Above: Christine Georgopulo
Christine Georgopulo worked in real estate development before
her life took a graceful turn when she discovered beautiful, elegant ballroom dance and began competing. Five years ago, she quit her day job and opened Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom of Greenwich. Christine was recently honored with a Greenwich YWCA Brava Award for the philanthropic work her studio does on behalf of nonprofits, which include Kids in Crisis, Greenwich Hospital’s cancer patients and the Greenwich Boys and Girls Club. We caught up with the Greenwich resident as she was preparing for a dance training weekend with her teaching team.
GM: YOU’VE GONE FROM REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT TO BALLROOM DANCING. THAT’S A BIG TRANSITION.
CG: It’s been life-changing for me. When I worked in development, I was building whole blocks. It was transformative—you were changing communities—but as soon as the punch list was done, so were you. So, I never got to see people enjoy it. Here, you get to see the exponential benefit of their progress and even how it affects their lives outside. Dance opens everyone’s world. It opened mine.
GM: HAS THE POPULARITY OF DANCING WITH THE STARS BEEN GOOD FOR THE BUSINESS?
CG: Yes, in the sense that it has shown people that anyone can dance. You’ve got NFL football players doing it and someone like Kirstie Alley going on and losing all that weight.
GM: IS THERE HOPE FOR SOMEONE WITH TWO LEFT FEET TO ACTUALLY MOVE THAT WAY?
CG: If you can walk without falling down, you can dance. If it came naturally, we wouldn’t have to teach it. But I realize the idea that you can’t dance can be a big barrier for some people before they come in the door. So I say this: Every dance begins simply with putting one foot in front of the other. And I encourage people to have goals. It’s no different than going to the gym. You start out at one place, but if you work at it, you’ll get to another.
GM: DO YOU NEED A PARTNER FOR LESSONS?
CG: It’s not necessary. Your instructor can be your partner. Our approach is based on the idea that if you’re taking private lessons, your instructor can fulfill that role. We also encourage people to come for group sessions, where you can dance with your significant other. We also make everyone change partners, so you can learn to dance with others at different speeds and styles.
GM: DANCE IS SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD FOR THE MIND AND BODY. HAVE YOU SEEN IT TRANSFORM LIVES?
CG: You know. I’ve got binders full of stories—people who’ve lost tons of weight, people who’ve danced as they recovered from cancer—but here’s one that sticks out: I had a client who, we would eventually learn, was in an abusive marriage. Somehow, she got her husband to let her take lessons. It was the only thing she really was allowed to do on her own. When she came to us, she was so haggard she looked twenty years older than she actually was. But she came to perform in a [showcase] we did. She stepped out in this cute little Latin number, with her shoulders up and her head held high and she rocked it. She just blossomed before our eyes. Eventually, dance gave her the confidence to take the kids and leave the marriage.