by Anne Calder | Photos by Daphne Backman

The Dallas Classic opened the 2022 U.S. National Qualifying Series (NQS) from July 8-10 in Allen, Texas with ice dance competitions. For the second straight season IDC was there to photograph and report on the team event.

Daphne, Robin and I arrived at the Credit Union of Texas Event Center on Friday afternoon in time to watch the junior and senior teams practice. There were a few new faces on the ice who I didn’t recognize.  At the beginning of a new Olympic Quad, there’s usually a lot of shuffling around. Teams retire, move up a level, change partners, and often choose new coaches and training locations.

I spent Saturday afternoon renewing old acquaintances and meeting new teams. At 5:05 the Combined Rhythm and Pattern Dances began their competition. There were 24 teams representing the USA, POL, MEX and GBR. This included juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior and senior levels.

The juniors danced first. The season rhythm is Tango plus one of the following dance styles: Paso Doble, Flamenco, Spanish Waltz, Fandango, Bolero, Jota, Sevillanas, Milonga. The Pattern Dance Element includes two sections of the Argentine Tango, skated in any order to the Tango rhythm.

The finished order: Leah Neset & Artem Markelov, Vanessa Pham & Jonathan Rogers, Jenna Hauer & Benjamin Starr, Elliana Peal & Ethan Peal, Kristina Bland & Matthew Sperry, Julia Epps & Blake Gilman, Harlow Stanley & Nikita Sosnenko, Anabelle Larson & Jonathan Young, and Emily Phillips and Luke Anderson.

The juvenile, intermediate and novice (JIN) teams each skated two patterns (juvenile: Foxtrot and ChaCha, intermediate: Tango and Fourteenstep, and novice: Westminster Waltz and Argentine Tango).

The seniors closed the evening competitions. The Latin dance styles include at least two different dance styles/rhythms chosen from Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, Mambo, Cha Cha, Rhumba, Samba. The Pattern Dance Type Step Sequence and Step Sequence must be skated to a different Latin Style/Rhythm.

The finished order: Lorraine McNamara & Anton Spiridonov, Emilea Zingas & Vadym Kolesnik, Raffaella Koncius & Alexey Shchepetov and Jenna Hertenstein & Damian Binkowski.

The Free Dances began Sunday at 8:30 a.m. After each performance, the ice dancers shared their thoughts about their program, adjusting to new levels, and their music, etc. Quotes are in finish order.

 

Juvenile:
Rylen Lukanin & Patrick O’Brien: “I get nerves all the time, but Patrick says to focus and that makes me feel better. Then we skate good,” said Rylen. The team is coached by Kristin Frazier and Igor Lukanin in New Jersey. They topped their Chesapeake Open Score with a 77.58 total.

Sophia Kartashov & Nicholas Kartashov train with Kristin Frazier and Igor Lukanin in New Jersey. The twins also do ballroom dancing. Nicholas demonstrated how the frame and the hold are similar, which helps with both disciplines. Sophia shared how much fun she had skating with her brother. Nicholas added,”Skating with my sister, I have someone to help me. In singles you don’t have anyone.” The total score was 68.44.

Maria Sidorova & Jackson Hill train in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Coach Jackie Brenner said they are the state champions because they are the only ice dancers in Oklahoma. Maria & Jackson have been ice dancing for two years. They also do singles, but they love to come together and be creative and imaginative. Their total score was 45.02.

 

Intermediate:
Celine Chen & Nathan Chen have trained with Pierre Panayi in Dallas since March 2022. Their total 87.58 topped their Chesapeake score by a wide margin. Asked about having a famous skating name, Nathan shared that they previously trained at the same California rink as the reigning Olympic Champion. It was fun to see him there. Their former coach always introduced the ice dancer Nathan Chen, with a special emphasis on his name.

Cianin Rudedenman & Brysin Rudedenman (61.25)

Bryndolin Rudedenman & Ryedin Rudedenman (54.19)
The siblings are coached by their older sister, Caylin in Riverside, California. Cianin & Brysin are in their second year as a team while Bryndolin & Ryedin began four months ago. Cianin said that she began ice dancing because she didn’t want to jump anymore. Ryedin also skates Novice Men. While Brysin thought their programs were nowhere as good as they could be, Coach Caylin explained their objective. “It was kind of a practice event. It was the first of the season. We went into it without great expectations,
just trying to get used to the new programs.”

