Tutorial #1940

Kathy's Cats

15 min - Tutorial


Kathy Grant loved her cats, and she thought of them as part of her signature work. Blossom Leilani Crawford shares a few of the cats that Kathy created including Picture Cat, Restless Cat, and Blossom's Cat. Kathy used to say that you can't do it wrong, because you're either a cat, or you're not. Get ready to release your inner animal with these creative movements!
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Hi, I'm blossom. Laelani Crawford. I worked with Cathy grant from 1993 as a student at NYU in the dance department until she passed away in 2010. And Kathy grant is known for her cats. She would say, Oh, you know, you know my cats. And by the time she passed away, she had made up 10 official cats and probably much, much more if we got everybody together. But from my time, which is from 93 to the end, she, there were 10 and they, the names had changed like in the 80s. There was one called, um, uh, the yellow pages cat, I think that was the first one. And she'd say, you know, she walked, so you're there, fit your, uh, the her fingers up someone's spine and say, you know, it's like the walking through the yellow pages. So you articulate one vertebra at a time. And I wanted to share these cats with you because she loved them and that she really thought of them as sort of her signature work, uh, or at least part of her signature work that she would do at NYU. And at NYU, at the dance department, the class that I assisted her with and the class that I was in for three years, I went because I knew she was special on, I knew she had something to share and I knew she was going to get me stronger and better. And she did catch it.

NYU specifically because her class was 45 minutes long and she had this really diverse group of people like 17 which is how old I was when I started with her. And she'd sometimes even have 50 year old women coming in who hadn't danced in a long time that were trying to get back in dancing again. And so that's a really broad range of movement and people trying to come together and move really from the inside out. And the thing about the cat is that, you know, you could say you can't do it wrong if you're a, you're either a cat or you're not a cat. And so it really comes from the inside and, and it's these sort of little stretchy movements, these articulations and really spinal movements that the cats are.

That's really what we're doing is we're moving your spine. And so let's do some Cathy's cats and hopefully we'll sort of keep her vision and voice alive in these nice animal movements that we all should be doing and feel so good. So let's, let's try some, the year that she made up, the cats are the new cat in town. This is what she saw. I hope that you can see my elbows. Did you see how the insides are of my elbows are facing each other and people were really hyperextended. So I'm really trying to exaggerate that hyperextension in my elbow and hopefully you can see that.

And so that's one of the things that she was trying to address and she'd come upstairs and skull. What am I going to do about those elbows? And this is what she came up with. The new cat in town. So in the cat position, it's knees right underneath the hips, hands underneath the shoulders. And you find, uh, she would say a flat back. And the motion on the outside you'd shift forward and you shift back. And when teach the cat, I say the outside movement is that you shift forward and you shift back.

But when Kathy would teach the cat, she'd say, as you shift forward, you lengthen out of your tailbone. As you shift back, you lengthen out of the top of your head. It's an isometric pull. And what you're hoping to do is shift forward and back trying not to twist in the elbow. So if you saw it from another view, or at least what she was hoping to Nazi from the front is she was hoping to not see elbows facing her. So when you would do the shift, you would keep the insides of your elbows facing each other. So that's the new cat in town. So then I'm going to show you the picture cat, the picture cat. We came from up a greeting card that someone gave her and in the greeting card it was like a lioness stretching her back and she would show the picture to people and say, I just brought this to life. So it's, I'm going to show it to you and then we'll play around. So you start in Yoga pose of the child and she would say, or at least have me say when I would teach this one for her, you met a morphic Lee changed from the yoga pose of the child into a cat.

So if I had floor here, you used to really feel the floor, that's the metamorphosis. And from there you should go forward, stretch. And sometimes you'd critically say, smile still makes me laugh. And you sit toward the heels, return to the yoga pose as a child and you just relax. I'm going to do it one more time and just talk about another element of it. Metamorphic Lee changing from the yoga pose of the child into a cat and he or she would also say spread the button. I know she had a really wicked sense of humor.

And the last thing you want to hear when you're 17 two years old as a young dancer is spread the but at least ff for me that was the picture cat. And she would just sort of bring these things to life and come up with all these great ways to stretch the back. And for people to warm up at NYU and then come sort of my two favorites. So there's a cat that actually got named after me when Kathy made up blossoms cat. I didn't really know that she was making cat up on me. I had really tight hips from, um, doing some choreography that in a performance that I was doing.

And if you look at my spine, you look like I'm standing up or sitting up really straight. But it's because I don't have a lot of curves in my spine, especially my thoracic spine right at my rib cage. We never discussed this. Kathy and I never discussed this, but you know, it's, it's pretty obvious. So she, it was in the morning before class at NYU. We'd always sort of meet up and talk about what we were going to do and I was complaining about my hips and she said, just, uh, just do this. And so this is me trying to recreate that moment. So she said, well, come up in a cat and stretch the front of your hips.

