Discussion #1626

Blossom on Kathy

30 min - Discussion


In this discussion, Blossom talks about her experience as Kathy Grant's assistant and why she continued to assist her at New York University for 10 years. She explains how meticulous Kathy was when she took notes, and even brought in a few to share. In addition, Blossom discusses how much responsibility Kathy felt to pass on Mr. Pilates' work and she hopes everyone remembers the heart and soul Kathy put into teaching.
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Apr 21, 2014
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My name is blossom Laelani Crawford. I live in Brooklyn, New York. And uh, I met Cathy in New York, so I met Kathy grant in 1993 so 20 years ago. Crazy 20 years ago. And I was a freshman. I had just moved from Hawaii to New York and she was a part of my freshman, my first classes at NYU. So I had to, you know, there were ballet and modern classes and there was also this thing called floor bar. Right. And, um, there was this woman and she was fascinating cause she was, well I thought at that time she was already 80 but you know, like when you're 17, like anyone who's, you know, pretty much in their seventies, you're like, wow, they're, they're so old. But really she was only in her seventies so, but you know, she seemed, I hate to say sorry Kathy, she seemed so old then, but so I thought she was in her eighties and she was funky and really off the cuff. Like you never really knew what she was going to say.

And so I kind of love that when I first met her. And, um, she taught floor bar and I remember the first class being I'd taken pilates before and she said, has anyone done pilates? And I raised my hand and I thought I had done pilates before. I thought I took a pilates class, but I don't know, I don't remember a thing about it. I just know that it was nothing like what I know of glottis now. And I think even when I said where I had done Palabra is I told her Hawaii, I think she gave me like a, she gives it a little like, oh, whatever, you know, like totally just discounted that. So, um, and I remember there being, there weren't, you know, you did five exercises.

I remember one of them was a sit up, not a like a jiggle setup cause I like to call them, but it was a slow sit up, up and a slow sit up down. I remember shaking and I thought to myself, oh that's interesting because if I'm expecting, if I want to be a professional dancer I should be able to do a sit up. And that was sort of my first thought of my, one of my first sort of feelings I had after that class. Like this lady's really interesting and I really want to get stronger. And I think I thought I sort of knew she could help me right away before I even met Kathy. Or when I, when you, when people, when like the older students would talk about, oh, what classes are you taking?

She already had like a sort of a mystique around her people that they would say, well, she'll really help you find your center. You know, that mysterious thing of like, Whoa, what the hell is that? Or Oh that sounds good, but what is it? And, and P and everyone's sort of was just like, you know, they, they would sort of like an eyebrow would raise or there'd be sort of this thing like, oh, you know, like she will, you know, there were certain teachers that were, that would always either t a tell you the truth or be really like, get you. And she was sort of both of those things. And also you didn't mess with Kathy grant that, that, those were her already heard personas before. Like even sort of before I met her, even as I was taking her class I was like, oh no, no, you don't, you don't mess with Kathy Grant. So I think the interesting thing is first of all, how I became her assistant because there she had assistance back in her Bendel's era and then she didn't have assistance after that. No, she just didn't. And um, I had graduated from NYU in 96 and um, I had a really awful summer. I gained a lot of weight.

I ate a lot of ice cream. It was awesome. I stopped dancing as much and um, I was waiting tables and bartending at these really horrible jobs. It was awful. And I remember being at this one particularly awful job. I think I quit and like left all my cds, you know, big deal back then cause it's just like, Ugh, I don't care that I left them there. And, um, I checked my voicemail back in the voicemail days and there was a message from her and it just said blossom. I have a, Cathy said, blossom, I have a little procedure and I need an assistant for about two to four weeks. Would you be interested in, I kind of jumped at the chance because literally I'm not even kidding.

That day I was sort of using at my horrible bartending job. Like how cause I knew that I was losing the structure of my life so to speak, especially with when it came to dancing and moving, I thought, how can I get to take Kathy's class every day? Like I literally was trying to figure that out. Like what of like, I mean, you can't do that, you can't go back to school and take her class every day. But literally I went to check my voicemail and there was that message. So I had one of those like, yeah.

