Ashley Duenas


ashley-764035I had been searching for a dance partner for some time when the opportunity came my way to skate with Ramil Sarkulov for Uzbekistan in 2003. Many of the available male skaters at the time in the US were foreigners (seeking to represent the US & I could not adopt), so I thought, why not turn it around and be a US female to skate for a foreign country? I never expected it would actually happen, but what are borders of land when the goal is the same? I had only one week to make a decision on the partnership, it simply boiled down to skate or don’t skate? I packed up my bags and moved to Texas to train. Two years later I packed up my bags again, only this time back to California and without a partner.

It has been one year since Ramil and I went our separate ways. We had just finished our first ISU competition, Four Continents, which was a wonderful experience. I am grateful I had this opportunity with him, but unfortunately due to many circumstances the partnership ended shortly after.

Upon arriving in California I continued to skate for a few months. During that period on the ice I also began working as a choreographer for dance & freestyle and loved it. In need of more stability, I took a position as an administrative assistant for an established art gallery in downtown San Francisco and it is a fabulous environment to be working in. Hanging above my desk are artworks from Henri Matisse’s “Pasiphae” Suite (it is based on Greek mythology) -I can’t complain, there is so much to learn in this business, it never ends!

Working at the gallery has been a nice rest from the injuries and stress which developed while training in Texas. In a way I am quite lucky on the timing of everything because after returning from Texas I had discovered a few health problems, if I had stayed in Texas that is something which most likely would have been overlooked. Now there is the opportunity to go back to college and in the Fall I will attend the San Francisco Art Institute, but most importantly, I am able to spend more time with family.
In September 2005, along with my mom & sister, we walked the perimeter of Golden Gate Park in SF for a fundraiser to support Liver Disease. We carried around footballs (symbolic of the size of your liver) dedicated to a certain person. Mine was for my father who is currently on the waiting list for a liver transplant.
In October, I was back in Golden Gate Park, this time for a different cause – a celebration for the city of San Francisco. It was a unique party for the “artists” given by SFADA (the San Francisco Art Dealers Association) in honor of the re-opening of the new de-Young Museum. The event called for festive attire so I wore my dress from the Golden waltz at Four continents. No need to worry, it was a silk-chiffon very delicate, tasteful and elegant! “Weir eye for the skate guy” or “Mr. Blackwell” would approve!

There have been many months without skating, but it seems impossible. I am slowly getting back on the ice by performing with the American Ice Theatre in San Jose and hope to spend more time on the ice either as a coach or dancer. When your goal is to fulfill a potential, it just seems impossible to quit. It has been inspiring to see former international dance teams compete this past year. The sport has changed through the “objective,” and elements now precede the essence! It is very refreshing to watch a team such as the Lithuanians who are clearly passionate about what they do and teams who can aesthetically still capture the beauty of this sport.

Overall, I have had a chance to taste the competitive lifestyle, to learn what works and what may not work, but this experience would have never survived without the support of many people, nor will I forget the kindness upon my visit to Tashkent from the Uzbek. skating federation and Ramil’s family. It truly was a unique chance of learning about a country of such contrast & history and this will always stay with me.

Ashley Duenas