From Director to Dancer
Gulfshore Playhouse's Kristen Coury takes a break from the stage to shine in the ballroom.
Who knew? To us, Kristen Coury is the hardy founder of Gulfshore Playhouse and resourceful director of its productions. But may we reveal her inner performer (actually, it’s a dancer tapping its feet to break out)? A few years back, it finally surfaced, first with dance lessons and then with competitions. It turns out she has quite a story to tell, climaxing with an experience in late May. I asked her to tell all and here’s what she shared with us.
"I am not a performer. Nor have I ever been one. As a long-time director and producer, and the CEO of Gulfshore Playhouse, I have interacted with many actors and have continued to be impressed by their stage presence and their ability to "strut their stuff" in front of whoever happens to be watching. I have always been secretly grateful that I never had to do what they do.
"But then I decided to give ballroom dancing a try. I thought that I might be able to do it and that it would be fun. I had a friend who danced with Absolute Ballroom Company in Naples, and she raved about her teacher Paul Stewart. So I decided to give it a try and Paul was fantastic, from the first step. I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about ballroom dancing, and, being an entrepreneur at heart, am not a particularly good 'follower' (which is a necessary trait in a 'lead-and-follow' endeavor).
"So, of course, there were times when I went to practice parties with all the students and thought I better stop doing this because I was so horrible at it. And there were other times when I hated my lessons because I just wanted to dance. Paul quite rightly insisted we work on technique, since those moves were the building blocks to dancing well in the long run.
"And then came the day Paul mentioned there was a competition I could enter. I was a complete wreck. But he said I could be in the Newcomer category. This was in May of 2011 at the Hyatt. Since I was just a Newcomer, I didn't have the fancy glam costumes usually associated with these things. And although I tried my best, I didn't win.
"The next time out, the following September, I traveled up to Tampa—and not only won Best Newcomer, but Best Overall Newcomer for the year! You get a championship jacket for that and I still wear it with pride.
"Winning in the Newcomer category also meant I had to move up to the Bronze category, a Pro-Am competition where we amateurs dance with our teachers. So there I was in late May at the Waldorf-Astoria in this year’s Naples competition. I had not competed in a year because of my hectic schedule at Gulfshore Playhouse. but I had worked hard in my lessons all year. I told Paul that I had no expectation of winning Bronze ever, but was entering because I love to dance and would compete against just myself.
"Well, guess what? I won Top Bronze and was so shocked when they called my name I nearly didn't go up to get the trophy. I had danced 55 heats (which included new routines in Fox Trot, Quickstep and Paso Doble) and won 44 of them--with 7 people competing against me all day. It was thrilling. And it probably means that I'll be moving up to the Silver category before too long.
"Paul, ever supportive, will be encouraging me to keep growing and challenging myself to rise to the highest level I’m capable of. The moral of the story? Try something that makes your heart sing, even if you think you can't do it. Because maybe you can, and you'll find things out about yourself you never knew and have a whole lot of fun doing it."