Just a month ago, the skating community was focused on the 2020 World Championships. We were all planning to head to Montréal to witness the very best in ice dance. Personally, I was looking forward to seeing performances from such a large ice dance roster that included so many debuts. Two weeks ago, things were in flux, and by the end of that week, the ISU decided to cancel the event. I’m writing this blog on the date I would have driven back home to Maine after the competitions.

The World Championships have been cancelled before, first due to World War I and then World War II. The event was also not contested in 1961 due to the Sabena Flight 548 tragedy, which killed the entire U.S. figure skating team. In 2011, the World Championships were scheduled to take place in Japan. Ten days prior to the event’s start, a 9.0 undersea earthquake occurred off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku, Japan, and resulted in tsunami waves hitting the mainland. In addition to loss of life, the tsunami also caused nuclear accidents and widespread extensive damage in northeastern Japan. Though the ISU considered cancelling the event altogether, six countries (Canada, United States, Russia, Croatia, Finland, and Austria) offered to host it, with Russia winning the bid. Just five weeks later, athletes took the ice at Moscow’s Megasport Arena. 2020 is the first time that the event has been affected by a global pandemic.

Having time at home has given me time to reflect. Photographing ice dance (and figure skating) brings me joy. I enjoy seeing programs at the start of the season in Lake Placid and ending the season with National events, ISU championships, and Worlds. Interviewing teams and bringing attention to this beautiful sport makes me happy.

In this time of uncertainty, the IDC team has decided to check in with those in the sport who are impacted by the pandemic. We wanted to give them an opportunity to share what this experience is like for them, while also giving them a chance to share a message with fans and the broader ice dance community. We want to build connections at a time when everyone is feeling unsettled. 

The following is the first edition of our Ice Dance Community Connections blog. Our plan is to post this blog each week, so if you are an athlete, coach, choreographer, parent, or anyone in our ice dance community who would like to share your experience, reach out to us on social media or email ([email protected]). If you are a solo dancer, we’d like to hear from you too!

Until next week,

Daphne

 

Olivia Smart, two-time Spanish ice dance champion with partner, Adrian Diaz

Smart is currently in Montréal with her two dogs and boyfriend Zach Donohue. Donohue is a two-time U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Hubbell.

What is it like in your community?
Everybody is being smart about the situation here in the city. It’s a lot quieter on the streets and the grocery stores aren’t completely empty, as people are being smart about not overbuying!

How are you keeping fit during social distancing and with the rinks being closed?
I am making sure I stretch every morning or evening. I’m doing some sort of core, leg, and arms exercises every other day, and on the day in between, taking a long family walk somewhere!

What activities have you been doing during the downtime?
It started with a lot of cleaning & organizing that we don’t usually have the time to get to do. Now, we are repainting our whole apartment during these days instead of hiring and paying someone to do it. We have all the time in the world now to spare, so why not! And I am learning how to play chess via my tutor Zach Donohue. 😉

Do you have a message for your fans?
Stay safe, be smart about social distancing and feeling out your body for what it needs each day! Whether that is fresh air, a smoothie, medicine, a yoga session, or even a glass of water or wine. Feel it out and try new things even! We will all get through this. But for now, let’s explore and expand our feelings, experiences, and activities during these times. Get to know your mind and body and give it some extra love and attention, because…why not!


Pippa Towler-Green, former international ice dance competitor and now coach

Towler-Green is in South London. Her ice rink closed on Friday evening after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech asking for all leisure centers to be closed.

What is it like in your community?
I think England was a bit behind everyone else. This is now my second day of insolation. Everyone has been panic buying, but everything is peaceful. We are helping others, plus spring is here, so the weather is good.

How are you interacting with your students, while practicing social distancing and with the rinks being closed?
I haven’t spoken to our pupils, but we have a WhatsApp chat group with all their parents. They will be carrying on with their off-ice fitness, and studying or doing online ballet sessions. They are already missing the skating. It was the start of the solo ice dance season here.

What activities have you been doing during the downtime?
I am going to make the most of the free time by decorating (which I love), DIY projects, and walking our dogs.

Do you have a message for skaters who are not able to train on ice at this time?
I think this is going to be a very difficult time for all athletes. Stay strong, talk to people if you are feeling down but carry on with your off-ice training, watch skating or dance videos to get inspiration, and use this time to relax as much as you can.

 

Melanie Heaney, figure skating photographer, sometimes writer-editor and IDC’s managing editor

Heaney lives in Cleveland with her husband and 16-month-old daughter.

What is it like in your community?
Our governor just signed an order to shelter in place on Sunday, so things are quiet, and that will continue. It doesn’t really change anything for me personally, as my family has been essentially sheltering in place since the previous Sunday. My husband has been working from home, and we’ve only been out a couple of times all week to purchase food. The weather has been really crummy too, so we haven’t gone out for exercise or fresh air, which has been unfortunate luck. We just moved here in January, so it’s been strange to go from bitter cold to social isolation. We haven’t really had a chance to get to know our new community very well yet. It’s not much of a “neighborhood”—we live near downtown in the city of Cleveland—so it’s an odd feeling for it to be so quiet.

How has social distancing affected your day-to-day life and business?
Since I’m a work-at-home mom, my days are pretty much the same. Each day revolves around feeding a toddler and filling the time between meals and snacks. We don’t have any local friends yet, so we were already regularly exchanging photos and videos with Claire’s best baby friends back in California. We were part of an incredibly supportive mom-and-baby community there, so I’m definitely having an easier time social distancing here than if we were still in Oakland. It’s nice having my husband home, although he works for a large food corporation, so he’s busier than ever. I’m trying to be mindful of finding quality time to work a bit each day, as I fall pretty easily into depression when I feel like I’m not useful.

