The Goulds went to the Fred Astaire World Championships and took home all the medals they could.
Feats of athletic artistry and amazement are top of mind after the Olympics, and while they weren’t in Tokyo, Longboat Key’s own Sharon and Ivan Gould cleaned up at their own competition.
The couple headed to Las Vegas to compete in the Fred Astaire World Championships in ballroom dancing, and danced the weekend away — even earning a plethora of awards in the process.
“They couldn’t have (the competition) last year, so this year was the largest competition they’ve ever had,” Sharon said. “They had over 21,000 individual entries. Usually you go to maybe 80 or 100 dances.”
The couple dance in the amateur division and by the end of the weekend, they took home best amateur cabaret, best amateur solo, two championships each in smooth and rhythm open and closed championships, as well as eight scholarships for dance lessons. It’s a bit like gymnastics in the way it’s scored, Sharon said, because there are eight or nine judges whose scores are averaged at the end of the dance. As long as the dance isn’t a solo, each couple has to navigate around dozens of others swirling around the floor.
“If you imagine you've got a dance choreographed that sort of goes around the floor, and you've got 24 other couples going on the floor at the same time doing completely different dances, it’s a bear pit,” Sharon said. “You actually get scored on floor craft, which is how well you avoid other couples, but sometimes you get caught like, and you're like, “OK, we're just gonna wait for somebody to move so we can move.’”
Though they often get complimented on their samba, waltz is the couple’s favorite. Sharon said there’s no other feeling in the world like waltzing with her husband. It’s so romantic, and she said she feels like she’s in a 1930s movie. That connection pays off on the dance floor.
“One of the judges said to us that every time she judges us when we dance, she has to have the box of tissues in front of it because she said it's so emotional that it makes her cry,” Sharon said. “And that’s a professional judge. Oh, my goodness.”
They’ve been dancing for three years, but it was love at first step for the Goulds — Ivan had never danced a step in his life, Sharon said. It started before her parents' 60th anniversary cruise, when they all took waltzing lessons together.
“We wanted to be able to dance with them, so we actually bought a lesson … and my husband just loved it,” Sharon said. “And he said, ‘We're doing this. This is going to be a new hobby.’ So what's really unusual is actually it's my husband who just really fell in love with it.”
Sharon had danced when she was younger, but rediscovering it with her husband has been magical. She loves the fact that it gets them exercise and brings them closer together through a shared hobby — plus, she gets to wear sparkly dresses and heels. They dance at the Fred Astaire studio on Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota, where they’ve found their dance family. Friday nights are dance parties where they practice different dances with different partners, with friends constantly hyping them up.
“We're both quite competitive by nature, so Ivan said, ‘Let's do some competitions,’” Sharon said. “A world title is something that neither of us thought we could ever get. You know, not tiddlywinks.”
The goal going forward is for the couple to do about four competitions a year. There’s no downtime at the end of a weekend either — the Goulds flew home from the Fred Astaire World Competition on Sunday and were back at their studio Monday night.
“There's so much to learn and so much you do can improve,” Sharon said. “To us winning is, I mean, it's lovely, don't get me wrong. It's absolutely wonderful. But actually, the improvement that you see between you as dancers is the thing that really makes us keep going. We look back on things that we did six months or a year ago, and we think, ‘Well, we thought that was good, but now we can see all the things that we did wrong,’ and you just continually work to improve. I think that's what we both love is there's always something to learn, and we're learning it together.”
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