Updated: Mar 9, 2021
Kathy Stanford Grant - A Pilates Pioneer
Well, February is coming to an end, but here at Avanti Pilates, we’d like to celebrate Black History Month the entire year. There are many underrepresented stories, legacies, and accomplishments in the Black community and we’d like to prioritize these voices to bring them to the forefront of our minds. With that said, we would like to recognize Kathy Stanford Grant, a dancer and first generation Pilates instructor, one of only two people certified to teach Pilates by Joseph Pilates himself.
Grant lived to be 88 and has had a wealth of experience throughout her career. This includes being an assistant choreographer for various projects, working as an administrative director for the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and serving on the board for different programs for the arts. A dancer by the name of Pearl introduced Grant to Joseph Pilates and she completed an apprenticeship program for certification through the New York State Vocational Rehabilitation Program in 1964. After training with Pilates for a few years, she began teaching at a studio owned by Carola Trier and later went on to work at Henri Bendel's Department Store. She was in charge of running the Pilates program and teaching the store's affluent patrons in addition to other dancers from various dance companies in New York. In 1988, she began teaching at the Tisch School of the Arts, where she trained students, professional and retired dancers and non-dancers alike. Tisch was the place her vocabulary flourished in order to help her students learn about and strengthen their bodies before moving on to train using the Pilates method.
As her niece Carolyn Brown Digovich states, she and Grant "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." She was extremely passionate and dedicated to her work of helping others grow and excel in their health journey. Her teaching was fluid and unique to each student as she possessed an intuition based on the needs of the individual. Grant was not only a powerful Black woman in her family, but she was also powerful within the Pilates and dance community and those lucky to have encountered and crossed her path.
Kathy passed away in 2010, but her legacy lives on. Many of her former students have become instructors who teach and demonstrate her methods as a tribute in her honor. Her story is one to be known, celebrated, and remembered as a pillar in Pilates history, not only as one of only two people trained by Joseph Pilates, but as the only Black woman with this valuable opportunity. Let us remember Grant as we continue to practice Pilates in our own lives and continue to support our local Black-owned Pilates studios within our community.