Discussion #1617

Cara Reeser on Kathy

35 min - Discussion


In this discussion, Cara Reeser shares many wonderful stories about her mentor, Kathy Grant. Cara explains how Kathy worked on more than Pilates with her and how she became a mother figure and friend. She also wants us to be inspired by Kathy's wisdom so we can continue on her legacy of teaching and healing others.
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Apr 07, 2014
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So I'm Carrie Sir and I live in Denver, Colorado. I was originally living in New York, um, when I met Kathy grant and I am here to, um, share some stories with you about my relationship with Cathy and the work she did with me and how it changed my life. And when I graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1988, I came out to California with some friends and I went hiking in Malibu Canyon, which I had never been hiking before. I didn't even know what hiking was, so I was wearing like a swimsuit and combat boots or something, you know, like New York style eighties. Um, and I, I stuck my hand against a tree to pull myself up and I hit a ground wasp nest and I got swarmed by wasps and I was already allergic to bees. I already knew that I was definitely allergic and I didn't have my, my ana kit with me and my epipen. Um, so I freaked out. I slid down a hill and then I ran and jumped off the edge of a rocky cliff thinking that maybe I would land in a pond or something. I'm not sure.

Like I don't think you're really thinking that well when you're, um, having that kind of crisis. And so I, I was very lucky actually. I landed on my, on my Tush. Um, but I, I fractured my mid spine in three places just because of the impact. Um, and did some other damage, muscular damage. And um, and so that was, uh, and then I spent several, a couple of couple of years, right. Cause I met Kathy 90, that was 88. So two years going to the doctor, going to the chiropractor, going to the acupuncturist, going to the massage therapists, taking medication, being on antidepressants for Fibromyalgia, going through a zillion different protocols for, um, trying to get out of pain. I was in chronic pain for those years. Um, and I was very young and I wasn't dancing. I was about 21 when this accident happened. No, I must've been a little older than that. I was in my twenties.

I was in my twenties I finally decided I don't want to go to these doctors anymore. I'm just like, I'm over this. This is not working for me. I am miserable. And I was acting, I did some theater in New York to kind of make up for, not dancing, but my heart was broken. I wanted to dance and I was walking down second avenue one morning and I saw the building, Tisch School of the arts dance. And I don't know that I ever seen that building before. And I was like, oh, Tisch school of the art dance.

Maybe I should go back to college so I can dance. That way nobody will see me. You know? Like it won't be like being in class in the city where you might be trying to audition or get a job or you know, it's like private. It's like teachers are teaching you, but it's not, I'm not going to be judged because you know, at that time, if I went to class, regular class, you know, people were like, wow, Cara really can't dance anymore with what happened to her. You know, I was embarrassed. So I thought, oh, this is gonna give me a chance to get back on my feet. And I'm, I walked upstairs, my recollection, and I said, uh, how, how, how can I come here to the school? I mean, literally it was like a flash. And they said, well, you have to audition. I was like, Oh God.

So at the time I worked at the Cathedral of St John, the divine in childcare and we had a lot of big spaces on campus, like church, big church spaces. So after work, I would go at night into the church spaces and may I made up my solo for my audition and, uh, you know, danced around and, um, found my body again that way. And I got accepted into the program. So I met Kathy grant in 1990 I was a graduate student. I was entering the graduate department at NYU, Tisch School of the arts for dance. And I was just a couple of years out of an injury, um, where I actually had fractured my spine in multiple places and I was going to Tisch to get back on my feet as a dancer. Um, and um, I met Cathy the first day of school.

The very first class was a class that she taught that at that time we called the morning bar, sort of an old school name for, you know, things that were in the dance world in New York at that time. And, um, my impressions of Kathy that first moment, well, first of all, I was very nervous because I wanted to be accepted. Um, as a dancer again, I had been so injured and I was told I wouldn't dance again. So the fact that I got into the program and the fact that I was there that first day was just, I was over the moon, you know. Um, so I, my impression of Cathy was, well, I don't know who this lady is. I don't know what this class is. I don't know if they, if I tricked them into letting me into this program and my auditions cause I'm, I'm deformed, I'm defected, I'm injured, I have problems. And I had not told them.

