LAKE?PLACID - This year marked the 80th anniversary of the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships, a historic event that is a must for ice dancers coming into the new season. In addition to traditional pattern, short and free dances, the LPIDC also offers categories such as adult dance and solo dance.
It was in the Gold Solo Series Category that Skating Club of Lake Placid member Julianne DiMura placed first. DiMura has been a Skating Club of Lake Placid member for approximately 10 years, training part-time in Lake Placid because of the excellent coaching available.
Originally from East Greenbush, DiMura started coming to Lake Placid in 2003, when she was 12 years old. She joined the Skating Club of Lake Placid around the same time, and began training with Olympians Karen Courtland-Kelly and Patrick Kelly. Courtland-Kelly competed in the 1994 Games in pairs skating, while her husband Patrick Kelly participated in both the 1992 and 1994 Olympics as a speed skater for Canada.
Julianne DiMura (right) poses for a picture with her coach Karen Courtland-Kelly at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid.
Photo by Christie Sausa
DiMura's cousin Vera Curcio, who was a student of Courtland-Kelly's, recommended Courtland-Kelly.
"My aunt said, 'You have to take (lessons) from Karen,' I took a group class with her, and was injured at the time, so Karen and Patrick helped me recover from that ankle injury and get back on track," DiMura said.
What impressed her the most about Courtland-Kelly was her solid technical methodology and emphasis on body awareness and placement.
"They (Courtland-Kelly her husband) really stressed that fundamental technique and the importance of understanding body placement, and having good body awareness so I really credit any kind of skating success I have to them," DiMura said. "Without that fundamental training, I wouldn't be able to fully understand skating on a technical level."
Courtland-Kelly also stressed the importance of figures, a discipline of skating where the skater must trace exact prescribed patterns on the ice to demonstrate edge control and accuracy.
Sadly, this skill set is nearly extinct in today's skating landscape, but Courtland-Kelly is one of the coaches working to keep it alive. Her students all practice figures (or, as it is called conversationally, "patch") and DiMura is no exception. She is currently working on the patterns required to complete the fourth figure test: another impressive accomplishment considering figures tests are an uncommon event in most skating facilities.
"I wish I had more time to work on figures," remarked DiMura. "When I was training figures, I could really feel where my body needed to be, and that translates into jumps, spins and dance. All those fundamentals are right there."
All that hard work paid off in many ways for DiMura: she was the 2008 Lake Placid Figure Skating Championships gold medalist in the Junior ladies division and won the Junior Ladies Championship title at last year's 2012 Intercollegiate Figure Skating Nationals.
The Intercollegiate program allows collegiate skaters the opportunity to compete as a team against other participating colleges. She competed with her teammates from the University of Delaware, where she is a senior majoring in psychology with a minor in business administration.
University of Delaware's rink has long been considered an excellent training center, and has been the training base of skaters such as three-time national champion Johnny Weir and 2006 world champion Kimmie Meissner. The collegiate program is also one of the best in the country: At the 2012 Intercollegiate Figure Skating Nationals, the University of Delaware figure skating team took second place overall after first-place finisher Dartmouth College.
"This year I'm president, so I'm very excited about that," said DiMura of her University of Delaware team. "There are approximately 30 team members, there's such great team camaraderie. We all have fun and work hard, it's such a great thing to be a part of."
Originally an accomplished freestyle skater, DiMura started ice dancing for the same reason many skaters do.
"I think I originally started ice dancing so it would improve my freestyle and help my artistry and expression, but I ended up really liking ice dancing," DiMura said.
While many skaters simply complete their ice dance tests with a partner, DiMura followed a somewhat unorthodox path.
"I went through all of my dances solo, because there were never really any partners to take me through the tests," she explained. "Then I started taking lessons from Lorna Wighton Aldridge and Wayne Hussey, who took me through all my dances, and I got my gold in partnered dances. I ended up really enjoying it".
This is a remarkable accomplishment for an ice dancer to achieve. Not only has DiMura now completed the approximately 20 dances of varying patterns and increasing difficulty with a partner, but also on her own. Without the added support provided by a partner, completing all tests solo is a testament to DiMura's ice dancing prowess.
After competing in last year's Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships, DiMura competed in the Solo Dance Series for the second time at the event. The Solo Dance Series is a US Figure Skating Program that began in 2010, where skaters can compete in their geographic region and hopefully qualify for the National Solo Dance Championships. The program has grown steadily, and more skaters participated in the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships in this category than last year.
"Last year there was only one group, and this year they had two groups of Gold dancers - one had 10 (skaters), my group had 11, so it's really taken off and become bigger. I hope it continues to grow," Dimura said. "I think it's a good opportunity for skaters who don't have partners or don't want to compete in freestyle to still have something competitive and at a high level in dance,"
Dimura's win at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships qualified her for the National Solo Dance Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Although there are other competition options on the East Coast where skaters can qualify for the Solo Dance Championships, DiMura enjoys competing in the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championship because it's like returning to home base and is one of the best Ice Dance competitions in the country.
"I spent a lot of time training here, so it's nice to come back and see Karen and Patrick," DiMura said. "Also, this event is known for being one of the largest competitions, and one of the best. This competition brings everyone back to Lake Placid."