Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships this week." />

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Behind the scenes at Lake Placid

All the backstage news from our on-site reporter

Icenetwork.com reporter Jo Ann Schneider-Farris with her kids Annabelle, Joel and Rebekah.
Icenetwork.com reporter Jo Ann Schneider-Farris with her kids Annabelle, Joel and Rebekah. (courtesy Farris family )

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By Jo Ann Schneider-Farris, special to icenetwork.com
(08/03/2008) - Icenetwork.com reporter Jo Ann Schneider-Farris will keep us up-to-date on all the action from the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships this week.

August 3
In the morning and early afternoon, the final rounds of the novice, junior, and senior compulsory dance events took place. Later there was the open Paso Doble, followed by the juvenile and intermediate free dance events.

I watched all of the afternoon events. One couple that competed in the Open Paso Doble was especially interesting to watch since they did so well even though there was quite a height difference. Kaylee Miner is only eleven years old and she competed with Lance Holten who is twenty-seven! Kaylee has just completed her gold dance test, and the two skate at Center Ice & Blades of Western Pennsylvania. As we talked, I soon learned that their coach was Bob Mock, who I competed against in junior dance at U.S. nationals in 1974! When Bob and I got together, we hugged and had a brief reunion. I also saw another friend from my competitive skating days, David Hold of Sun Valley, Idaho. David is now an ice dance judge. I haven't seen either of these two since I competed. What fun it was to see friends from my past!

Between the juvenile and intermediate free dance events I talked to the little ice dancers from the Washington Figure Skating Club. The children were all delighted with the huge piles of stuffed animals they had received. It is so obvious that these children love being together and love skating. It was fun to chat with some of their parents as well. It's really neat seeing people who enjoy figure skating and ice dancing to this degree. Finally, when their busy coaches from the Wheaton Skating Academy, Alexei Kiliakov, Elena Novak, and Dmytri Ilin, were able to pause for a short break, I was able to talk to them a bit and take their photos.

As things began to wind down and I walked back to my hotel, I did a little reflection on the memories of this exciting week of so much ice dancing, It's hard to see it all come to an end. It's been a great experience!

Happy Ice Dancing!

August 2
I devoted most of Friday to observing the young children and teens who are participating at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships.

First, I woke up early and watched the practices of the pre-juvenile groups. Of course, they were "cute," but it was clear that I was also seeing the results of hard work. Judy Blumberg -- who placed 4th in the Olympics in 1984 with her partner Michael Siebert -- was co-coaching, with Marie Furnary, one of the young pre-juvenile teams, Benjamin Crogh and Abby Chase from Idaho.

The team of Julia Biechler and Brendan Newberry was fun to watch, and they were very good. Although they are competing at the pre-juvenile compulsory dance level, they will compete one category up in the juvenile free dance event on Saturday. Later, I returned to the rink especially to watch the final round of the pre-juvenile event, and it was refreshing to see young children experiencing the joy of ice dancing. I spoke to the mother from an Oklahoma family, new to figure skating and ice dancing. She told me that she drives two hours from Tulsa to Oklahoma City so that her son can skate and practice with his partner. I met the boy's partner as well, and the parents of both children told me what a thrill it was to be competing at Lake Placid.

After the pre-juvenile event ended, the juvenile compulsory dance final round began. The dance that was skated was the Ten-Fox. My own two children were very excited and elated to win the silver medal. After the event, we all went to the awards ceremony that was held in the ballet room of the 1980 Rink. It was exciting to see the children on the podium.

I said hello to Richard Dalley, who I competed against in the mid-1970s. Richard and his partner, Carol Fox, placed fifth in the Olympics in ice dancing in 1984. Richard, who is judging here, introduced me to Walter Zuccaro of Rome, Italy, an ISU official and judge, who is also here to judge the competition.

In the afternoon, I returned to the arena for the juvenile and intermediate free dance practices. During the practice, I had a wonderful conversation with Josh Carpenter -- the father of Quinn Carpenter -- the 2008 U.S. national juvenile dance pewter medalist and the winner of the intermediate compulsory dance group A event here at Lake Placid. Quinn skates at the Wheaton Skating Academy under coaches Alexei Kiliakov, Elena Novak, and Dmytri Ilin. It is truly amazing to see these coaches and their skaters in action. It is just "plain neat" to see young children enjoying ice dancing.

I learned that, much of the time, the skaters at Wheaton learn and train together in groups. Most of the costume design is done by Novak. Each of the coaches do the choreography for certain skaters. There are off-ice and on-ice sessions. The children compete in many different competitions. Although the atmosphere at the Academy is strict, the children have fun and become friends. Most of the children training there are solely committed to being ice dancers since the required time commitment at the Academy largely precludes involvement in other branches of figure skating.

