Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristy Z. Beauvais.
Kristy, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve been a dancer since the age of three. My Mom owned a dance studio and my Dad owned a gym. It’s not surprising I run a dance theatre fitness business. The unpredictable part is the aerial arts element of our non-profit.
You see, my Dad wanted to be the next Lou Ferigno (the original Incredible Hulk). So, he sold our house, packed our things in boxes, and moved us to the LA area when I was 11 years old. It was cool for my younger twin sisters and I because we were in the back of a very 70’s looking van, complete with a brown satin-sheeted bed. We got to stop at all of the best tourist spots along the way. We did the classic “Vacation” visit to the Grand Canyon. We looked at the big hole in the ground and left. We got to play Circus Circus in Vegas while Daddy gambled. We won a lot of the same dog stuffed animal. That was weird. But what I remember telling my Mom was, “I’m going to be a trapeze performer at Circus Circus one day.” (We stayed in LA for three months and my Dad quit trying and moved us back to Louisiana).
Well, that didn’t happen, but I managed to start an aerial arts business by accident. When I met my husband, Paul, the first week of my moving to LA (we worked at the same downtown theatre in NYC, even lived in the same neighborhood, but never met), we knew we were going to create art together. We just didn’t know we were going to get married, have a baby, and start FOCUSfish all at the same time.
Paul came from an acting background. He was making movies and writing. I had come from a very conservatory, contemporary dance life in NYC, along with musical theatre touring, puppeteering, and avant garde theatre. We wanted to create a business that allowed us to be creative with other families. Introduce moving theatre, not only to our children but any children that would create with us.
We opened FOCUSfish in 2003 in Hollywood. We thought we would change the landscape of the seedy Gower and Santa Monica Blvd area. We created a family-oriented oasis in the middle of some unsavory sights. Clients loved our 7,000 square foot, sprung maple floor, sky blue walls of spinning, GYROTONIC, massage, dance, open indoor toddler gym, birthday parties, and CIRCUS! Yes, we had 30 ft barrel-vaulted ceilings. Perfect for hanging static trapezes, lyras and many colorful silks. As soon as the community caught wind of our space we had aerial artists dropping in just to hang their equipment in our space. Madonna, Beyonce, Paula Abdul and Cher all rented our space for their shows. The problem was Los Angeles. Los Angeles loves their cars. They love their parking garages. They love their valet. We couldn’t afford that, nor was there space for that. So, Dr. Phil swiped our space and we left for greener pastures. Literally, we decided it was time to get out of the city life and into the canyon of Topanga.
I just never wanted to hang out in a regular gym. And, as much as I love dance and teaching dance, I didn’t want a regular dance studio. My Mom and Dad did that. I wanted to be different. Create something new. And, my husband always supported that. And, because he is also a contractor, he learned the rigging trade and became our rigging specialist, so that whatever I dreamed up, he could help to facilitate it.
I had no actual home base, at that time, so I became a mobile teacher. I started circus camps, theatre programs, fitness programs for children in need, and school physical education programming. Elementary schools were taking PE out because of lack of funds. Here I was, an artist, starting a family. I definitely didn’t have the private school tuition in my bank account, so I felt inspired to do something to help change that sedentary landscape in our young children’s school days. We started artistic fitness programs in public and private schools from 2003 until the present. We have served over 20 schools in the LA area.
Moving to Topanga has brought out the PTA Mom in me. It is such a close, all-in kind of community. After living in NYC where I didn’t even know the people living in the apartment next to me, I found this refreshing. I literally became the President of the parent board at the elementary school and started choreographing the school musical. And I should interject now and say that this was no little kid, cardboard sets-kinda school play. This was high end, Topanga Canyon artist parents-type stuff, and it was just where we needed to be as a growing family that liked putting on shows. My oldest girl, Gabbi was now 6 yrs old, already a little artist in her own right, and my second girl, Brodie, was on the way.
So, while aerial arts has been much of what I’ve taught to people of all ages and abilities, it’s not all that I do. I was missing choreographing dance that actually happened on the floor, so getting back to musical theatre has been exciting. One of the original creators of the Topanga theatre program, Jill Williams, has become my producing partner, and we’ve taken our program into other local schools from Koreatown to Calabasas.
