Discussion #1271

Linda Tarney on Kathy

20 min - Discussion


Linda Tarney, who was the Chair of the Tisch School of the Arts, talks about her relationship with Kathy Grant and the Legacy Kathy left to her students. She tells stories about when they first met and how Kathy was a tough teacher who saw everything. She also mentions that she made sure every student at the Tisch School of the Arts had to take Pilates with Kathy in the mornings because it was originally just an optional class. Kathy cared about every one of her students and Linda's reflections on that really show what a great woman Kathy was.
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Oct 28, 2013
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My name is Linda Turney and I've been doing PyLadies for thousands of years. I started with Robert Fitzgerald in New York and I studied with him for at least 10 years I think. And at that time nobody knew what politesse was. It was this mysterious thing that people thought was a cult. Um, the Graham company was doing it. So I thought it must be good and I'm going to join my friends who were doing the pile, these techniques.

I first met Kathy when she started teaching at Bendel's. That's true. And Clarice Marshall brought Kathy to Bendel's and Clarice talked about her and mystical tones and we, none of us could figure out what it was that she was doing with this woman, Kathy. And she would give Saturday workshops. Cathy, I mean, cleanliness would give Saturday workshops in the politest technique to give us a hint of what it was like. And I didn't get it at all. I think Columbia to an emotional, more her, well, she was teaching. It was more subtle than I was ready for. I was a faculty member at NYU, Tisch School of the arts and had been there well, from the time I went until the time I left, I was there for 35 years.

What was your first impression of Cathy when you first studied with her and met her? Oh, I was terrified. You're terrified. Kathy could have her and I couldn't seem to do what she wanted me to do. It made me very frustrated and she wouldn't really explain. You had to figure it out for yourself. I think I was in tears at the end of my first class with her.

To tell you the truth, I don't, I'm surprised to remember that I went back for another class because it was pretty, pretty hard. Not just hard physically, but hard to, to deal the personality [inaudible]. But you became friends over time with Kathy. Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. But she was always a difficult person and I always wanted to please her. I can't think. How long ago was that?

Was it 1988 1988 right. Thank you. And Larry came to ask, Larry asked Clarice if she could invite Cathy to teach it Tish, because Kathy had just been let go. I lost her job at Bendel. She had lost her job because then they'll close their, their studio, not because she was not doing a great job. The goals of the faculty for the students was to train dancers who could do anything, could jump in to any company, do ballet or modern.

Okay. And move them through a variety of modern techniques. Well, this is a sore point with with, it was a difficult point with Cathy because we wired in order to fit the couple Addis component in. We started classes at eight 30 I think, or maybe eight o'clock and students didn't rebel. They rebelled. They didn't want to, they didn't know anything about Kathy grant and they didn't want to come in that early. And so we made it optional or rather the, I shouldn't say we because I never wanted to make it optional, but the other faculty made it optional, which I felt undermined things quite a bit.

So anyway, they would come in and do their, is it eight? There really are maybe eight. And then they would have ballet, 45 minutes of ballet and then an hour and a half of modern technique and then a little break in which they stuffed some fast food down there faces. And then they would have an academic subject and then it'd be either composition or acting or any of the number of then to believe music, which would take them until six o'clock mostly with no break. Then after [inaudible] I ho, I know when I became chair I decided that all the students should take [inaudible] every day. And that was then, and I really insisted that they'd do it. And they did.

They lost credit if they didn't do it. And I think she appreciated that, you know, students prepare for class, they come in, they, they pop their hip joints and throw themselves down on the floor and they think they're ready to start class. Well, they couldn't start class like that. You can start doing the hundreds like that. So I think in the beginning it taught them how to be ready to perform, to reward themselves up, to treat their bodies with more respect. They were challenged by the rigor of [inaudible] identities like anything that's hard and this was hard.

They, they liked Cathy for the most part. They liked Kathy and she was a character and she was very interested in the students. She never gave up on a student. That's what I remember most about her. She just never would sometimes he used to wish she wouldn't give up on somebody. I used to wish you'd give up on me, but I thought it was, I came every morning to take politesse class and I thought it was an incredible gift. I couldn't believe it.

I was taking class in this extraordinary teacher for nothing, for free and I couldn't believe that students wouldn't jump at the opportunity to do that. They did it. They wanted to or not, but there was a little bit of arm twisting there. I think she taught them how to, how do consider their bodies in a holistic way. I was always, I just wanted to point out to the students, you think it's as early. Kathy grant gets up at five o'clock to get here at this hour.

She got on the train from Brooklyn. She never is laid. God forbid she, she comes in when she's sick or however she's feeling. She's there with her notes. She, she took notes of every class she taught and uh, hope you have those notes somewhere. Yeah, well you, you had to be assigned to her and it was a great relief for the rest of the faculty because we didn't have time to stop and take care of all the injured students and we get to say, you go upstairs to Kathy and Kathy really picks up the challenge of an injured student. She really gave it her all she works with as injured boys and girls. She said she never gave up on them and they [inaudible] I know came to value what they were getting from her. If he were working hard, she could do it.