Of course when I got accepted that I had had such a severe injury history because I wouldn't have really, I don't believe they would have let me in the program, um, with that kind of liability on their hands. So my impression was I was like, oh, okay, um, here's a feisty little light skinned black woman and we're sitting on little carpet squares and we're going to do something. We're in a dance studio, so we're going to do some kind of exercise, I guess. And, um, I remember thinking, um, that she was Sassy and she was in command of the room and she was funny and I liked her energy and it was within the first few moments of that first class, um, we were doing really nothing at all in my opinion, cause I was used to rigorous, you know, like go and dance. And she was like having us, um, turn our heads or turn our spines or do something in rotational. And I was protecting myself as I did. And she came up behind me and she said, excuse me, is something wrong with your back? And I was like, no. Uh, no, I'm fine. Really? Who are you? You're the police. And um, and that afternoon I went up to her studio for the first time. She, she re acquired me actually to come up and meet with her and that's when I did my first, um, what she called her initial evaluation and took me as a student to work, um, to help me rehab and to help me get through that program for two years, which is exactly what she did. Well, Cathy, when she taught us in the classroom or even in the studio, she, um, she was very serious about the work and we were expected to do our best to try really hard to stay engaged, to pay attention, to take the work very, very seriously.

So she was very stern and very, um, practical, but she was also extremely funny. And um, she, she kept you perked up because she would s, you know, throw in a little something like maybe you are doing the sexy cat. She'd say, you know, okay, get on your hands and knees. It's time for the sexy cat. And the students would be like, ah, and she'd say, well, now I know y'all done it in the morning before, so come on and get up and go, you know what, it was always like, so right away for me because of who I was. I, um, I was like, oh, I, I, I like you. I get you. You, you got a little Sassafras too. You, um, she was also very, very, very loving. Um, and particularly if you were hurt, she became my guardian in that very first today and she never ever let me down. So I felt, I knew she loved me, even though she could be hard.

And I knew that she was a hundred plus percent dedicated to my, um, dancing and my body and my potential as a mover in the morning class. That first day when Cathy, I think she actually gave me a piece of paper that said, please come upstairs to 5:00 AM at five 30, which is like when the school day ended or something like this. And I was like, Oh shit, I'm in trouble. Like, I don't know who she is. I don't know what PyLadies is. I know that she's kind of doing [inaudible], but I don't know what is is. And I know that dancers at SUNY purchase do PyLadies but I don't really know what it is. So I'm like, I don't know. I thought I was gonna like I thought I was in trouble. My reaction was like, oh my God, I'm in trouble.

Um, and she saw that I am defected, you know, um, and I wanted this more than anything. And I had a large scholarship because of my financial status and because I said I need money and they gave me a lovely scholarship. Attish um, so I was in fear, I was in fear, I was in total fear. And when I went upstairs, she led me into this little room, extremely unglamorous room. You know, now that I see beautiful Plati studios all over the world, I'm like, oh boy. Little teeny room with Russ colored carpeting and really no window eva, I mean a window but not like a big air conditioning unit in it. And a couple pieces of really strange looking equipment with ro like ropes and chains. And Springs and bars. And I just was like, oh, I never seen a plot. He's equipment. I was like, what?

What on earth is this? Oh my God, shut the door. She just started asking me a ton of questions. Where are you from? What happened? What was it like? How did you fall? What side win? Um, what did it feel like? What doctors have you been seeing? What have they been doing to you?

Have you been dancing? Do you stretch? Do you walk? Can you get on the subway easily? How are the stairs? When did you take your brace off to the doctor? See you could blah, on and on and on from like details to like your mom and dad are still alive. What are your, you know, like really want it? And I just thought, oh my God, who? And she, I just have this very strong recollection of her touching me a lot that day.

Like touching my spine and smoothing out my shoulders and kind of correcting my head and really evaluating me. And I, I, um, I probably cried is my guess. We, I cried a lot with Kathy. Um, and she said, well, um, here's the thing, you can't come to my class in the morning. I will have the department, I will make sure the department understands that you are actually not ready to take my class. You will meet me up here in the mornings and I will give you a program to do in my studio. I teach class, I'll come back up after class and finish working with you and then you can get your warm up for ballet class. And then I would have another session with her also throughout other sessions throughout the week. So the morning times while everybody else who was in class, I went upstairs by myself and she gave me this little group of relaxation exercises where I put my head on the roll down bar with this foam cushion and the springs gently flexed and extended my neck and I would turn it. And you know what, when she was there, she would use her hands and when she wasn't there, I would imagine her hands there and try to do, um, she had this, this very strange thing. It was like a tube that vibrated.

It was like a [inaudible] tube with batteries in it that was flexible, that vibrated. It was like a massager and she would have me put that on my neck and lay on the bed and visualize why the vibration went into my neck. I was in most of, most of my pain at this point was above my fracture points in my neck. Um, she would have me do cats, she would have me do, um, some things with the springs and, and um, and then later I would come in and do lessons with her, separate from my warmup. My warmup was just about getting prepared to go to ballet class and then modern class and then comp or hersal blah, blah, blah. Got these goal for me.