And so I showed up and after two weeks she said, you can keep coming. So, yeah, I mean, and it was a, I mean, eight o'clock in the morning, four days a week is not a light commitment and you don't commit to Cathy without committing to Cathy. You know, where it's like if you see and know and it's not eight o'clock like you have to show up 15 minutes before so you could do things with her. And she planned her classes meticulously. I'll get to that more later. But she really planned her classes. I mean, we would meet up before the class, she would say, well this is what I want to do. And she would write it all out and we'd review it. I mean the whole thing. And so I mean, and sometimes I would just sit there and wait for her to speak to me because if I spoke too soon she would be like not, you know, she wasn't ready yet.

Like I would, you know, it was really one of those like, you know, incentive of the woman sent of a woman where you weren't supposed to grab his arm, he had to grab your arm. That was what my assistant role was like. It was like I was there if she needed me and if she didn't need me, she didn't need me. So it was a, it was this really interesting role of an assistant because it, I looked like background, but I really wasn't. And that was an interesting role because, you know, there are, you know, I, and we got to each other really well or that where I was like, oh, sh I remember once she sort of was doing something and later she goes, why didn't you help me? I had no voice. I said, oh, I didn't, I didn't realize that that's what was happening. But you know, but then it's like, oh, you take a note of that and the next time she does that you take over. You know, I like, as my assistantship sort of kept evolving, it wasn't just demonstrating she wanted me to then teach every now and again, like, you know, there were certain, so it's really, this assistant-ship really evolved. Um, and then the classes, they were really about the dancers getting ready for the rest of their day. That was really it. And also the kind of dancers. She didn't just have um, 17, 18 year old. She had the undergraduate and the graduate students and they, the a range of ages could be like, there'd be like women or men in their 50s or 17 year olds and so you had to have a class of 20 something people that would serve all of them and you know, she just didn't do hundreds roll-ups, rollovers, legs, circles. I wasn't a, that was just part of that became much more later. This was, okay, I want to get you ready for your day. You're going to do ballet. Do you know where your body is? Do you know where your center is?

Do you know what's happening? Is your shoulder tight? Like you would have to like the whole, all of her before the hundred stuff, all of this was, which was a big part of her class was about you checking in and being like, Oh yeah, I'm not breathing on that side. Or Ooh, it's tight in that rib or oh my neck really? You know, like you'd sort of like, it was like mentally checking off so that when you went to ballet class you'd started to go, oh yeah, that's that shoulder. You know, you really got to sort of know what was going on with your body and, and learn. Um, and it was really, it wasn't, yes, she was teaching you exercises, but it was you go really checking in with your body and like, Ooh, my Achilles is tight. So that's what the class was for. And then I also think, not just all those little bits and pieces, but then she really worked on slow, like, um, and there's sort of like an emotion. There was an emotional component to her classes too. Like after September 11th, we started in the fetal position for weeks. Like we watch, I mean we, Cathy and I literally stood on the top of the building at NYU and watched the buildings fall and the next few weeks we, she was like, we can't, we can't do anything arching. She would say we have to start fetal. I mean, how, like who thinks that way? Kathy does. Kathy thought that way.

So when we would start in a fetal, literally we would start on the ground, curled up in a ball and like maybe just, you know, a few rolling things because she just felt it was too much to sort of start with like all this big arching cause it was like we were really emotionally vulnerable. I mean kids literally watched the plane fly into the building and, and so and so she would always bring in these emotional components. And also in a funny way too, like if it was cold, you know, sometimes she'd be like, get up kid, let's just like, let's do jumping jacks, which is also like what jumping jacks. Like she would, um, or sometimes she'd enter class with cartwheels, you know, she really was so really fun and so she would sort of take you on this little thing and if people got to like heady, she would be like, ah, I don't like that. And then she'd sort of, she would kind of mess with your mind a little bit. Sometimes a good way, sometimes bad ways, but you know, it was still, it was still that like level of it where she would also look into like what was going on emotionally too, which I think is interesting is, and definitely a component of Kathy that and her classes that sometimes gets looked over, sometimes people don't, maybe don't quite see right away. But if you were in the room you would get that. You would have gotten that at NYU. I assisted Kathy for 10 years, from basically 97 to 2007. Um, yeah. And I really stopped. Why did I, well I, let's start, let's go with Y. I assisted her for so long.