You could get away with anything. And she really took an interest in the students is to come to all the performances, all the student performances. And believe me, there were a lot of them. And she had her little position. She always went to up in the back of the theater and she took notes and the students knew when she was there and appreciated that she was there. She did the same thing for [inaudible] end of year evaluations that we had where there's faculty gathered together and evaluated every progress of every student in the course of the year.

And she wasn't required to do that. That was not part of her charge, but she took it very seriously. And she went and she had her notes that she had made over the course of the year. And she, she always gave more than she was asked to give. No, I can't say that the other faculty members, we're terribly aware. It's such overwhelmingly exhausting school that you kind of just are dealing with what's in front of your face. The other faculty became very fond of Kathy, very fond of Kathy. I did work privately with Kathy. Um, it was a very concentrated atmosphere to say the least.

You walked in there and he really knew what you were supposed to do. It was a very small studio and [inaudible]. There might be times when it'd be working on the Mat and Kathy would be working with a student and you would think, well, she's not paying any attention to me right now so I can take it easy and it'd be working on your exercises and not the most beautiful form and she would say without looking at you, what's that supposed to be? She had eyes in the back of her head. I really treasured that friendship. It was hard one, I have to say, she was really hard on me in the beginning when I started studying with her.

I think she was testing me. Now it's not like he's testing me to see how much I could take before I collapsed, but I really became to love her. I came to love her and I always enjoyed when we would have dinner together. If there was a student performance she was staying for and I was staying for, we would have dinner together. I was with Kathy in the studio when she got the news that her son had been killed and that it was, as you can imagine, a horrible event.

And I think the fact that I was with her at that time brought us closer together. She would never, she didn't talk much about that, but she did to me. I remember I when they, well, the day that it happened, I said, Kathy, go home, take a care of, I said [inaudible] and my yoga teacher took care of, I had no certainty that NYU wouldn't treat her to a camp. I said, God says don't stay around here all day. And she said, I'm gonna stay. I'm going to stay and teach my classes. And she did. And I don't think the students knew what had happened. Just anecdotally, it may have heard this story.

Clarice and Charlene and I drove out to Brooklyn to the hospital that Kathy was in and we couldn't find her. Nobody knew where she was, even what hospital she was in. It was maddening, but we did sort of happen upon her and hardly recognized her. She was so puffed up from drugs and we talked a little bit and she was, everybody had said, oh, she won't be able to, she won't know who you are and don't expect anything. Well she knew who we were and we had a nice little conversation and then it was time for us to go and of course it was very hard to go and just as we were leaving he says, we've got to the door. She said, unmistakably well, what is my legacy going to be? And we stopped in our tracks and went back and started jabbering, oh where does your, your legacy is going to be?

And then we had to really stop and think about it. And I think her legacy, and I think I said this, is that she taught them to just in there to take care of their bodies, two, two to be fully present in everything that they did. Value you pay that kind of meticulous attention to your body. It carries over into other things that you do. I miss her so much and I'm just talking about her. Me Too. Really? Me Too.


My heart opened with the vibration of Love i felt in that interview
Thank you
beautifully special :)
1 person likes this.
What a special interview! Thanks a lot for that!
Oh my... I was there for this interview but watching it now it is just amazing. Linda Tarney speaks so perfectly to what a profound teacher is, Kathy was and we can all be it we never give up and stay the course.
2 people like this.
This made me laugh and cry. I am so glad Linda Tarnay was included in this. That was a bittersweet trip down memory lane. Blossom
I was there for this interview. I cried then, but I am beside myself now after watching this interview again. I can only imagine what it is like for you Blossom and Cara to listen to this beautiful interview. As someone much farther removed from Kathy than either of you, I still find myself full of gratitude for meeting Linda Tarnay and for getting to know Kathy Grant just a little bit better. Thank you.
2 people like this.
Thank you Kristy and Cara for this interview! It really does portray a clear picture of Kathy. I was touched by the sense of "journey"- how Kathy worked so hard to make each one of her students work hard in order to learn about their bodies and respect their bodies; and also in order to earn her friendship.
I think one can learn so much here about the essence of Pilates... much more than in many many classes! Thanks again! x Amit
what a lovely interview.x
Deborah M
1 person likes this.
Thank you for this interview. Linda Tarney and many of the players in her story were my teachers and fellow students at NYU, 1986-88. I too, did not "get" Pilates my first lesson with Clarice Marshall. And I missed by one year Kathy Grant's years with TSOA. But her message of honoring and listening to and being present with one's body has become my life's work as a Pilates practitioner and teacher for 20 years. Thank you Linda, for sharing your journey with Kathy and the dance culture at Tisch. It is a moving tribute to Kathy and the personal quest of all dancers. Thank you again! Deborah
Thank you Deborah. Your feedback is so meaningful.
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