And I think all of the dancers who were injured at Tish and other dancers who came to see her was, I think it was many fold. I mean, I think for me, she, she wanted to make sure I could get through that program and that the faculty and the people came in and auditioned us, and my peers would see me as a strong and beautiful and functional dancer. That was, that was a big, tall order because I was still extremely protective of myself. She wanted me to stop being afraid. She wanted me to believe in myself again. She wanted me to be successful when I left Tish as a dancer.

Um, she wanted me to be strong without the kind of tension I was carrying. Um, you know, it was, I think she wanted me to get strong enough to take her class, but her goal wasn't about her. Her goal for me was about me. And what I wanted to do was not take [inaudible] courses. I wanted to be on stage.

And so that's exactly what we worked on from the muscle tissue that had been really, really atrophied in my body to the joints that were, had been changed to my spirit, which had been squashed to my performativity quality, which was now meek, you know, so she'd say, no, give it to me. Come on, go. You're going to, everybody's going to be watching you on that stage again. Get out there, you know? So it was a full training. Um, and it was, it was quite, um, odd. I hadn't, I mean, I never, ever had anybody like this pay attention to me like this in my life. I was like, was very hot. I was like, okay. She'd be like, here, put your foot in this, hang on this, grab this spring, pulled over here and you know, and breathe. And I'd be like, oh, okay. That, that must make sense somehow. I have no idea why, but sure.

Surely you have this room. Yeah, well stuff and then [inaudible] pictures of this man in his underwear exercising, you know, there's something to that. This thing. I trusted Kathy grant from the moment I looked at her. Um, she, ah, I think she saw something in me that was something she knew in her, you know, the way she talked to me, the way she, um, I didn't come from a particularly privileged background. I had had, um, my share of, of, uh, edginess as a young person and I recognized her style. Um, I that she was sensitive to my whole condition.

Um, yeah, I had affection for, from the start and she was very, very, very good to me. Um, she was very good to me. She got rough in her older age. She got rough when Po pull out. He's got professionalized. She could be hurt my feelings, she could be quite rough on all of us, but she had been so good to me. I, I could roll with that. I was just like, oh boy. I mean sometimes I got like Rao, really? You just hit me in the head in front of 4,000 people at the PMA. Thanks.

But I knew she loved me and I knew at that point she was struggling with her own issues of aging and changing. And she had always been there for me during my issues. So, so that's, that's love. When I would go to take my sessions with Kathy in the studio, um, they were usually in the later afternoon. That's my recollection. So I would do my morning practice, which was just me to get ready to go make it through the day so I wouldn't get hurt. My lessons is where we started to work on the movements that I didn't have.

The pain, the contraction, the fear. Um, and oftentimes, you know, you have to understand, I was doing a really rigorous day of activity. I was not, I mean, I was taking ballet class, I was taking modern class, I was auditioning, I was in comp class, I was improvising. I was using my body full-out. But yet I would go to Cathy studio and I would be doing these little teeny gestures and I have to shut my eyes and make all imagine all these things she was telling me or you know, this, this little rotation in my leg bone. You know, a set up particular like I, and I didn't know the difference between the pre Plautus or plot eas. Other people were in the room, they were doing other things.

They were on the reformer, they were on the Cadillac. I didn't have any idea of the difference. I just did my program, what was designed for me. And I actually don't even remember ever wanting to do the things that other people were doing. I didn't have a craving to be like them because I just assumed that they were doing those things for them, that they weren't things that I was supposed to be doing.

So there wasn't that feeling of like, oh, so and so who does advanced bloodies? And I do micro qualities. I, I didn't know. Um, as time went on and more and more got added to my program and the fear of changed and I became stronger and more capable, I started to go, oh, this is a thing. Like there's all sorts of things you can do in this room. Like on that piece of equipment, on that piece of equipment. And then my eyes started to open and I started to want to know more about [inaudible], but that was probably couple years in.

Um, maybe even after I left, um, Kathy and moved to Colorado and met Amy and Rachel at the plotty center, um, where I saw for the first time [inaudible] studio and people doing stuff and the lists of the exercises. And I was like, oh, this is a whole thing I could be doing. And then I did, I don't remember Cathy talking much at the beginning when I was just a student rehabbing about Mr [inaudible]. I remembered her talking about me and the day and the week I had ahead of me the auditions or performances that were there, how I performed or did, cause she always came and watched, sat in the audience for every performance we all did. Um, there was no context or history offered to me at the beginning. I knew that she had a friend named Corolla and I knew that Corolla was in New York and I knew she had a friend named Vermona and that Romana did this kind of work too. Um, but I do that more because we became friends and I would go to a dance concert with her or we would have a glass of wine or we would go to dinner.

