Kathleen Stanford Grant: Pilates Pioneer

Kathleen Stanford Grant was one of the first generation pilates teachers.  Kathy worked with Joseph H. Pilates in the 1950s and was one of only two people trained and certified by Mr. Pilates to teach the method.  Kathy was an African American woman with a dream of becoming a classical ballet dancer in segregated America.  Kathy moved from Boston to New York City in the mid-1940s to fulfill her dream.  She started dancing at Zanzibar nightclub in NYC as a chorus girl – where black dancers performed to all white audiences.  Kathy got a part in Finian’s Rainbow, the first racially integrated show on Broadway.  After success in that show, Kathy decided to move to Europe to perform.  She eventually returned to NYC in the early-1950s but suffered a severe knee injury while dancing.  In 1953, she was introduced to Joseph H. Pilates; her friend promised he would make her dance again. It was her goal – and she did dance again!  In 1960, she was certified to by Joseph H. Pilates to to teach contrology.  She continued to dance but also worked at Carola Trier’s studio; which, at the time, was the only other pilates studio in NYC.  After her success teaching, she was asked to run the pilates studio at Bendel’s department store, which eventually moved to the Tisch School of Arts at NYU and she spent the next 30 years dedicated to teaching pilates to students at the university.

Personalized Pilates

Kathy used tough love to get her clients to trust themselves and know their strengths and take responsibility for themselves.  Kathy said that the was Joseph Pilates did things was focused on the individual in front of him, and not the same for every body.  Kathy believed that the method that each of the elders teaches or taught or passed on was their interpretation of the method that Mr. Pilates used with them.  Kathy said Mr. Pilates always offered options, he created different exercises and options for people because there was always a new or different issue walking through the door – Kathy believed the Mr. Pilates would support inventing and creating within the method.  Mr. Pilates used these options to find what worked for each person. Kathy did not believe that “one size fits all.”  She believed we are all individuals and should embrace our differences, know our own strengths, and trust ourselves.

Principled Pilates

Mr. Pilates believed that contrology was a healing method; both mentally and physically.  Mr. Pilates also said if you aren’t willing to change mentally, you will not change physically.  Kathy used these teachings to shape how she developed the “before the hundred” series of preparatory exercises.  Kathy believed that these exercise would ensure success in every pilates exercise.

Playful  and Fun Pilates

Kathy used balls and other props to allow students to connect deeper to their own body ensuring proper alignment while performing the pilates exercises.  Kathy used imagery to allow the mind and body to fully integrate.  Interestingly, practicing these preparatory exercises shows that the integration of body and mind provides for successful expression of each exercise in the pilates repertoire.  The use of images shaping movement and form allows each person to feel a sense of achievement with every movement. Kathleen Stanford Grant believed that you should have fun while doing pilates – don’t be so serious!

Work with Me for a Modern-Day Take Traditional Pilates

If you’d like pilates that is Personalized, Principled, Playful and Fun, sign up for one of my DC area pilates classes today. I teach pilates in Arlington (Courthouse and Shirlington) and Washington DC (14th St NW). My teaching style is rooted in tradition and principles, unique to my clients’ needs, and it allows you to slow down from your hectic life. Start your journey now – I promise it will lead to amazing places. Questions about pilates? Contact me here.

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