Um, I'm no fool. I mean like Cathy really gave me this opportunity and I knew, first of all, I loved her. Like she, I mean I loved her personally. I loved her professionally. Like there was, there was just something about her and how do I put that? And I knew that she didn't let a lot of people in and I knew I was in, I mean it was blood, sweat and tears there. I mean, I just, I did it for three years with, for $0 million. But I mean, like I said, I'm no fool. Like I knew that she was brilliant. I knew that there weren't a lot of, that, there wasn't another meeting like that.

There was no one else that she had let in this way. And I had really happened upon an opportunity and I learned so much with her. I mean, like I said, not just professionally, but personally, like it's kinda great to have to sort of come to a 80 year old with a problem, you know, with like a, like a personal problem and be like, well, I'm having trouble or I'm thinking about this. And she, you know, when someone has lived so long, they can really put it into this context of like, oh honey. Or, you know, like I loved that. And also like once I did this dance piece and I was like, Cathy, I don't know how to vamp. And I know, and she was like, oh, I can tell, you know? And she was a showgirl so she know how to vamp. I mean, hey there. So I loved her. I mean, I think the simple answer is I loved her. I loved her, who she was, and I loved her and I just loved every part of her work. And I knew that she was brilliant and that there were, there was, it was an opportunity. And I mean, look at my life now.

I think she let me in because, well, several reasons. I think she liked my body. I mean, honestly, I think she really, she was a little bit of a body elitist. Like she really, if you came in with a bigger butt, she'd be like, oh, your butt's getting bigger. Oh. Especially if you've got married. She'd be like, you got that married. But now, I mean, no, I'm not kidding. Like it's really, I mean, that's, she was, could be so horrible. Like when you went to go tell her you were getting married, she'd be like, why? Why are you getting married? Aren't you happy? She said, and then later you'd come in and she'd be like, [inaudible] married. But, Huh?

I mean, yeah, she would say shit, stuff like that. But I really like, I just, I don't know if she really, she started, I knew she liked my body. I knew she liked the way I moved and I could take it from her. You know, she, I guess she was, I mean it's lovely sort of looking back at a person and remembering all the great parts. But that woman, it's tough. I am, I think Linda Tardy, so that really, well she said that they were friends, but it was a hard one. Friendship. I don't think there was any relationship in Kathy's life that wasn't hard one. Like, you know, it was definitely like, I have like some scars to prove it, but yeah, I just, I knew like I could handle it because whatever her thing was, whatever, even though she was, you know, mean one morning it wasn't about me, it was about whatever was going on for her. I mean, sometimes she'd lash out and I'd get it, like, you know, a little bit of it, but it was about her and also I loved her. So you do that with someone you love. You Go, Ooh, they're there.

And I'll see it in a little while. I mean sometimes in the summer we would, we would not really talk because you know, we'd see each other so long. And then I remember once we ran into each other at the park, like in August, early August, hello? I think we looked at each other and she went, oh no, no, no. I said, Yep, I'm not ready either. And we just walked away. We're like, bye. See you later. I'll call you in a couple of weeks. Yeah. Cause you had to come in a few weeks of get ready for September. But no, it was like we ran into each other in the summer. It was like, no, no, no, no, no, I'm not ready for you. And she, because I represented NYU and she was like, not right now. I'm like, me too. So you don't like, we could do that. Like we got each other and I didn't take it personally.