And then I knew there were these other ladies like her in New York who did this thing like she did. But I never even thought like, oh, I'll go over and see one of those ladies. I was just like, oh, okay, good for you. Like, you know what I mean? Like I, I didn't have a curiosity about plot ease. I, I just, she was my teacher and I was it, you know, um, she, I remember very clearly, um, later on after I, when I got introduced to the Plata Center in boulder and I told Cathy I was studying [inaudible] there, this is when she started to change with me and say, okay, this is what PyLadies is, this is what Mr [inaudible] did. This is what Karola did, you should know about Eve gentry. This is when she started to school me on understanding the context in history, the, my placement, um, she was extremely clear with me about being reverend Amy and um, about not talking back if they did something differently, um, that they, that Ramana was her friend and that they may, you know, it was very, and then it was cute cause I went back to New York to see her all the time and my family and work for a while still at the cathedral and my job. And she would say, you know, I go into the students, she'd say, well what do they do over there? Show me. She say, I never seen the squirrel or I'd never like, show me this stuff, you know, cause her studio was small and you couldn't do everything there. So we had a fun time starting to share.

Um, and, and I ended up going through the teacher training program and, um, and again, Cathy was extremely referent, um, and curious and sometimes maybe a little like, oh, hm, okay, well I wouldn't do it that way, but that's okay. You know, like, so, you know, I could see, you know, I understood then that there were, that I belonged to her and I was stretching by going into something else and, and that we would have to find our way. Um, and I, and we did, when you're injured and you're working with Kathy grant, she was often, um, targeting directly, um, the areas of vulnerability. So my program in her studio had a lot of release work in the neck and shoulder girdle, a lot of, of practicing. Um, what I would now call stabilizing my Scapula, um, uh, our extension work and my spine. Um, it was, but the very, so you would have your protocols that were directly targeting your vulnerable areas and I'd see across the room the ones with the knees and they were doing their knee thing or the other ones who maybe had achilles tendon issues and they were doing there. I wasn't doing ankle things and I wasn't doing presses on the low chair. Like I probably never did that with her.

I was always her back girl. I was always her neck girl. I was always the, the, the last few lessons I took with Cathy, she treated me the same way from the day I was first came to her, so wounded to the last lesson I took with her, which was the same year she died. She still took care to look for my alignment. She still brought me to center. She still laid, she lay on top of me so that I would use my arms without grabbing my neck and back. She would listen to my scapula. She would, she would gently stroke, you know, she, she never looked at me like, okay, do your exercise. You know, she, she would, I'd walk in and she'd say, Oh, well, your, your head's not on today. How are you feeling? I said, well, I'm a little laid down. Do your thing, you know, still do your thing.

So it was like my understanding of that was that that was a lifetime commitment. And I'll tell you something, frankly, when I was in London a month ago, I dropped my suitcase on my head when I was boarding because somebody knocked into me and I had it overhead and I, it fell and I had a 10 hour flight to London and my neck went into the same spasm it used to go into when I was working with Kathy and I went the same fear came up the same everything. I thought, oh my God, how am I going to teach this workshop, blah, blah, blah. I got to, my hotel spasm got worse the next day and every morning, afternoon and evening I laid on that hotel floor on a towel and I did exactly my little Kathy grant neck protocol. And low and behold, I was ready to teach it at the studio in London. And it is, it is a lifetime practice for me. That's not going anywhere. I had that injury, I changed during that injury and she always treated us with care in that way. I think a lot of Kathy's talent and ability to really, I mean, Kathy could really get you out of pain. She could really improve your posture, your life, your movement, and your potential. I mean, really, it was amazing.

It was amazing and everybody knew it. I think a lot of that skill came from years of teaching and I think she was an intuitive, I think she truly understood. She could listen. She knew fear, she knew contraction. She knew, um, history was there. She knew she, she was working really with every aspect of your being. Um, but she was also studied. She wouldn't have spoken in herself that way, but she went to workshops. She, she studied with, she'd sat in on workshops. If I rained out, she sat in Andre Bernard's class. She went to other workshops. She was part of, I remember her going [inaudible] to Aspen, to the dance medicine conference. I remember her.

She knew Dr Bacharach who was my doctor and that team of, of, I don't know if they were all CEO, some things back then. Um, she was up on the research that they were doing. She went to Feldon Christ's lessons. She understood the Alexander Technique. She knew Corolla's work was, was profound. She understood that Eve's work was profound.

