Entries in Lolita San Miguel (2)
The Pilates community was saddened by last week’s news that Kathleen Stanford Grant passed away at age 89. A dancer, choreographer and protege of Joseph Pilates, Kathy taught the Pilates Method for more than 50 years, most recently at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. Here is a touching portrait of this influential teacher from her longtime friend and fellow first-generation teacher, Lolita San Miguel.
By Lolita San Miguel
There are certain relationships one makes which quickly and deeply evolve to form the unbreakable bond of true friendship that neither time, nor the distancing that personal or professional commitments usually cause, can ever shatter.
Kathleen Stanford Grant and I had that type of friendship for 52 years. We would see each other after not communicating for months and pick up as if we had just seen each other the day before.
I first met Kathy when in 1958 I suffered an injury, and upon the advice of Dr. Henry Jordan, a renowned doctor who treated injured dancers, I went to Carola Trier for rehabilitation. Kathy and Romana Kryzanowska were Carola’s assistants at the time. Kathy was a thin, muscular, ex-modern dancer with short-cropped red hair, freckles, polite and disciplined and already had that wonderful “eye” for corrections. My sessions were in the early afternoon, which coincided with Kathy’s shift.
Kathy and I had two additional strong bonds: dance and being very proud of our heritages. The 1960s and ‘70s were passionate years of change, and we both felt a responsibility to give to our people, she to the African-American community through Dance Theater of Harlem and her husband’s Broadway projects as a producer, and I to the Hispanic community in New York through the Puerto Rican Dance Theater and other Hispanic activities. Our training and background and the talent and privileges we had received gave us a strong social conscience. So these two “kindred spirits” became friends instantly and often we socialized and went to dinner with our husbands.
It was Kathy who gave me one of the biggest surprises of my life one day while we were talking in front of Carola’s studio at 200 West 58th Street in Manhattan. After many years as Carola’s client, I had decided to train as a Pilates instructor and possibly open my own studio and was about to finish my 6-month, 520-hour apprenticeship with Carola. I expressed my concerns to Kathy, however, for I didn’t feel ready to open my own studio and told her that I would just integrate Pilates into my ballet teaching.
Kathy casually said, “Why don’t you go to Joe’s?”
“Joe who?” I asked back.
“Joseph Pilates,” Kathy said.
First-generation Pilates teacher Lolita San Miguel is one of only a handful of practitioners to receive an official teaching certificate from Joseph Pilates himself. Lately, she has been hard at work running her Master Mentor Program, and is soon to return to Dusseldorf, Germany, 10 miles away from Joe Pilates’ birthplace, to teach the European leg of her program. Last year, in May 2009, she was able to celebrate Pilates Day in a festival hall in Mönchengladbach, the town where Joe was born, teaching a free mat class to more than 150 people. Pilates Day was created as a way to raise the profile of the Pilates method. As it draws near this year on May 1, we’re excited to share Lolita’s plans for celebrating again in Joseph Pilates’ hometown and helping Mönchengladbach commemorate him.
By Lolita San Miguel
Mönchengladbach was a memorable experience and it was an honor to spend Pilates Day there, but unfortunately Joe Pilates is not really known in his hometown. It truly hurt me to find this out. Joe’s dream was to reform the world with his Pilates Method, and I will never forget his “bad days,” before he died, when he felt he had not succeeded. I resolved to do something for Joe in Mönchengladbach.