction to Joseph Pilates
Kathy first met Jo Pilates in 1954, following the suggestion of a friend to see him, “to get her back dancing” after she had sustained a significant knee injury that resulted in two surgeries on that knee within a year. At the time she was unable to perform normal daily activities such as getting on a bus or running up the stairs without pain. In a ballet class, a grand plié would send tears running down her face. Joseph Pilates did get her back dancing!
In 1957, Kathy started as an assistant teacher with Carola Trier at the second Pilates studio opened in NYC. Carola quickly becomes a teacher from which Kathy learnt and who inspired her profoundly. In 1964, she started an apprentice program for certification with Joseph Pilates through the New York State Vocational Rehabilitation Program. She completed 2,200 hours of observation, which made her and Lolita San Miguel the only two apprentices officially certified to teach Joseph Pilates’ work.
Kathy Grant’s Legacy
Kathy left her stamp on the Pilates legacy and is known for her series of preparatory exercises, Mat work before the Hundred. She believed in teaching the skills before the exercise. Cara Reeser, one of Kathy’s students, recalls that Kathy had a way of helping her achieve a movement without her even realising it was happening. She believed in giving options without rejecting the original way. Kathy was always rightfully respectful and encouraging of her fellow “elders” practises, acknowledging the importance and profoundness of their work and believed in the uniqueness of each body and taught that body, a skill she’d learnt directly from her time spent with Joseph Pilates.
We invite you to celebrate her legacy and experience how Kathy’s teaching and influence have inspired Cara Reeser in her work. Cara is presenting two workshops alongside Jeremy Laverdure at the PAA Conference from 3-5th September. It will be a truly memorable experience, a collaboration that highlights “One size doesn’t fit all”!
Written by Eve Fairbairn, PAA Committee Member.