She understood that Ron's contributions were profound and Romanos. She gleaned little segments and pieces from everybody who was teaching to work to help somebody. And she was, she was brilliant at it. Um, she was a real student. Um, and she was extremely humble. So she did not take credit in many ways in her career for the amount of knowledge and, um, and learning she had done.

I think you'll hear all of us who were Kathy students in these interviews, um, speak to the friendship. Um, she was Aye. She was all in. She was all in. Kathy was my escort to my graduation when I graduated from my master's degree at Tisch. Um, she would have never ever had me go alone. My mother couldn't come and she said, well, then I'm taking you.

Um, we went to the theater, we went to dance concerts. We, we ate together. We took walks. Um, she was, she was really a, she became a family member to me when I moved. I talked for on the phone a lot. She, we'd caught talked on holidays. She would call him randomly, tell me some strange new ideas she had, or I'd get a box of a, one time I went to the post office and I, there was a box there and it was filled with vintage clothing that had been made for her in the 1940s when she was living in Europe or 50s, and with no note or anything, she would just sort of randomly send me things from her home or like a strange gift, like out of nowhere, I'd be like, hi, did you send me that basket the other day? And she said, Oh yeah, I thought you'd like that. I remember one time we went to my, my girlfriend Carrie who did all the filming [inaudible] that everybody's going to see a lot of that filming. My, one of my best friends in the world who also studied with Cathy, Kathy and I went to her wedding. Um, actually I officiated the wedding. She and her partner and uh, Kathy came with me as my date and I'll never forget sitting in this little forest of trees up in Connecticut or wherever we were having our, our wedding meal. You know, we were sitting on a blanket, it was like picked Vicky and she gets out of wrapped gift. And I said, Oh, well you're supposed to put the gifts on the table over there.

And she said, well, no honey, this gift is for you. And I was like, well, it's not my wedding. She said, well, I wanted to bring you something too. And it was a bracelet I still have, you know. And I was like, wow, okay. Thank you. I mean, it was like that. She was a grandma. She was a mom. She was a friend I think out of, Oh, okay. All that we could remember of Kathy's work or the legacy she's left. Um, I would, I want people to take a few pieces with them.

And one is to be inspired creatively with attention to deep dedicated attention to what you're doing. That it's not just inspiration and creativity, but it's inspiration and creativity with wisdom, with practice, with dedication, with sticktuitiveness. It's the force that she was in the work she did. If we all took that and re let ourselves raise the bar to the level that this woman worked to help others, human beings, we, this industry would, would be full of, of unbelievably talented and amazing healers and movement educators. So what I hope we remember, I hope we remember the work she did, but I hope we take that inspiration and asks ourselves to rise as, as the next generation to be as awesome and dedicated and amazing and practiced and awake as Kathleen Stanford grant was.


This was beautiful Cara! Thanks for sharing...I just love hearing your stories of Kathy!
Thanks Bonnie. Your the best!!!!
Thanks cara, it was lovely to hear you tell your story of Kathy. You are very lucky to have had this friendship and love with Kathy Grant.
Cara, Thank you for giving us a glimpse of who Kathy was and what she meant to you. It was truly beautiful. It makes me sad that I never had an opportunity to meet her, but so thankful that you are able to pass on her work and her passion to heal.
Cara~ thank you for yet again being willing to share your experiences with Kathy with vulnerability and with humor and joy at who she was and what she gave away. I am SO thankful to be learning her work!!
Cara, your personal story makes me cry every time I hear it. As an injured dancer your fear, self protection and eventual healing echos my own experiences. You were so lucky to have found Kathy during that time in your life--And we are lucky to able to learn from you. Thank you!
Hugs to you Erin.
Hi Cara ! I heard your life's story and you really a winner. many challenges you needed to face..Could you send me your address in Denver?I'm staying there in 30th until 12tth ,July and I'd love to do some workshop with you.Will you have some workshop in this date?Thank you
1 person likes this.
Hi Cara. We met in San Francisco recently at your workshop. I so enjoyed listening to you talk about Kathy. Here in the UK we don't get the history of Pilates in the same way as you guys in the USA do and so these discussions are so valuable. Thank you Pilates anytime. Cara, I loved hearing you discuss the relaxation element to your rehab as this rings so true with many of my rehab client. Maybe I'll make Switzerland next year although my son's university fees must come first, I guess.
Phenomenal women. Both of you. Feeling grateful and blessed for the deep touches I heard and felt in the story of your relationship. Thank you for being so open and forthright. What a gift both you have given our community. Much love and respect.
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