Kathy Grant

Photo by Morikawa Noboru courtesy of Bridge Pilates

I never had the privilege of meeting or working with Kathy Grant, but have many friends and colleagues who did work with her extensively. My mentor, Marie-José Blom from Long Beach Dance Conditioning, was quite close to her and speaks of her often. In fact, on the day of Kathy Grant’s death I was with Marie-José in a Pilates Leadership class. A teacher from the studio interrupted our class to give us the news of Kathy’s death. Marie-José was devastated and had to pause and sit down (two things she rarely does while teaching). She then began to tell us what an amazing teacher and person Kathy had been and that this was heartbreaking for the Pilates community.

From researching Kathy for this article, I have come across many who have been deeply influenced by her work, not only changing them as a teacher but also as human beings. Along with her passion for the Pilates method, she was an active supporter of a clean environment and of protecting animals. As a former dancer she was also a huge supporter of the arts. Pictures of Kathy in the 1950s dancing are amazing. What a beautiful, vibrant, strong young woman.

Kathy was the first Black woman to teach Pilates when she started in 1957. She and another first generation teacher, Lolita San Miguel, were the only two people to ever receive a certification to teach directly from Joseph Pilates. Since 1988, Kathy had been based at NYU, Tisch School of the Arts where she taught a year-long Pilates course until her death. She faithfully kept this class up even though traveling to and from the class as she got older began to be a much harder task. Lolita San Miguel mentioned Kathy’s stubbornness and devotion to her students at NYU. Lolita had talked to Kathy about slowing down, but Kathy would not hear of it.

Kathy mentored and trained some of the best Pilates teachers in the business, including Ellie Herman and Jillian Hessel. She was also a great inspiration to already established greats such as Mary Bowen, Marie-José Blom, and Ron Fletcher. Jillian Hessel came to Kathy as an injured dancer who had a very overworked and misaligned body. Kathy wrote the following about working with Jillian: “I feel that her coming to me as an injured dancer all those years ago has helped her be a more inventive and patient teacher of Pilates. Jillian had to work hard to get the concepts of Pilates into her body. She understands the potential fear, pain, and frustration of a beginning exerciser because she had to start over from the beginning to retrain her misaligned back.” Kathy was very interested in teaching instructors how to take care of their bodies and to be inventive and compassionate.

From all accounts her humor and enthusiasm for learning were infectious. She also knew how to teach without shaming. She embodied what we should all strive for as teachers. One of her closest proteges, Blossom Leilani Crawford, describes Kathy’s talent perfectly: “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.”

Kathy Grant was truly one of a kind and will be greatly missed, but her work will continue through all the brilliant teachers she was able to touch.

~ by Jennifer Gianni

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  1. Bonnie_221

    I am a recent graduate of the Kathy Grant Heritage Training Program® with Cara Reeser. I HIGHLY recommend this program to all Pilates teachers! My body, mind and spirit were transformed after completing the Heritage Training Program®. Cara is a wonderful person and teacher of Kathy’s work. She will make you laugh and you will have fun and experience movement potential that you did not know was possible! For me this was a very emotional program and just what my body needed!