And also I knew that there wasn't a lot of time. I knew, you know, that I, because there are many people before me that loved Kathy that helped her out in her studio, never assisted her at her class, but um, that, that, that burnout that couldn't do it anymore. And um, I had reached a certain point where I was like, hmm, what do I do now? Because like, well for instance, when I decided it was time to stop being her assistant at NYU, it was time and that was a hard, hard thing. But I also knew that keeping my friendship with her and my relationship, professional relationship with her was more important than being like, and I mad at you about that one thing you said. So yeah, in Cathy's Mat class, it was not typical especially, so before even played, he got popular. It was all, and not all over the place, but she really, she definitely did plots when it was time for plots, you knew it was plot days and then there were all these warmup exercises. And so the warm up existed for the dancers because she felt that in Mr [inaudible] day you were, that was, it was a different time, you know that that back in those days you people were much more active.

You didn't sit at the computer, people bike to work, people bike to their sessions. So yeah, you could come in and go and do the hundreds. But she was really looking at the context of these dancers lives like they're young or they're just coming back to dancing and they don't really know their bodies. This is for the way she structured her class was for them to learn about their body. And then within the plots vocabulary, she had a few inserts in there. Like I'm in the stomach series. She would do single leg stretch, double leg stretch one and two and then she'd do her bicycle set up because you know, I was teach assisting her for that long. It was really interesting to see sort of, I always call it the pendulum or the spectrum where it's like, oh, everyone's next or hurting them and then, oh no, now it's their hips.

And so you really got to sort of see the different things that were coming in. And I got to watch how she dealt with that. So, um, when it was the neck era, which I think I was a part of, um, you know, single leg stretch, double leg stretch, their next get a little tired. And so people got tired. So the bicycle setup was her way of letting them rest their necks but not fall asleep. That was her sort of trick. And then you get to put your head down a little bit while you're just bicycling in the air. So that then, but then you see, you know, so it was like, keep going but rest too. So, and then she kept it moving that way and then also as time went on and as plot is, became more popular, she started actually doing more sticking to like the plot, his vocabulary.

And so, yeah, so it was really for the dancers and then she really structured it so that, um, she was truly trying to balance all these things like balance it out so that if someone said, oh yeah, I d I did plays with Kathy grant. She didn't want them to start doing exercises that no one had ever seen before. She didn't want her name just to get solid. She wanted people to know that they learned glottis with Kathy Grit. And there's all these exercises that they do because bill Claudius was becoming more popular and she had a reputation of not just herself, but the work of Mr [inaudible]. It was interesting. It wasn't just her name, it was Mr qualities as well.

The routine when you assisted at or NYU class was, she would sit, be sitting at the window with a yellow legal pad, always the legal pad, and she would have this list done in giant black marker and she would write down everything she wants to do for the day. And meticulous. I mean, these aren't, weren't just the exercises in it. I would know how many students she taught this day. A 24 on 12 three, nine. 1999. I know that it was her B class. Um, I know it was the 13th. I mean, I know it was the 13th week of school and later as depending on what she was interested in, she would always write down how many men came into class because she was big into the men if they men were actually showing up to class. Um, later when I assisted her, she would write down my name if I was there. If Kara came to visited her to visit her, she would write down who her visitors were. And then, so that was the first part.

And then she'd go upstairs and then rewrite it again on another notebook or sometimes just the same one and then start checking off what she did, what she didn't do. She would circle, I mean there was a whole method to how she would do it. I mean, and if she did it in a different order than it was north, she would write down all this was number one. And this was number two. And then she would go home and type it out. So then you would get this whole situation. I don't, she talked eventually about how she wanted to write a book sometime, which obviously never happened, but I think this is what I think this serves two purposes. I think it was for her to remember a way of recording what she did because it was, you know, this was her way of figuring it out and also maybe to eventually turn into a book and, and I mean the time of the class. And so it was really great.