My business, though, has vanished for the time being. Photographing figure skating shows and competitions is the bulk of what I do, and it’s hard to say when those will start again. My biggest events of the year are in the summer, so I am hoping that those events might be able to go ahead. I’m not sure when rinks will reopen; even once they do, the athletes will need time to train before getting back into competitions. I bought a new camera just before the New Year and we had already booked a lot of flights and hotels for event travel throughout the year. I was given credits for the flights, of course, but the credit card bills are still due, and there’s no money coming in now, so that’s been stressful. There’s not much to do besides wait it out, stay inside, and avoid contributing to the spread. I am lucky enough to have finally built my business up after a decade of cobbling together three part-time jobs at a time; I hope I will still have it when this is over.

What activities have you been doing during the downtime?
Since my weekdays haven’t changed drastically, I only have a bit more downtime than usual. I’m still primarily taking care of a baby during the weekdays; I do most of my work during naps, after bedtime, and on the weekends. Of course, I have about eight ideas for new, detailed projects. We’ll see how far I get on some of them. Since I don’t have any new photos coming in, I’m hoping to get all of my photos from the past season edited. If I succeed in that, I might even tackle some big events from previous years that never got fully edited.



I’ve also been spending a lot of time on meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. I enjoy cooking, something I definitely never said five years ago. But as I have done it more and gained confidence, I have started to enjoy it. It’s been nice to have a good dinner to look forward to each night.

Do you have a message for skaters who are not able to train on-ice at the moment?
I really feel for the solo dancers and showcase skaters; National Showcase is in August and the National Solo Dance Final is in September, so their seasons are really in danger. I can only imagine that it’s difficult to stay focused and to continue off-ice training without knowing what will happen. I hope to see many of you later this year, so keep in touch with your coaches and keep training as best as you can! I hope to see you again in a rink soon.

Karina Manta, former Team USA ice dancer and current performer in Cirque du Soleil’s AXEL tour with partner Joe Johnson

Manta is currently in Atlanta with her parents.

What is it like in your community?
It’s a bit tough to say what the community is like, because I’ve been staying in. Since I had to be traveling until about a week ago, I’m trying to stay quarantined at least for a full two weeks now—just in case I was exposed. I’m feeling fine, but I don’t want to put anybody at risk!

Can you update us on the status of your tour?
Our tour has been put on hold for a bit. In fact, all Cirque shows have taken a pause for the moment. Right now, a series of AXEL’s planned tour dates in the U.S., British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan have been suspended. I’m already missing tour life, but I know this is for the health and safety of everyone, and that’s what is most important right now.

With your tour being postponed, how are you keeping active without a rink?
I’m probably going to be in the minority here, but I’ve actually been enjoying the break from working out! A week or two of rest isn’t going to kill me. I’ve been taking my dog on walks through the neighborhood (keeping a generous distance from other people), but otherwise, I’m giving my body some time to chill and be lazy! I know I’m not going to forget how to skate during this time! I’m sure I’ll start getting restless in a few days, and maybe I’ll do some Youtube yoga or some living room dancing, but I’m not going to stress about it too much just yet.

What activities have you been doing during the downtime?
I’ve been reading, and I’ve been working on [writing] my book a lot! The break has given me time to focus on that project. It’s been a huge relief to have something to throw myself into besides skating right now.

Otherwise, like everyone, I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix. And I’ve been eating weird snacks from leftovers in my fridge. And I’ve probably been spending way too much time on social media. I think we can all cut ourselves some slack, though. It’s a tough time for everyone, and we’re all just managing the best we can! (I’ve also been FaceTiming with Joe a lot…this might be the longest we’ve ever been apart.)

Do you have a message for your fans?
Just stay in and be safe! I can’t wait to be back on tour, and I hope to see you all when this is over.


Danielle Earl, figure skating and dance photographer

Earl is in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

What is it like in your community?
Our community is essentially shut down at the moment (we have had 10+ reported cases in my city so far). Our Premier has made it illegal to have gatherings of over 50 people, and (thankfully) people seem to be following the self-isolation suggestions pretty well. My office building has been pretty much deserted for the past week, with the dance studio and Kung Fu Academy shut down. I have been self-isolating since March 10th, when I got home from the Quebec Provincial Championships.

How has social distancing affected your day-to-day life and business?
My day-to-day life hasn’t been affected too much. When I’m home I mostly work alone at my office or with my assistant (and her adorable therapy puppy in training). Our desks are far enough apart that we can continue to properly socially distance and she knows that if she doesn’t feel comfortable coming into work for any reason, she will still have a job when she feels it’s safe to come back.

My business, on the other hand, has been really impacted. January-March are my 3 busiest months of the year, with 2-3 competitions each weekend. With all events having been cancelled for the foreseeable future, my income (like many people’s) is basically non-existent. I know I’m not alone in this struggle, so please support ALL small businesses as best you can.

What activities have you been doing during the downtime?
I’m taking the time I would have spent traveling to/shooting at Worlds, Provincials, and my dance competitions to get caught up on editing! I still have photos from the final Rock the Rink show that I haven’t even had a chance to look at, and I’m still culling through Nationals (Singles and Synchro)! I’m also taking the opportunity to enjoy the evenings a bit more instead of working until 9 p.m. and, like many people, I’m doing a nice deep clean of my office and living spaces.

Do you have a message for skaters who are not able to train on-ice at the moment?
I know it’s tough not to be on the ice in a time like this and I know many of you were supposed to be at the World Championships this week, but tough times don’t last forever! The sooner we can all properly self-isolate and stop the spread of this virus (Flatten the Curve!), the sooner we will all be able to get back to doing what we love most. Keep pushing through! You are resilient, you are incredible, and we are going to get through this as a skating (and global) family!