And I probably did something like that. You Go, no, no, no. Keep that upper back rounded. And so the blossoms cat is this weird mix of trying to stretch the front of the hips and round that upper back. And that's it. I don't know if you can tell, but I'm shaking like a leaf and you have to sort of find that right cat position where I can push into the floor and round my back and stretch the front way hips and then it kind of takes my breath away in a good way. And that's blossoms cat. It's very subtle. I, I sometimes think that people can't even see what's happening.

And I had a great experience a few years ago where a friend of mine, uh, or some, a person who became my friend was giving me a session and she actually gave me my own cat. She goes, oh, I think I have something that's good for you. And later I went, oh yeah, that's my cat. So here we go. So then out of blossoms, cat would come. Restless cat. And here's the thing about restless cat. It's actually very fancy. It looks really fancy. But, um, when I would actually assist Kathy, she would let me show it maybe two times and sometimes I would pull Kathy over and I'd say, you know, Cathy, they really didn't see that cat. You could've showed it more in, she'd say, but I don't really want them to, I don't want them to copy you. She'd always say, you can never be, you can never do the cats wrong because you're either a cat or you're not a cat.

And she'd say, what? Or, and if you don't like cats, be a dog. I'm still working on that one myself, but I think I get it. So, um, when you do, so I'm going to show you restless cat and I'm going to just take a look at it. And if you're going to try it later, just look at it a couple of times and see if you can just look at the movement essence of it as opposed to trying to copy me for verbatim and who care. You're going to see it a couple of times and you're gonna think you know it and maybe you'll try it later and you're going to go, what the heck was that? And I'm really happy with that because I feel like that's kind of in the essence of the way Cathy taught it. So here we go. Restless cat.

So it would start like Lawson's cat. Let's me. Here we go. So you come up on all fours and I'm trying to round my back. I'm trying to stretch the front of my hips forward. [inaudible] I went silent on purpose because I'd like you to take a look at the essence of the movement that you see and not copy me, which I think would make Cathy very happy. That's the rest of this cap. And then I want to leave you with, um, sometimes, you know, the classic Cathy taught at NYU was only 45 minutes long.

And so, you know, sometimes we don't get to all that, but she had 10 freaking cats. Like it's, it's too many. And so sometimes she would start the class and say, Yoga posted the child just to sort of calm us down. And then she'd say, cat of choice. So I'm leaving you with that. So when you want to try a kitty cat, maybe play around with some of the things that I've showed you today. The new cat in town, the picture cat about lie, nest stretching. And if not, then just make up your own cat of choice. You and cat of choice meant whatever your body needed or was feeling at the time. And it was right. Just be a kitty cat or a dog.

And so I'd like you to also see what it looks like to see some other spines doing it because we're all a little different and it's going to look different and it's supposed to. So let's take a look at some other people doing the same cats and also flowing from one cat into the other. Now joining me here are Jim and Julie. Both the students, clients, friends of mine, um, who are not Polonius instructors. We would like to say that. I just want you to see what it looks like to do these cats with two very different bodies. And this, just so you can imagine the scene, I'm often, when Kathy taught this class at NYU, it was really cold. Um, and remember what it was like when you were 17 and young and you had to be at class at eight o'clock or eight 30 in the morning, how unhappy you were, and maybe sore from the rehearsal before. So just, just put that in there just as a thought to see what these cats are all about. So start in Yoga pose of the child so the hands are resting by your heels and just relax you guys and briefs.

And then when you're ready, reach, circle the arms around forward. Just bring the arms forward so that you come up onto all fours. We're gonna start with the new cat in town, and this is the way Kathy would have you do it. She'd say, I've come to a flat back and you're going to get the insides of the elbows to face each other, but change one at a time. She really wanted you to feel, at least this is what I think she really want wanted. I think someone to feel what, what felt like when you changed one elbow and then the other and you feel the length of the spine. That's me talking, not Kathy. And so from here, the outside motion, again me talking is shifting forward and back and Kathy would say on the inside is an isometric pull. So as you shift forward, you lengthen out of the tailbone. As you shift back, you lengthen out of the top of the head and it's very, you can barely see what they're doing, but on the inside you're feeling that length.