Every time she taught class, she would sort of, whatever year we were in would just say, oh, well what did we do last year? And she could pull up the file and we'd look at what we did last year. I mean, but meticulous. So I mean that was writing it at three. That was going over it three times in one day. I know, but I mean we got stuff done and um, I do want to read this one thing. This is, um, a note, this is when Cathy was working on trying to email and this was in 2000. Uh, this was from March of 2004. And it's, it's interesting cause it's Kathy musing about what it was like to teach plottings now that plots has become popular. Um, and it's, uh, they're talking about birthdays and, and she says, however, I have reached the age where birthdays remind me of how old I am and how, how much longer I will be able to do what I'm doing, how much longer I will want to do what I'm doing. Sometimes it is a pleasure. Sometimes it is such a burden. The more popular plots becomes, the more difficult it is to, as to how to approach the teaching, how to update the voting vocabulary, how to put back the masculinity men, um, masculinity, which has been denude because more women do it than men. The misconceptions, the different attitudes, anything handed down or translated loses its originality. People are different teaching.

I find I have to come to approach differently than I have taught you and that generation, Wendy was of the Bendel's the 70s and eighties and and so, you know, it's just beautiful that Kathy thought about the work in, in the different contexts that existed. You know, she couldn't teach the say she didn't teach the same way in the seventies and eighties that she did. And the, I mean I went away for a summer once and she'd come up with all this ball stuff and you know, she really kept updating with the time to notice this beautiful. But also just, I mean you can hear her how she's talking about the burden of tea, like the real responsibility of the work. It's really beautiful. Kathy being known as a elder was really funny for me as a sidelight because she hated the term elder. She said it always felt like that she, Ron Fletcher, Mary bow and Lolita and Romana should be like dancing around a fire. Awesome image. Right? So, so that was the first thing that she just always like, she was like an elder. She hated that term.

But she also felt a huge amount of responsibility toward the work. And also, you know, she was always sort of like, where, where's this going? Like what? And I also think that because of her, she, because of her testimony in the trial, she felt a huge responsibility to the work. Kathy was really, she felt really that there was a, that she had contributed to the trademark lawsuit because she did, she, her testimony was a really big part of, of the whole lawsuit about, about the trademark lawsuit. And so she, I think after, I mean she felt responsible even before, but she knew what part she played in it. And so she was really curious to see how, where this work was going and, and what was going to happen next. And so I think that's one of the main reasons she participated in the [inaudible] con like the PMA convention, like all these different conventions because she wants, she felt responsible and you know, she also loved learning.

She loves sort of going out there. I mean, we loved going to the PMS. I mean it was, you know, it's two fold. It's like, yeah, she was frigging 80 and we were traveling and sometimes our connections weren't so great. And, and I mean, traveling with Kathy was, Ooh, I mean one thing, traveling with her, another thing like trying to go to that, for me to go to the bathroom because it was a constant thing. It was like, okay, I'm going to get you to your room. And I mean some, I realize actually this is great. This is how I remember meeting Julia and Actually Julian, I mean, so handsome, so, so charming. Oh, so nice. And I'm at the, so I was at the second convention with Cathy and I realized that I forgot how much Kathy loved men. And I realized that if I just gave her to a man that I could give myself a break. And so I remember like this one dinner, I'd be like, Julian, cut the, like I kind pushed them together and yeah. And I was like, Julian, I need to get, can you get her to that room, which was the only like 50 yards away. And she, you know, and eventually she'd get, because that would take 30 minutes or it, those in those 30 minutes, I could go to the bathroom, I could put all the crap, I'm going to say it crap that I was hauling for us.

And maybe it was so in that sense it was, you know, it was a lot of work doing those things, but also really fun. Like I got to do all kinds of, I mean I got to go and meet all kinds of people and, and, and I got to sort of be known as Kathy's assistant kind of also kind of cool. Um, and, but it was, we talked about what it was like coming home, cause you know, it was great. Like at the PMA, they'd be like, oh, Kathy Grant, I've heard of Kathy Grid and you know, she was sort of tongue in cheek about like, oh, whatever. But you know, she teach people in the hallway and they'd be like, honey, we have to go. And she'd be like, Oh, you know, but so she couldn't help herself. And then we'd get home and she'd be like, Oh yeah, you were on the subway honey.

