Note from Blossom: I also teach this exercise but never exactly the way that Rebecca does.
Rebecca Rigert Bio
Rebecca Rigert, originally from Minneapolis, has performed and taught as a dance professional, working alongside exceptional artists in the ballet and modern fields, traveling the world and assisting choreographers as a principal dancer and teacher. Rebecca began her performing career in 1982 in New York City with The Joyce Trisler Danscompany under the direction of Milton Myers. For the next two decades she worked with many modern dance companies, including the Elisa Monte Dance Company and was an original member of The Jamison Project. From 1988-2002, Rebecca was principal dancer with the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company and worked as Mr. Lubovitch’s choreographic assistant. From 1992-1994 Rebecca had the honor of performing as partner to Mikhail Baryshnikov in his White Oak Dance Project. The past few years Rebecca has been working in the textile field as a home fashions designer, sculptor and knit/weaving artist.
What made you go to KSG in the first place? How long did you stay (for a session and how long of a period of time did you work with her)?
I was just 22-years- old, a young dancer who had joined the Elisa Monte Dance Company when I heard about Kathy. Elisa strongly urged everyone who worked with her to study with Kathy as a complement to her own training and choreography. Elisa told me that I needed to get much more connected and build core strength as I was extremely loose in my joints and my flexibility was not being supported by any strength.
I still thank Elisa, to this day, for guiding me to Kathy and Pilates-- Kathy's work and training enabled me to dance for over 25 years through the challenges of different movement styles a well as injuries. I began lessons with her at Henri Bendel working alongside Kathy's clientele which ran the gamut from professional dancers to elderly women and men who wanted to learn new ways of working with their bodies. It was a wonderful atmosphere in which to learn and watch how others learned. I continued studying with Kathy for over 20 years through many metamorphoses of my career, body changes and the birth of my daughter. To this day, I still do the exercises that Kathy taught me because they bring my body home.
Did KSG ever make up an exercise for you? If so, what was it? Do you still do it?
Kathy was always experimenting with us and would approach our specific issues/injuries with unique individuality. I was always tied up (sometimes from head to toe) with rubber bands, balls, cans and straps to contain my movement and teach me to quiet the body with the goal of correcting alignment and strengthening weak areas in isolated and specific ways. She worked with me on hip and upper body strengthening as I needed it for the roles and partnering challenges I faced in the companies I worked with-- I remember her focusing a lot on a series of strap exercises on the Cadillac which I loved doing. It was very gymnastic and exhilarating. I don’t think she made them up for me but we had so much fun doing them and through those exercises I found my core connection very clearly.
She did create the “Pregnant Lady California Upstretch” on the reformer for me when I was pregnant with my daughter. She used the weight of the baby to help me expand the movement of the California Upstretch and made it much more undulating and full. Kathy’s mind was always firing up new ideas and she loved women’s bodies when they were pregnant. She loved adapting exercises to the constantly changing body and her vision of the baby being integral to the exercises was fantastic. I saw Kathy at her most sensitive and loving self during that time in my life. I am so grateful to have had her to guide me through my pregnancy. I actually had a wonderful session with Kathy two days before giving birth. I believe Kathy's training and attentiveness completely supported me through labor.
Do you recall a correction she gave to you? Or some comments she had about you and your body?
When I came to Kathy at the age of 22 I had already been dealing with a serious hip injury (rectus tear) and had no idea how to manage my very loose hip structure. Kathy went to work immediately on reorganizing, containing and strengthening how I work within my pelvis and hips. She was constantly berating me about my “manly muscles”, targeting how I always resorted to grabbing my outer muscles/tensor fascia lata to do everything and not engaging any abdominals, adductors or hamstring muscles to help support my movement. For the entire time that I worked with Kathy, she always focused on this area of my body being the weak link for connectivity. In my best shape, I still had to work hard to assimilate all her information to keep on top of this weak area.
Do you have a personal memory or story you would like to share?
Kathy loved working with her dancers. She was a dancer herself and understood deeply what it took to get through the grueling rehearsal and performance schedules we all had. She approached each of us with intense strictness, but also love. You felt the love even though she was not hugely demonstrative.
I worked with her for many years and she always attended our performances. Kathy often had comments and criticisms of the work and choreography. I remember one year, she came to see a performance of Lar Lubovitch Dance Company; I was dancing Fandango (Lar’s Bolero) with Dirk Platzek who was also one of her clients. When I came into my lesson the next day she actually was effusive with her praise of my performance and how I worked with Dirk and the intricate partnering. She talked to me almost the whole session about the dance. I was blown away--this was high praise indeed. I felt on top of the world that the great Kathy Grant was so complimentary, and then the next session she was back to her strict, complicated self.
One more special mention. I always remember that Kathy kept a small picture of my daughter taped up near her desk. She didn’t spend a lot of time with my daughter as I was going to school and tapering off of lessons during that time, but Kathy was so loving and it was obviously so important to her that this child had come into the world. I will never forget her love for this little person who she barely knew.
What do you think is an important thing for people to remember about Kathy?
Kathy was brilliant, innovative and her imagination was astounding. She would teach an exercise that had been created by Mr. Pilates and then suddenly reconfigure it to make sense to each individual body. She also believed heavily in the mind doing a major part of the work and quieting the body to follow the brainwork. Sometimes, she would put us in a position where we were almost unable to move. She would quietly suggest an image or a thought and, with her hands on the area that was being worked, she could tell if we were using our mind correctly. It was uncanny--she was brilliant that way. I could leave a session after working with Kathy in this way and feel buoyant, deeply connected to my body and mind. I believe that this was one of Kathy’s most incredible gifts.
How do you think Kathy would feel about the current atmosphere of the Pilates world? For instance, Kathy never did videos or published anything online. Do you think she would have by now if she were still alive today?
I have a feeling that Kathy would not be thrilled about the current atmosphere of the Pilates world, especially because much of her teaching was less about doing the Pilates exercises by rote and more about starting with the Pilates concepts as a vehicle to finding a way to teach each individual body. Kathy always had integrity for how she wanted to teach Pilates and work with her clients. I didn’t hear her judge others outwardly very much, but she knew how she wanted to train her clients and she stayed true to her own methods. I have no idea if Kathy would have ended up filming any professional videos. I know she did have some of her sessions filmed for her own records, but she didn’t seem to have much interest in capitalizing on her knowledge. Kathy was extremely humble and generous. Everyone who worked with her knew that about her.
If you could ask Kathy one more question or say something to Kathy what would it be?
I would want to tell Kathy how incredibly important she was to me as a mentor, teacher and friend. Kathy passed away before I could say any of these things to her. She was not always the easiest person to say personal things to, but I would have found a way to tell her that I am a better person in this world because of her, and I miss her so much.