One of the times I recently got together with Lisza Gulyas was at the University Hills Methodist Church to watch her teach ballroom dance (which she volunteers to do every Monday night) to young adults with Down syndrome. Don’t know who was more radiant and happy to be dancing – Lisza or her precious students!
Challenges are powerful catalysts in our lives, and Lisza Gulyas has faced hers with dignity and courage. She has risen to every challenge that has come her way with strength and determination, even as she faced hardships when she was a young mom raising her son Elliott.
Lisza is an inspiration to all as she’s now living her dream of bringing ballroom dance to individuals with developmental disabilities, senior citizens in Alzheimer's Centers, retirement residences, and schools throughout Colorado. She founded the International Dance Foundation (www.internationaldancefoundation.org) in 2008 after teaching dance since she was 21 and dancing competitively for 10 years. Lisza says: “I listened to my inner voice. I love working for myself and knowing when I give sad, depressed and lonely people like seniors in these centers (most of them get a visitor only one hour a month) the opportunity to dance, they come alive! The music, the dancing, it gives them audio stimulation, physical stimulation… and a caring touch that brings back memories of when they used to dance with their husbands or wives every Friday night. The transformation is amazing! It’s the same with the kids I teach. I’ve seen kids completely transform in 45 minutes. They don’t even realize it is happening and eventually they’re hand-in-hand, full of confidence and ready to ask someone else to dance.”
Gulyas also started another company, Vu Concepts (www.vuconcepts.com) which assists businesses with sponsorships and putting their ideas in motion by helping them promote their ideas by: attending events that match their vision, finding the ideal speaking opportunities, and representing their company’s message with excellence - and in turn, helping them establish long-term relationships in the community.
To develop such impressive business acumen, Lisza worked her way up in the cable television and entertainment industry being mentored by the likes of giants such as Bill Daniels; and she got some great advice on taking risks from none other than cable pioneer, Ted Turner.
Lisza was awarded the Excelsior Youth Center’s “Triumphant Women Award” which “recognizes and honors women who have made the difficult journey of overcoming seemingly overwhelming adversity to achieve greatness in their chosen field or endeavor. Triumphant Women are honored for “beating the odds” and becoming pillars of the community, displaying characteristics worthy of a role model to the girls living at the Excelsior Youth Center.”
Lisza Gulyas is all that and more. Gulyas is the genuine article, and her pursuits, trials and triumphs command our respect. She is direct, honest and focused on impacting change and bringing joy into people’s lives. What could be better than to sum things up with a good friend of Lisza’s, Louise Richardson, singing her praises: “Lisza is truly one of the most beautiful women inside and out that I know. Her desire to not only leave this world a better place, but to help every person she meets, is beyond admirable. Her sense of humor, her incredible intelligence and worldly outlook impacts all those around her. She is a gift not only to our community but to every one of us lucky enough to be blessed with her friendship.”
Lisza, it looks like you are wearing many hats these days? Can you give us a rundown of all your projects and what they entail? I have two businesses, one of the companies is a sponsorship agency called VuConcepts, connecting sponsors with events. Some of my clients include nonprofit organizations and some are for profit clients in the cable industry and now the music industry. Part of the success is providing sponsors with new and unique ways to activate their sponsorship contribution for events, annual programs, new product launches, fundraisers, festivals, concerts, and more.
My other business is my passion and a nonprofit organization called the International Dance Foundation bringing the benefits of ballroom dance to the community; seniors in retirement homes, adults with Down syndrome and a school program for students in 5th grade to 12th grade.
What word best describes your life right now? Happy and - purposeful. I am not waiting for "some day" to do what I want. I am doing it - today.
How did you figure out your calling in life? Years ago in my 20's while I worked for Fred Astaire Studios, I would volunteer my time and bring dance to the residence in a nursing home every other Saturday. I knew this was a purpose in my life but I didn't know what my calling was until almost 20 years later after starting the International Dance Foundation. It was then, six years ago, I remembered how much joy that dance offers seniors. Also, my love of teaching my students with Down syndrome may in fact be my calling. Currently I teach the Down syndrome class every Monday night, and it sets my world right.