I was like, yeah, I was on the subway. Like the subway was always like that big denominator that brought us down to like, we're not famous anymore. You know, it was really, you know, it was kind of this fun experience to do with her. But like flying with, I mean she was a great traveler in some sense. Like she would never get motion sick. I was the one who would get sick. So for instance, we were flying to Denver, you know, over the mountains. And I remember just like I could tell it was coming.

I even brought the bag out and put it on my tray table cause you know, that's how bad it was. And you know, the ladies would bring us those. Do you remember jet blue would bring new blue blue potato chips and at one point, you know, she's eating her chips and I'm just trying to breathe and she wouldn't, he look like, can I? She just looked over, I'm like, can I have your chips? Like yeah, you could. And you know, and then later she's like, Oh yeah, blossom. She was green. You should've seen her. I mean, she was really, we love planes or like good cop, bad cop. She would always sort of make me the bad cop, which is hysterical because if I didn't make her, like she'd say upstairs, like we really have to do this, the teasers.

And if I didn't remind her to do the teaser, she'd be like, you didn't remind me. So I'd have to say Kathy, the teaser. So it would look like I wanted everyone to do the teasers, but it wasn't, it was really her truly, I think I would love for people to know how much she loved the work and how much of her heart and soul she put into it. I remember her niece at her memorial saying she asked us all to pay it forward because she knew that this was her life. Like this woman gave everything, gave every, you know, and, and really like meeting dancers who could pay no money to see her at six o'clock in the morning because she knew that they 80 did it for their bodies or their mom. I mean, she went there to support dancers, dancers have no money, there's no money there. I mean, a friend of mine said, she said, well, why don't you teach dancers? And I said, well, I could, but there's, that's not where the money is. And you know, the, and it's really, yeah. And Kathy.

So I think I'd love for her to be remembered for just her devotion to the work. And I think, I also think that she was really fun and I'd love it if people would remember how fun she was. That'd be really nice. But really just to remember her and I think she would really like it if you are doing her work or inspired by her work to say her name. That I think would be a really good thing because that's what she cared. I mean it matters that she existed and that she contributed and that she made these things up. Um, I don't, she would not care if you took a Kathy grant thing and said, yeah, and I did this thing to it just to say her name and to say who would it, what it was inspired from, I think is important.

And I think she would have liked that I had this dream actually, that she was alive still, and she was actually like on the Cape, really beachy. It was really wonderful actually. I was like, I was a little pissed off at her because I was like, honey, I've missed you. But she was like, oh, she was having a grand time and I am sort of loving that one right now. Like she was just in the beach and she just, she just sort of done. It's kind of Nice. Right? I know. Yeah. She loved the ocean.


3 people like this.
Such a Delightful and Lovely Lady is Blossom Leilani Crawford.
1 person likes this.
Blossom thank you so much for sharing such candid and heartwarming experiences about Kathy Grant. Ten years of assisting such an important woman should never be forgotten and helps to frame her life personally and professionally. You were so smart to jump at that opportunity.
Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
Lovely Blossom, thank you. I'm certain Kathy is so proud of you for continuing to pay it forward. She knew what she was doing when she offered the assistant position to you!
Enjoyed hearing your stories of Kathy and appreciate all that you share.
1 person likes this.
Thank you for a sweet and heartwarming remembrance :)
Thank you for sharing Blossom!
What a great picture you painted of her. Thank you Blossom.
Lovely, thanks.x

3 people like this.
Blossom introduced me to the intelligence, imagination, passion and joy of Pilates as Kathy and her students interpret it. Blossom speaks so eloquently here but her students know that the highest expression of her inheritance finds itself in her teaching. Thank you Blossom!
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