Before leaving the arena, I went over to the 1980 Rink to see a bit of the junior original dance, but soon realized I had had enough and decided to call it quits for the day.. As I walked back to the rink's exit, I overheard people talking about the stunning performance of the senior free dance winners, Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles. Since I see Jane and Todd train every day, it was fun to hear about how great they skated. On reflection, it was nice to consider that both the very experienced ice dancers and the new ice dancers have come together here in Lake Placid and how wonderful it is to see so much ice dancing in one place. Tomorrow will bring the end to a really big and exciting week.

August 1
Thursday was a busy day since my own children competed in the juvenile compulsory dance group B. Getting two young ice dancers ready on competition day takes time -- there was hair to do, make-up to apply and clothes to arrange -- the kids had to leave for the rink dressed and ready to compete. By the time we arrived, it already felt like a full day!

The two dances skated in the initial round were the Fiesta Tango and the Willow Waltz. Since my children were the final skaters to do the Fiesta and in the first warm-up group for the Willow that immediately followed, and since there was very little time between the two dances, we had a "costume changing near-crisis." Somehow, we succeeded with a quick (about 7 minute) costume change, and the children appeared on the ice on time. They skated well and were thrilled to finish in second place. Hopefully, they will do as well on Friday in the final round, completing the event with the Ten-Fox.

Oh, the trials of a skating parent!

After the morning's personal excitement, I ventured over to the 1980 rink. I wanted to see the junior free dance event. I said hello to Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, the 2006 U.S. intermediate and 2007 U.S. novice dance champions, and the 2008 U.S. junior dance pewter medalists. I have followed this young sister-brother team's progress since 2004 and they have always been a pleasure to watch. The siblings work hard, and it's obvious that they enjoy skating together.

Last year's junior national champions, the Hubbells won, and the Shibutanis placed second. The newly formed team of Piper Gilles and Zach Donohue fell at the end of their program, but the fall didn't damage their scores too much since they ended up winning the bronze.

After watching most of the junior free dance group B event, I decided to check out the end of the intermediate compulsory dance event that was taking place in the 1932 arena. I got there in time to see the last group of skaters do the Rocker Foxtrot. I have always liked that dance, even though when I competed, it was common to see dancers fall on the mohawk sequence at the end of the dance. Fortunately, none of the intermediate skaters at Lake Placid made that error.

After the event, I introduced myself to the 2008 U.S. juvenile dance bronze medalists Danielle and Alexander Gamelin. They are twins. I asked their parents about the challenges facing brother-sister ice dance teams, and they told me that the two get along well and love to skate together. I also met their coach, Alex Esman.

Before I left the arena, I asked the family of Quinn Carpenter if I could take their photo. Quinn and his partner had just won the initial round in intermediate compulsory dance group B. The smiles of the family made it clear that they were all thrilled with the placement.

By the late afternoon, I had enough for the day and headed back to the hotel to gather strength for more ice dancing tomorrow!

July 31
Wednesday -- the competition at Lake Placid got underway.

I first wandered over to the 1980 Rink where the junior dance competitors were practicing. I took the time to say hello to U.S. junior dance silver medalist Tim McKernan and his new partner Shannon Wingle. I then decided to go back to the 1932 Rink to watch some of the solo dance events.

It was then time for the juvenile compulsory dance practice. Since my own children are competing in that event -- I watched both groups practice. Again, I was impressed with the young dance team taught by Alexei Kiliakov. They danced with the expression and style I remember from the ice dancers of the past. Katie Shipstad (the great-grand-daughter of THE Eddie Shipstad who founded Ice Follies), was practicing with her partner Logan Bye. Shipstad and Bye are coached by Patti Gottwein and by my former partner, Richard Griffin. After the practice, my husband took a photo of Rich and I together (we placed second in junior dance in U.S. nationals in 1975). It was really "cool" to be together again, just for a moment, in Lake Placid!.

After the juvenile practice, I stayed around to watch the intermediate dancers. I especially enjoyed watching another one of Kiliakov's young teams: Danvi and Vu Pham, who had placed second in the U.S. national juvenile dance event in 2008. Their Fourteenstep pattern was huge and they skated with so much power. They were really fun to watch.

In the late afternoon, I returned to the rink to watch the novice free dance event. The quality of skating was excellent, and the novice free dance group A was won by Moriah Tabon and Matt Kleffman. I also enjoyed watching Joylynn Yang and Jean-Luc Baker, the 2007 U.S. juvenile dance and 2008 U.S. intermediate dance champions. They are very young, but displayed much grace and poise.

After the event, I was very happy to meet fellow icenetwork.com reporter Alexandra Stevenson in person. Stevenson has attended and written about every single world figure skating championship since the 1960s! What an honor it was to meet her.

In the late evening, I returned to the rink to watch some of the senior compulsory dances. Every Paso Doble and Viennese Waltz that I saw was great. I liked seeing the Viennese more than the Paso. The waltz dresses were gorgeous!