Violet Yan & Dylan Logsdon competed in just the pattern dances, for which they earned the highest score – 41.19. The team had only partnered for one week prior to this event. At the 2022 Broadmoor Open, Violet won the Intermediate Women’s Solo Combined and Dylan competed with a previous partner. The team trains in Colorado Springs with Elena Dostatni and Logan Giuletti-Schmitt. 

 

Novice:
Michelle Deych & Wiles Middlekauff have returned to the Novi Ice Arena to train with Igor Shpilband’s team. Their 99.05 score was higher than the previous outing, which according to Michelle, “It was much better than Chesapeake. Hopefully we got all the levels.” As for challenges, “Probably our footwork, our edges. We need to get them clean,” Michelle added. 

Emily Renzi & William Lissauer, who partnered only four months ago, totaled 91.13 and beat their Chesapeake score. It’s also Emily’s first season in ice dance, while William has skated the discipline for six years. The duo is coached by Kristin Frazier and Igor Lukanin in New Jersey.

Jasmine Robertson & Hayden Wood, who train in Nashville, Tennessee, scored a total 83.04. The team moved up a level this season after winning the 2022 Championship Series (Intermediate) in Alpharetta, Georgia last November. Jasmine described the transition as, “Challenging in a good way. I like a challenge.” Hayden added, ”Last year we were generally ten points more ahead at the lower level. It’s been a bit of adjustment trying to figure out what we need to do to get more points. But it’s fun.”

Samhita Jonnalagadda & Vedanth Jonnalagadda train in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The siblings earned a total 63.84. Vedanth said it was better than their last year’s skate before Samhita got sick, and they didn’t skate for some time. Vedanth then added, “Next time we hope to improve the lifts and presentation.”

 

Junior:
Leah Neset & Artem Markelov who train in Colorado Springs, Colorado with Elena Dostatni danced to Pirates of the Caribbean. The 160.13 total scored higher than their gold medal performance at the 2022 US Nationals. Artem commented on the program, “We have some work to do, but we’re satisfied with the overall performance.” Leah added that they would be working on the step sequences and patterns before the Silicon Valley Open in San Jose, California (August 5-6).

Vanessa Pham & Jonathan Rogers were third in the Free dance to Scheherazade and silver medalists over all. Both programs totaled 140.77. Angela wants to improve her endurance throughout the competition. Jonathan spoke about the team’s presentation objectives., “We’re getting to the point now where we don’t have to grind down the elements so hard. We can concentrate more on performance and connecting with the audience.” Next stop is their first competition trip to Lake Placid, New York.

Jenna Hauer & Benjamin Starr vaulted from fifth place in the Rhythm Dance to the bronze medal after finishing second with their Free Dance to selections from the Pina Soundtrack. “It was better than our last competition,” Jenna said. “It was the best we’ve done it so far.I don’t know the protocols; I just know how it feels.” They’ve added a new exit to their lift and also the Choreographic twizzle, which they’ve never done before in their careers. “Hopefully, it all works out,” Ben added. “There’s no room left but up!”

Elliana Peal & Ethan Peal were disappointed with their program,“We obviously didn’t skate clean, and I didn’t come through for my part of the team” Ethan said. “It’s a team effort, but you can’t help take the sole responsibility for your mistake.” Elliana countered. “Actually our scores improved since the last competition, even with a mistake in the Free Dance.” Coach Rob Peal explained the music. “It’s Halo, a 25-year running video game created by Microsoft.” The total score was 135.55.

Kristina Bland & Matthew Sperry claimed fifth place with their dance to “Wishful Thinking” and “The Feeling Begins”. Noting the twizzle mishap, Kristina and Matthew said together, “It was not our best program, but we made it through.” They will return to Novi, Michigan to work on endurance and consistency before heading to Lake Placid in two weeks. The programs totaled 130.86.

Julia Epps & Blake Gilman are adjusting to the move to Juniors. “It’s definitely more fun to move up to a new level,”  Julia said. “It’s also a big challenge. We’re not the biggest team in Juniors. Other teams have more experience and are larger.” The team trains at the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society with Slava Uchitel. Their music is “Talking to the Moon” and “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars.

