Meet Blossom Leilani Crawford
Sing My Song
We met with Blossom Leilani Crawford, at her sun-lit studio, Bridges Pilates, in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn. Tucked between the Dumbo power plant and the Navy Shipyard, Vinegar Hill is a quintessential, 19th century secret, of a few rows of old houses, cobblestone road, amidst an industrial-turned-hipster neighborhood. A year prior, we created for her a custom necklace that says, "Sing my song KSG."
Yael: Blossom, you chose the text "Sing My Song KSG".
Blossom: I love the combination of matt and polished finish, you chose for the necklace. Sing my song in matt and KSG polished.
YK: Thank you. You wear it beautifully. I wanted to ask you, what does KSG stand for?
BLC: KSG is the acronym of my Pilates teacher’s name, Kathleen Stanford Grant, who was a Pilates elder (studied with Joseph Pilates). She later became known as Kathy Grant. But she often referred to herself and to some of her work as KSG.
YK: What is the story behind this line?
BLC: In Kathy Grant’s Pilates movement vocabulary, she created something that she referred to as “her song”. It was a lovely series of images that you could use to align the body, sit up taller or engage your abdominals. Kathy had great imagination and a quirky use of words. As she taught really difficult abdominal exercises, she would layer on the sweet phrase of “sing my song”. So you could sing her song as you moved. After her death five years ago, I took this phrase as a metaphor. She had an amazing life that taught me many things. So I think of “Sing my song” as a reminder of her and her teachings.
YK: You had the good fortune to enjoy a true long mentorship. How did it come about?
BLC: I was an old-fashioned apprentice. I was first her student, then her client then her apprentice. It came about through luck, hard work and then love. I was her student that she liked at a time she needed help. I went to the studio and worked with her hours a week for years. I knew she didn't let a lot of people in and I knew that I was strong enough to do it. I could do her work and I could handle her. Does that makes sense? I was hoping that one day I could do what I'm doing now, travel around the world and teach. I loved the work, I believed in it, and I believed in her.
YK: How would you describe the relationship you had with her?
BLC: (Laughing) Very complicated. My relationship with her was hard-won. Every single relationship with her was hard-won. We were tested. All of us. But we loved each other. She didn't charge me one dollar during all these years. I gave, she gave. It was a true apprenticeship. It's so rare these days. I think I paid her once, as a gesture, when I stopped assisting her formally at NYU. I forced it just to say that things were different, but I don't think she ever cashed that check. Isn't it a beautiful thing? Not a dollar exchanged between us for 18 years.
When she was in the studio she gave all of herself. She ran the shop. Total control and an improvisor as the same time. I had to guess her next moves and respond as if it was all planned. This is what we did. I loved her and I knew she was really good. I hoped that one day I could do that as well. She passed away five years ago this month. I miss her a lot.
YK: How do you bring the essence Kathy's teaching into your life?
BLC: I used to work at making Kathy Grant's influence on my life known. At this point, I realize that her work lives in me. But I have also come to realize that I have my own way of teaching. The lovely thing is that Kathy understood that. She wanted me to be myself.
YK: How do people respond to the necklace? Does it prompt conversation?
BLC: I wear my necklace when I teach a Pilates workshop. I love it because of its clear reference to Kathy’s song, but you don't notice it right away. It takes time for someone to realize what it says. Also, if you don’t know what Kathy’s song is then it goes over that person’s head.
YK: When did you realize that Pilates is a life mission for you?
BLC: I have had many friends move on from being a Pilates instructor. I don't know when I realized it was my mission. I know that I love sharing Pilates and Kathy Grant’s method. I know I love what I do. I also know that after all those years of hard work, I have built a life that is true.
YK: As the teacher and transmitter of this practice what do you aim to achieve?
BLC: I want people to move, have fun and stay healthy. I am to be a voice of reason in a often melodramatic Pilates industry. I hope to remain true to the work that was passed onto me by my teacher. I hope that her work will live on thru the movements and teaching of instructors all over the world.
YK: Blossom, thank you so much for sharing your story.