Tomorrow, more excitement is in store. It is really exciting to see so much ice dancing all in one place!

July 30
On Tuesday, most of the competitors arrived. There seemed to be constant activity at the registration desk as ice dancers, their families and coaches got a feel for the rink. In the late afternoon, official practice ice began for novice, junior, and senior teams and there was also some additional practice ice available for all levels.

Since things were so quiet during much of the day, our family took the time to visit the Olympic museum that is in the same building as the rink and we were greatly impressed by the quantity of figure skating memorabilia on view. An entire display was a tribute to Sonja Henie. There was also an exhibit demonstrating the history of ice skating blades. In another area, the dress and skates that had been worn by silver medalist Linda Fratianne at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics were on display Fratianne was known for having elaborate dresses covered with rhinestones. Photos of figure skating champions such as Dick Button, Dorothy Hamill, and Scott Hamilton were also in the museum. My children learned a lot about our sport during the museum visit.

In the late evening, I went with my children to a practice session that was open to all levels. Before the practice, I peeked into the 1980 Rink where the official practice sessions were in progress for the junior and senior ice dance teams. I arrived just in time to see the 2008 Canadian junior dance champions, Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill, skate. After the session, I was able to get a photo of that team along with their coaches. Ralph and Hill have a remarkable record: they won Canadian nationals at the pre-novice level in 2006, at the novice level in 2007, and as juniors in 2008.

I also got a photo of 2008 U.S. junior dance champions Madison and Keiffer Hubbell just before they took to the ice. They were waiting to get on the ice along with another senior team coached by Iaroslava Netchaeva. The newly formed team of Piper Gilles and Zach Donohue were watching the practice.

Over at the 1932 rink, competitors of all levels were just about to take to the ice. Before the session, I said hello to Kassy Kova and Justin Ross. I hear that they are the only current African American ice dance team in the U.S. During the session, I was able to see 2007 U.S. juvenile and 2008 U.S. intermediate dance champions Joylyn Yang and Jean-Luc Baker skate. I enjoyed seeing them do the Paso Doble and the Blues. Some solo ice dancers were also on the practice session. One young lady did her senior solo combined OD. I have never seen a solo OD before, and it was impressive.

During that practice, I was able to introduce myself and get photos of the Protopopovs who were watching the practice. The two-time Olympic and four-time world pair skating champions live in Lake Placid and still perform and offer private instruction. They told me that they practice every day, but that they will have to take a few days off during the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships.

Excitement and anticipation are in the air. The official competition begins on Wednesday. I look forward to seeing some great ice dancing!

July 29
I arrived in Lake Placid, N.Y., Sunday night and so far the atmosphere is quiet since only some of the ice dance competitors have arrived. Even though the competition will soon overwhelm everything, the Lake Placid summer skating program is still going on.

Taking advantage of that program, our family was able to skate on a patch session [patch for my kids is strange, but fun], and then on a freestyle so they could keep up to date with their pair skating [another competition coming up soon]. This week they will compete in the juvenile dance event at the Lake Placid. During the freestyle, I was able to get a photo of Natalia Dubova with one of her young skating students -- she was the coach of ice dancing legends Maya Usova and Alexander Zulin, Shae Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz -- and many other famous skaters from around the world.

Later, the kids practiced on a dance session arranged for the competitors. There were about ten dance teams [of all different levels] on the ice at the 1980 Rink. Some of the teams did run-throughs of their free programs, while others just got a feel for the ice.

I was able to say hello to Joylyn Yang and Jean-Luc Baker, the 2007 U.S. juvenile dance and 2008 U.S. intermediate dance champions. I didn't get to see them skate, but I look forward to seeing them perform. What is remarkable about Joylyn is that she passed her gold dance test when she was just nine years old! Jean-Luc Baker is the son of former ice dance Olympian Sharon Jones Baker and amateur and professional world pair team member, Steve Baker.

There were several other ice dance teams on the ice. Some were from The Skating Club of Boston. The young ice dancers, Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, from the Wheaton Skating Academy in Maryland under coach Alexei Kiliakov are now at the intermediate level. I saw them do a huge pattern on their Fourteenstep, and I look forward to seeing them compete.

In the late evening, I went back to the 1932 Rink especially to watch Natalia Dubova's Ukrainian junior ice dance team, Siobhan Heekin-Canedy and Dmitriy Zyzak. To my delight, two-time Olympic and six-time world pair skating champions, the Protopopovs, were also on the ice! I also ran into Ann Baldy, who trained with me under world ice dance champion, Doreen Denny, at the Broadmoor in the 1970s. Ann will be judging the competition.

Tomorrow, many more ice dancers will arrive. I imagine that there will be much more activity at the arena by then.