The idea of zipping tight jeans on. For me it was my tape measure. All those elements from Kathy Song came into play and she would say flat back and I play around with that myself now these days because I'm a little too flat so I don't really do flat back. And you know, as long as you were doing it with thought, she would let you, I would. I would play around with Miss Messing with my spine and not doing flat back. And as long as you're doing it with the right intention, as long as I was being a cat, she would let me go. So that's new cat in town. From here, do sit on your heels, go back to yoga pose to the child, circle the arms around and really just and Bri the picture cat is next.

And when she would have me teach that, she'd say, Metamorph Glee changed from the yoga pose of the child. Taking your time really feeling floor as you circle the arms around, take your time [inaudible] and then from there you're going to crawl forward. And when you get in, technically when you get your hips right over your knees, that's about as far forward as you should go. You exhale, lifting that chin, giving me a big exhale and remember, smile. Spread the butt when you're ready to look down to the floor as you sit toward the heels. Yes. Circle the arms around reaching, reaching, reaching.

Really feel the floor and then really release at the very end. Let's just do that one more time and just take a look at the different spines that we have moving against metamorphic change. Yes. Take your time. You're your own cat. You're stretching that back. It's early in the morning. Things are tight. Come forward when you're ready, Jim. Yes, and do a big exhale. Spread the but really stretched that back should feel good.

Now here's the hard part is looking down at the floor and having to go back without sort of walking yourself back. It's tricky. It looks easy, but it actually takes some dominoes. Yes. Circle the arms around and relaxed and circling arms around for one last time and let's go into blossoms. Cat. So here we go. You're going to come up on all fours. You're going to do two opposing things at the same time. You're going to stretch the front of the hips and round that upper back again.

Those are my words, not Kathy's. Kathy would just say, do blossoms, cat, or stretch the front of your hips as you come forward. And when you've gone about as far forward as you can, you sit toward the heels and it's as if I'm pulling on that ribcage and your lengthen. But you stay in that curl, you stay in the curl, you stay in the curl. Yes. And you come forward against you. You actually don't even sit all the way back in the heels. You, yeah, that's it for me. Especially. I actually have to walk my hands forward saying that rounded spine coming forward into blossoms cat again. That's exactly it.

And you sit toward the heels, do one more [inaudible] and start to come forward in handling as you come up. And what I always think of is, I think of a term that Kathy would say, she'd say exhale through number three, which was my breastbone. And keep that exhale. Good. Sit toward the heel, but not actually on the heels. And we're going to go right away into restless cat. You're gonna come up onto all fours with a rounded spine and when you're ready to keep coming forward and go into your restless cat. Yes, yes.

Remember the name of it? Restless cat. [inaudible] they should look feline like or doggy like, yeah, and just one more, and then come back on, put to all fours and then I'm going to leave them to do their own cat, cat of choice, your own cat, whatever your body or back things it needs or wants to do. I know. Then there's that moment of like, oh my God, what do I want to do? Or what does it need? Yeah. That's a whole nother cap, but that's a whole nother situation and those are the cats all together flowing and you can sorta throw in any other cat you want to in there.

And that's just a sequencing that I'm pulling together. Blossoms, cat and restless cat. We're often a unit, but you can sort of just throw any cat in there. Nice. That's it. Yeah.


1 person likes this.
Great, thanks Blossom! So wonderful that Kathy named a cat for you...you deserve it!!
1 person likes this.
Blossom you are a cat, not a dog. I think I get what Kathy meant?? Wonderful tutorial. Thank you so much for sharing this work. And yes, after 17 years, glad you got your own cat. meow.
Great class, really enjoyed the variations, great sense of play and freedom of movement.
Yeong Cheol C
Thank you
What gorgeous movement on gorgeous movers.
Thank you:)
Erica V
So nice! Many years ago, I bought a stack of second-hand issues of Pilatesstyle, which I kept ever since.
In the jan/feb 2006 issue, on page 52 there was this story by you, Blossom! It was called Cat Tales and I loved it.
It is so nice to finally see the movement, instead of only pictures!
Thank you so much!
1 person likes this.
Thank you all for your comments! Kerry and Lynn, you guys are so great for watching all of my videos. Emma, so glad you got the playful and free part of the Kathy's Cats. Mindi, the movers in the video are faithful Pilates practitioners. They do Pilates at home by themselves. Erica, I am glad you got to see the cats in action!
Ann S
1 person likes this.
That was fantastic..thanks for sharing Kathy's Cats.
Thank you. How fortunate for you to be at the right place at the right time in your dance career at NYU and to have studied with Kathy Grant.
From 1983 to 1987 (when I was getting my modern dance degree in VA), we danced with great guest choreographers, but we did not have a Kathy Grant. Oh how I wish... Thank you for sharing her work and yours, too. I think I "get" it...at least, I feel a kinship, of sorts! What a blessing.
Yay awesome!
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