This digital project is dedicated to preserving the memory of dancer, arts administrator and Pilates elder Kathleen Stanford Grant. Through the sharing of intimate stories and unique exercises, it acts as an ever-growing oral, visual and written history of Kathy Grant's life and teachings as experienced by her many students.
When Kathy was alive and especially since her death, I have had countless questions. Sometimes, I was able to ask her a question, but more often than not I just didn’t have enough nerve. Now that I can’t ask Kathy, this website is how I plan to piece things together. To know more about my teacher is to learn from many of her students and her family.
- Blossom Leilani Crawford
Kathleen Stanford Grant
A Message from Kathy's Niece
I was lucky...
My aunt Kathy Grant was one of a series of powerful Black women in my family.
She and I shared a love of dance--the arts 'language' that profoundly shaped who each of us were to become. As with many dancers, musicians, painters, and writers, the embracing of this eloquent 'language' helped to heal our lives and affected all those we encountered.
I had many grand memories with my aunt growing up. This photo was taken on Christmas eve in Boston, 1959. She's 37-years-old, and I was all of ten. We danced 'sacred dance' together back then. In the photo, I was begging her to stay with us longer, along with her miniature poodle, Rene. She said something like, "Girl, I have a rehearsal in NYC, and have to get on that train. This work is also like a factory job: I have to show up and work hard no matter how I feel, or what's happening. This is my life--and I cannot opt out as wonderful as it is to be with you all."
As much as her nieces and nephews loved her (and she was my personal heroine) she loved us back and gave us hell on top. I could always count on her for the truth. The hard truth. This meant a lot to me, even as it often came like a splash of cold water (betrayed only by that sly smile creeping out from the corners of her freckled face).
She impacted my outlook: I move through life understanding that we can put heart and soul into our art, but that is no guarantee of worldly 'success'. She would say, "Success? You may be lucky if the stars line up and you are in the right place at the right time. But if you're not disciplined, loving your work and prepared for those moments, yeah well...so, don't make that a primary goal." At once, I understood that this work is not glamorous or frivolous--it is essential life work.
Years later, when I joined a small local dance company, we would talk about performance and losing the boundaries of one's sense of self in the process, engaging with the environment--music, fellow dancers, staging, audience, responding to a pin dropping. I understood I must show up, pay attention, go inside the process...and let go.
She was a mover. It all seemed about the work, the fellow artists, communication, collaboration, and joy. Sheer Joy.
She introduced me to great books, to gay authors and authors of color just as I was hearing negative comments about LGBTQ people from my peers. She would ask, "Where are your books?! Your Baldwin? Your Wilde?"
I miss her, but she arises now in the coursing of my life. It's as though, with each passing, I am left with the gift of allowing myself to express, in my own way, a quality that was hiding in me. I am encouraged to be more direct, honest, engaged, courageous, and to give my best to those I work with--teachers, associates, students.
Kathy gave us everything she had. She was a disciplined and self-sufficient artist who folded one career into another, just like all great artists must do. She provided for herself but didn't get consumed in maximizing profits from her work although she lived in a very expensive and competitive environment.
She was a force of nature and a force for love. And she loved every one of you in the Dance and Pilates world: All of you who worked alongside her and with her. Yes, she did.
Please take the important and challenging gift she modeled and don't drop it.
Then pay it forward as only you know can, in your own language.
Carolyn Brown Digovich
Oakland, CA, June 2017
Photo credits (from top to bottom): header photos by Marbeth courtesy of Bridge Pilates, photo of Kathy by Morikawa Noboru courtesy of Bridge Pilates, photo of Kathy and Carolyn courtesy of Carolyn Brown Digovich, photo of Kathy and her dance partner by Elman Studio courtesy of Bridge Pilates.