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Ice Dance Championships Begins
July 27, 2016 - Christie Sausa
Elegant costumes. Evocative music. Complex steps, turns, lifts, and spins. Dynamic choreography reflecting countless styles of dance. All of these characteristics describe ice dance, the combination of ballroom dancing and figure skating. Few are fortunate to witness ice dance live, but here in Lake Placid, it is as easy as purchasing a ticket for the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships, starting on Wednesday July 27 and continuing through Saturday July 30.
On a personal note, when I started skating, shortly after I finished Basic Skills I was encouraged to ice dance. I started taking ice dance lessons at 8 years old and testing my compulsory dance tests, (compulsory dances are dances with a set pattern and steps which test a skater’s ability and rhythm, and until recently were part of ice dance competition). At the time, I considered it rather tedious. Every Sunday, I attended a three-hour dance session that was offered by my club, which was a prestigious dance club that fostered dancers like two-time World Medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani. Skaters of all ages and levels took part in the sessions. It was common for skaters my age to start looking for partners. I kept dancing, almost had a partner, and then discovered that I could indeed jump (despite my coach’s insistence that I “stick with dance”) and although I continued to ice dance I started focusing more on freestyle. But I still danced frequently with an adult dance partner, and we performed in a few shows together. I kept testing dances until a few years ago, but hope to resume soon. I am very grateful for my time as a young dancer. I was able to learn edge quality, control, rhythm, placement, and countless other skating skills from my time dancing. Spending time with better skaters than I also taught me to work hard to reach my goals, and the collaborative nature of the dance sessions (where other dancers would often “partner up” with other “partner-less dancers” and take them through dances for practice) encouraged me to learn from more experienced dancers whom often contributed their knowledge. Even though I didn’t enjoy it all the time, I’m very grateful. And I know just how hard these skaters work every day, because, for a while, I was training to be an ice dancer too. The athleticism, grace and agility required makes it one of the most difficult-and most beautiful-sports in my opinion. In what other sport can you see two people dance together flying across an ice surface while executing spins, lifts, and turns? It’s like Dancing with the Stars but with more speed and athleticism (there’s a reason Meryl Davis and Kristy Yamaguchi both won the competition).
I had always heard of the “Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships” when I was training, and it continues to be one of the most prestigious events in ice dance. The competition became even more well-known last year, when the Championships became an International event. It is already the largest ice dance competition in the summer, but became even more so since skaters from throughout the World can participate for points; last year, skaters from Australia, Canada, China, Great Britain, Georgia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia, Spain, and the United States participated in the event. With its International designation, ice dancers can earn International Skating Union (ISU) technical scores. Earning an ISU technical score allows skaters (in all disciplines) the opportunity to compete in Jr. World or World Championship competition. Competitors can also use the scores as a barometer to determine what to change and what is working in programs before the season officially starts in the fall. So far I have seen skaters representing Canada, Great Britain, and Russia on the roster (along with US skaters of course).
While all levels are fun to watch, fans tend to focus on the Junior and Senior levels. Senior level competition is the highest level in skating and is the level represented at the Olympics. Junior level is the next lowest level, and skaters can become National and World champions in this division.
One of the high-profile teams registered in the 2016 Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships International portion is the 2016 World Junior Ice Dance Champions and National Junior Ice Dance Champions Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter (USA). They won last year’s Junior Group A in the Ice Dance Championships, and appear to be competing in the Junior event again this year. Also competing in Junior are second place finishers in Junior (last year) Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko.
Returning this year (after placements in last year’s International event) and competing in the Senior Free Dance category are 2nd place finishers Danielle Thomas and Thomas Eaton (USA) and 4th place finishers Charlotte Maxwell and Thomas Devereaux (USA).
The competition begins at 3:15 pm on Wednesday July 27 (today) in the 1980 arena, and continues until 6:30 pm in the 1980 arena on Saturday July 30. Admission is $12 for adults and $7 for children/seniors; all event passes can be purchased at $30 for adults and $18 for children/seniors.
For more information on the competition, including schedules, visit www.lakeplacidskating.com. And for (often live) coverage of the competition itself, including photos and interviews, visit www.ice-dance.com.
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