What would you say has been your proudest achievement? Raising my son, Elliott. Parenting is more than full time, it's all the time. It's a 24/7 obligation to be there for your kids at any age. Now that he's 23 years old, there is so much more to being an active parent to an adult than when he was little. Elliott is successful personal trainer in Boulder, he's a natural mentor, he has the best listening skills of anyone I know, and he will be successful at anything he decides to do.
How do you stay so motivated and committed to your work and your causes? It's easy when you're doing something that you enjoy. There's no need to find the motivation, it's automatically there. I never knew until now the saying, "You'll never work a day in your life when you follow your passion.”
What is your next big event? I am the chair of the “11th Annual Nathan Yip Foundation Gala” which will be held February 2, 2013, at the Marriott DTC. Annually the fundraiser celebrates the Chinese New Year with 100% of proceeds from the gala going to orphanages all over the world. For information and tickets – www.nathanyipfoundation.org.
Who is the most interesting person you have ever met? (Can we change this to AMAZING person?) The Dalai Lama! An experience that I will never forget. The Dalai Lama bowed to me!
What is your fondest childhood memory? Playing hide-and-go-seek in the summer with the neighborhood kids until midnight.
If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be? I am writing a partial autobiography, the title is Red Wrapping Paper. It's a true account of experiences with my son when he was 3 years old when we had some financial and medical challenges. It's a Christmas story and a lesson in believing in Santa Claus. Because of the nature of the story, I've been writing this for 7 years, but hope to publish within a year.
How does one hold on to their true self and still “play the game” and become successful? I believe that success is in the mind’s eye. Everyone has their own idea of what success means for them. For me, success is something that continues to evolve, and I am successful when I am doing what I want. While one is doing what they want in life, the only way to be is true to one self. Not being true to one self is failure.
Is there a special “aha” moment in your life when you knew “I get it now!”? Yes, wisdom comes from age! Actually, from your earlier question about holding on to your true self. I have had many opportunities to staying true to myself, and I've tested this over and over... as long as I speak and act from my heart, everything works out. It is when I am not living my heart’s desire that I face challenges. Or, perhaps this may have been a simple test of time - we learn a great deal in our 40's!
Is there a saying, motto, or “words to live by” that is your favorite? Stop paddling upstream; Pick up the ores, and let your passion guide you…
What is your favorite book of all time? Movie? Favorite book is Life of Pi. The movie is coming out soon, so perhaps it may be my favorite movie. We'll see.
Otherwise, I don't have a favorite movie. I love comedy. Office Space is a favorite and science fiction like Star Wars - all of them. And I love foreign films.
Do you have a ‘fashion addiction’? Shoes, and shoes. Did I say shoes? If not, let's add shoes to the list.
What’s your favorite decadent snack? Dark Chocolate - anything.
What is your biggest fear? The fear of not living long enough to experience all the things I have in my bucket list.
What do you like the most about yourself? I try to find a win, win, situation as much as possible. I look for the positive side in people, and I also laugh at myself every day. I am simply a goofy chick that tries not to take life so seriously.
Do you have a “pet peeve?” Toilet seats that are left up, running out of toilet paper, running out of hot water ... hmm, sounds like a bathroom problem.
What would you still like to learn how to do in your lifetime? I would love to learn Italian, or Spanish.. Or both!
What advice do you have for all the young women out there ready to take on the future?
1. Ask yourself, "Who am I?" and take the time to listen for the answers.
2. Get a mentor - male or female. I've had both, and to have both perspectives is invaluable.
3. Rely on your girlfriends, they will be there through everything.
You have done many incredible things in your personal and professional life, what gave you the strength and determination to succeed? My son, Elliott. He's been my purpose to keep moving forward and also my greatest cheerleader.
When do you feel you are most in your element? Teaching ballroom dance! To experience the success of my Down syndrome students, dance to a choreographed routine performed in front of 300 guests, and then to get a group hug from my students after their performance. Also, I've had the opportunity to see seniors dance for the first time, or get out of their wheelchair to move, even when they've not been able to stand for months. To hear stories of a woman in a nursing home who finally smiled after years of being unhappy and was bragging to her children that she danced just before she passed, and I hear from her children that she passed happy.
Lisza, where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Doing the same things, but hopefully with a lot more money and many more locations!!!
How do you want to be remembered? ? Not ready to answer this question.