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Simple: She's a dancer. A very serious competitive ballroom dancer.
"I set a goal for myself last year, before I even knew I could be a ballroom dancer," LaPointe says. "I wanted to be a world champion."
The Star Ball is the seventh dance competition that LaPointe has entered since committing to her goal in 2011.
"I've gotten a lot of first-place ribbons — second place and third place, too," LaPointe tells me on the third day of the Ohio event. "But the real honor was the opportunity to do a solo number for the judges. Not many new dancers are ever given that chance."
She and her coach and dance partner, Louis Bar, have come here expecting to compete in at least 198 heats, each about 90 grueling seconds. And for their turn away from the usual crowded floor full of fellow dancers, they've worked up a Victor/Victoria cabaret number that involves a quick costume change. "While we're dancing," LaPointe says, "I take off my skirt and wig, and Louis puts them on, and I put on his jacket."
Afterward, LaPointe is pleased with how the solo went. "The audience loved it," she tells me later that day. "We got a terrific response.
"I really expected to be nervous here, but I wasn't," LaPointe continues. "This is probably the biggest competition of the year, and I imagined that the competition could be ruthless. But the coaches and the other competitors have been really lovely, very supportive. It's not the bloodbath that I was dreading."
It's hard to imagine LaPointe ever being nervous. Nothing about her, from the expensive high heels that add to her already imposing height to the amusingly no-nonsense conversational habits she inherited from her mother, comes across as shy. As one of her friends puts it, "She's wickedly funny — and wickedly mean if she wants to be."
Before she started competing at balls, she was organizing them for the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and the Kansas City Ballet. She had inherited all the right social credentials, of course, as well as the resources to buy tables at the events. But she also brought ideas.
"She's very creative and imaginative," says Laurie Ingram, publisher of The Independent, the magazine that bills itself as "Kansas City's Journal of Society." Ingram has reported on the Kauffman family since Ewing M. Kauffman made his first million, nearly half a century ago. "But the way that she's channeled this passion for dancing into a career is amazing. She looks great and clearly loves what she's doing."
LaPointe looks good on the floor. She's a determined dancer whose work in the studio shows. "I feel so much more self-confident in all areas of my life since I started dancing competitively," she says. "And I'm much more observant of the people around me and have become a much better listener. Since dancing is all about being in-sync with your partner, it's made me more sensitive to the people in my life."
It's not unusual for a wealthy woman to choose dance as both hobby and cause. Many of the great ballet companies in America have been championed by women with deep pockets (Texas millionaire Anne Bass, for example). And the late Rebekah Harkness — whose husband was a Standard Oil heir and the nephew of Lamon V. Harkness, once the richest man in Kansas City — created a New York dance empire in the 1960s.