Anna Sophia O’Brien & Steven Wei have also moved up to Juniors. Anna shared her new experiences. “It’s been difficult. We were pretty successful in Novice. Now we’re learning a lot more difficult things like doing both a Rhythm and Free Dance. It feels like two Free Dances for us as opposed to doing just two patterns and a Free Dance.” Anna also discussed their skate. “I think we skated well, except Steven fell on a three-turn. It’s better with the earlier competition than a more important one at the end.” The team trains in New Jersey with Kristin Frazier and Igor Lukanin. The music is from a James Bond soundtrack.

Harlow Stanley & Nikita Sosnenko, who skate for the Mexican Federation have trained in Leesburg, Virginia with Elena Novak and Alexei Kiliakov for over eight months. The team waltzed across the ice to the familiar strains of Masquerade and earned a 62.30 score and 103.12 total.

Anabelle Larson & Jonathan Young began skating together in November 2021. Both came from previous partnerships. Jonathan has ice danced for five years, while Anabelle was a solo dancer before she began dancing a year and a half ago. The team trains with Marina Zoueva at the International Skating Academy in Estero, Florida. Their Free Dance music is “Steppin’ Out With my Baby” and “Don’t Mean A Thing”.

Emily Phillips & Luke Anderson represent the National Ice Skating Association of UK. They were in Texas working with Pierre Panayi, who coached Emily’s mother when she skated as Lucine Chakmajian for Great Britain. After the Dallas Classic, the team headed north to Scarborough, Ontario Canada for a two week session with Carol Lane before heading back to Cardiff, Wales to train with her parents, Lucine and David Phillips.

Senior:
Lorraine McNamara & Anton Spiridonov won the gold medal with their performance to “Rain in your Black Eyes”. “It was our first competition with both our programs,” Lorraine said. “We went out and showed how much we loved them and to see what works and what doesn’t.” Anton added, “Unfortunately today mistakes happen. We were excited, so after our spin, we completely reversed – mirrored our program. It was a challenge trying to get back on track. We weren’t going to change where we were going, so we just continued the whole program in reverse. I’m sure that affected our (102.54) score. The total was 171.31.

Emilea Zingas & Vadym Kolesnik debuted their program. ”It wasn’t ready for Chesapeake,” Vadym noted. “We were still switching music many times. For the first time, it wasn’t bad, but there’s a lot of work in order to improve.” Emilea continued, “This is a whole new experience for me. It’s the first time I’ve done a free dance in competition. Lack of practice and the beginning of the season. It’s an exciting start, but we have a lot of work on for sure.” Like many coming off the ice in July, the 2020 World Junior Champion struggled with his endurance. “I was dying,” he laughed.

Raffaella Koncius & Alexey Shchepetov scored 83.47 for their bronze medal performance to selections from the W.E. soundtrack. “I absolutely love our program,” Raffaella said. “It makes me really happy going out there. We definitely improved from Chesapeake.” The team trains with Marina Zoueva’s group in Estero, Florida. “We have the Japanese team of Kana & Daisuke with us,” Alexey said. “They are such an inspiration to see them skate every day. I didn’t know his age. He’s amazing.” The total score was 139.56.

 Jenna Hertenstein & Damian Binkowski represent Poland, but train in Leesburg, Virginia. “I was pleased with our (Arabian themed) performance for the first competition of the season,”  Jenna said. “It’s early. We were skating smart, trying to get those elements.” Damian added, “The season in Poland starts much later, so we’re grateful they let us compete here.” The team will be working on the spin, Rhythm Dance lift and the general speed of elements as they prepare for the Lake Placid competition. The total was 124.84.

Congratulations to all the skaters, coaches, officials, volunteers and parents for a successful Dallas Classic.

Remaining NQS Competitions:
July 26-29 – Lake Placid ID Championships (Lake Placid, NY)
August 05-06 – Silicon Valley (San Jose, CA)
August 19-21 – Onyx Challenge (Rochester Hills, MI)
September 22-25 – Challenge Cup (Ardmore, PA)
November 08-12 – Ice Dance Final (Norwood, MA)