Ice Network

Adairs nurturing next generation of U.S. ice dancers

Husband and wife coaching duo work hard to get skaters involved early
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Donald Adair and Kelley Morris-Adair say they have seen big changes over the past decade in how young skaters in the United States view ice dancing. -Courtesy of Kelley Morris-Adair

The Chesapeake Open is this week, which means that 1986 U.S. ice dance champion Donald Adair and his wife, 1977 U.S. junior dance champion Kelley Morris-Adair, are on the road. Since they began working with the next generation of ice dancers at the Louisville Skating Academy in Louisville, Ky., a few year ago, the Indianapolis-based couple has put a lot of miles on their cars.

"Kelley and I are in charge of one juvenile and two intermediate teams, and Kelley also works with another coach on another intermediate team," Adair said. "It's lots and lots of ice dancing."

With U.S. ice dance's rise to international prominence in the past decade, more and more boys are willing to give ice dancing a try. Morris-Adair said that skating director Rebecca Hatch-Purnell requires all the free skaters at the Louisville Skating Academy to participate in ice dancing to improve their skating skills.

It's a principle that's familiar to them -- they also taught with the late Pieter Kollen when they came to Indianapolis in 1991 to start a competitive dance program at the Indiana Skating Academy.

"In more recent years, the solo dance track that U.S. Figure Skating started has been fantastic," Morris-Adair said. "They now have another track and another place in the sport that they can achieve a higher level of competition."

Adair teaches in Louisville all week. Morris-Adair teaches there Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, returning to Indianapolis for Wednesday morning teaching. She also works with a group of solo dancers in Cincinnati and consults with the Miami University synchro teams every other month.

"[The world and Olympic medals have] given life and hope to U.S. dancers that we can get on the podium now," said Adair, who remembers the wait-your-turn environment in the 1980s. "With Meryl [Davis] and Charlie [White], you see the longevity that they've had from juvenile all the way up. The longer you can stay together, the more it will work for you."

When the competitive dance program ended in Indianapolis several years ago, Morris-Adair said that her schedule blew up with requests for seminars. Adair had been traveling to Louisville to take girls through their dance tests.

"As the dance teams progressed, they needed free dance choreography, which Donny and I had not done for quite a long time," Morris-Adair said. "So I really submerged myself into IJS (international judging system).

"There's a tight community of ice dance coaches who are so willing to share their resources and knowledge," she added. "We are so blessed to be able to still have all this in our lives and to have so many fabulous people around us."

The 54-year-old Adair, who's on the mend from a right hip replacement, and Morris-Adair, 52, still take kids through their dance tests. However, Adair said that he hopes that the boys they have started on the dance path will be sufficiently skilled to take up-and-coming girls through tests in the near future.

Adair described his wife as the "creative one." She describes herself as hyper organized, while she says her husband is all about the details.

"With my experience of what I went through on the competitive side, I'm not going to miss and leave off one detail for them to learn about and how to handle situations, such as how to take the ice," Adair said. "I've really enjoyed teaching these boys how to lead their partners. That's been a really fun process to teach boys to do that.

"I'm probably more the technician," he continued. "Polishing them and getting them mentally ready for competition."

As the teams they've nurtured head into the novice and junior ranks, Adair and Morris-Adair will let them go to coaches with ice-dance-only sessions.

"In Louisville, all their sessions are club sessions, so our dance teams train with 20 freeskaters on the ice," Morris-Adair said. "By the time they get to novice and junior, they'll definitely have to get supplemental training and even coaching.

"We're fine with that," she added. "I don't mind doing the developmental stages. Donny and I love this age and this level. To prepare them to go onto greater heights and bigger things -- that's a joy for us."