The manager at Cali-Camp at the time said they wanted to build us an aerial pavilion so that we could run our non-profit out of it through community aerial classes and events, and also build the program for the summer camp and new-to-be-established school. Here we are eight years later. We have this beautiful outdoor pavilion at Big Rock Ranch that we call our home.
It’s funny. As I write this, I’m sort of dizzy from it. I guess I do a lot. That was always the issue. People wanted us to fit in a box. Choose one thing and do it really big. Well, FOCUSfish is really big and it’s a lot of things to a lot of different types of people, and that keeps my family busy and happy, MOVING. Yes, I teach preschool aerial programming on Monday morning, then drive back to theatre rehearsal in the afternoon, while FOCUSfish teachers instruct aerial arts programming for Manzanita School and the community in our after-school schedule. I get to take my dance and spinning classes on Tuesdays and actually tend to my family’s needs (like driving my kids to their extracurricular activities, which does include aerial at our pavilion). I teach adult aerial fitness and choreography on a Wednesday morning, and do the administrative duties after that, before getting back to musical rehearsal… there, you get it. It’s varied, it’s busy. It’s all-ages programming. And it keeps me healthy.
The one thing I forgot to write about is one of the most rewarding things I get to do. I get to bring the challenging sport of aerial to children with terminal illness and special needs. This last week, my now 16 yr old Gabbi and I got to drive out to The Painted Turtle (this is our third summer doing programming there) and teach aerial workshops to large groups of children who are told that they can’t do normal things like summer camp and strenuous extra-curricular activities. Well, we taught climbs and upside-down straddles, and how to make the fabric look like a tornado. The kids performed a routine that we choreographed to Rocketman and they got to share it with the other children who chose different camp activities. They blew everyone away!
That kind of impact is why I do what I do, and why I don’t choose one type of person to teach or one type of art to create. FOCUSfish doesn’t fit in a box, and neither do I. I’m a Cancer, born on the 4th of July. I’m choosing to go through life, swimmingly. Navigating through the choppy waters of life, like a firecracker… HAHA, I’m done with the puns. Just trying not to take it all so seriously, ya know?
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As I stated earlier, parking for our beautiful oasis was a huge problem, and people with money and Hollywood pull were breathing down our necks.
Since then, we became a non -profit. But because I enjoy the activity of teaching and directing the programs, I am not in my office typing away at grants. So, it’s hard to get the funding we need to pay for all of my administrative and executive director duties, as well as afford insurance and all of the specialty equipment we need for our programs in the schools and in our community centers. Often, we have to ask Paul to take his off-time from regular contractor work to rig FOCUSfish events. There are rarely enough funds for his work. Paul puts in a lot of charity time to our non-profit. And all of my time sending out emails, registering students, meeting with school principals and event coordinators is donated time, as well.
Our beautiful outdoor pavilion experienced a whole new treatment this last Winter and Spring because we created this workout space in the middle of a drought. This year, we broke that drought and the rains came! We had to cancel some classes or refund some clients. We had to ask for the purchase of new mats and replace equipment much sooner than usual. Now our pavilion has limited shade because the winds destroyed our curtains. Replacing these items is tens of thousands of dollars. So, although we love our unique training space, it’s not without its challenges.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about FOCUSfish – what should we know?
FOCUSFish is an artistic fitness program that inspires people of all ages and abilities with its unique and passionate approach to the art of physical education. We empower these communities with FLIGHT by offering aerial arts education grounded in sound physical education principles; and lift their spirits with family circus and community theatre entertainment, featuring people of all ages and abilities.
What makes us different than other circus schools or theatre programs, is that we don’t just choose the top athletes who want to be in Cirque Du Soleil. We want everyone to feel like they could be in Cirque Du Soleil, simply by training where they are, physically… continually challenging the body, through self-expression, as well as strength-building.
Our theatre programs for children are the only musicals for young children that incorporate many styles of dance and martial arts, like Capoeira, Contemporary, Jazz and Modern, but also include aerial arts!
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I have a big energy. It’s a motivating energy that works with kids, especially. I direct 100 children in a single musical and it works! I love watching children find themselves through character acting and creative movement.
Kim Zanti, Stacie Burrows, Ian Bailey, my family.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.