by Anne Calder | Photos by Daphne Backman & Jordan Cowan
Molly Cesanek and Yehor Yehorov are junior ice dancers who represent the USA. The team sat down with IDC in Lake Placid, NY at the Ice Dance International and shared their skating journey.
Molly Cesanek’s love for dance began with ballet slippers at age 3, followed by freestyle skating lessons two years later. While she enjoyed the transitions and choreography more than the jumps, she was too shy to skate with a partner, so ice dance would have to wait.
“I wouldn’t even hold my coach’s hand to learn the pattern dance,” Cesanek said.
When she was 12, she joined the U.S. Figure Skating Solo Dance Series and loved it. During her first year, she competed against a solo boy. They became great friends and began ice dancing together.
Meanwhile in the Ukraine, Yehorov began skating freestyle when he was seven. For six years, he did doubles and a few triples until he began growing, and the jumps became difficult.
“People said I had strong skating skills, and that I should ice dance, but I was shy because I would have to skate with a girl,” Yehorov said.
With his mother’s encouragement, he gave it a try. It took only a month with his first choreography to get him excited about the new discipline.
Cesanek and Yehorov were 12 and 14 respectively, when they began to concentrate on partner ice dancing. Each took a different path to develop those skills, but their eventual partnership benefited from the separate training and competitions.
Cesanek skated on the juvenile, intermediate, and novice levels with three different partners and medaled at two US National Championships (2014, 2015).
In his first year, Yehorov and his partner worked with Olympic and World medalist Evgeni Platov in New Jersey, USA, but then returned to Kiev, UKR to continue training.
“I was not a very experienced ice dancer,” Yehorov said. “I was just learning. Evgeni taught me the ropes. I came to him not even knowing what a rocker and counter were called. He taught me how to have manners toward my partner, and how to have a nice partnership. He was a major part of my ice dance journey. I am very thankful for him.”
Yehorov competed in four Junior Grand Prixs from 2014-2017, which allowed him to observe strong teams and learn how to compete internationally.
In early 2018, both Cesanek and Yehorov had ended their previous partnerships. He and his coaches saw skating videos of her on the Internet. He followed her on Instagram. She followed him back. A tryout was scheduled for April at the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy.
“I came by myself,” Yehorov explained. “Molly’s family picked me up at the airport. I have flown before by myself for many competitions, so it wasn’t a big deal for me. I chose Wheaton and left the Ukraine because I was looking for a really good partner. It was fate that I found Molly.”
Both had similar qualms about the tryout.
“I was very nervous because Yehor was very strong,” Cesanek explained. “He was really focused, and English was not his first language. I was a little intimidated at first. He was bigger than me, so it took a little bit to adjust to him.
Yehorov was excited and nervous to skate at Alexei Kiliakov’s Academy. He had seen him at international competitions and thought that he was one of the top coaches in the world.
“I felt confident, but also, I was a little nervous because she was someone I didn’t know. What I felt first was how tiny she was, but I really liked how we felt together,” he said.
“The first few days were hard, and we had to get used to each other,” he added. “In a few weeks, it felt like we skated a long time together.” Cesanek agreed. “Every day we became more and more comfortable with each other and after a month or so, we worked really well together.
As Cesanek and Yehorov began skating as a team, they faced challenges but learned how to make adjustments.
For Cesanek, communication was the hardest thing to overcome. They often became frustrated trying to fix problems, but didn’t understand what the other was saying because of the language difference.
“When we realized we were saying the exact same thing, we’d find ourselves laughing,” she said.
They even used Google translate. It took time, but they have become better communicators.
“His English has really improved. Yehor can talk in Russian, and I’m able to understand more and more,” Cesanek noted. “It’s really cool how we’ve learned each other’s languages, and now we just use a combination of both, and it really works well.”
“For me, my skating was a little more aggressive than Molly’s was when we tried out,” Yehorov said.
“Now, sometimes Molly skates even more aggressive than me which is awesome.”
The team competed at the Cannon Texas Open in July 2018 and finished fourth in the RD and fifth in the FD.
The duo maintained a very rigid daily training schedule. It began with a two-hour practice session at 6:00 am, followed by a break for Cesanek to attend high school classes. Afterwards, they returned for off-ice ballroom, modern and ballet classes. In the evening the duo had another two-hour practice session.
“It’s funny. Sometimes we looked around, and we were the only ones left on the ice. The zamboni was coming out, and we were finishing up – the zamboni drivers all know us,” laughed Cesanek.
In November, they won the Pacific Coast Sectionals, and punched a ticket to the 2019 U.S. National Championships where they placed fifth in the junior division.
After Nationals, Yehorov went home to Kiev to visit his family. When he returned, the team began training for the current season. The agenda included learning the brand new junior pattern dance – the Tea-Time Foxtrot – and selecting their music.
“Learning the Tea-Time steps was actually not bad at all; we really enjoyed how light and airy the pattern felt. The most challenging part was when we turned the music on and executed the pattern at a much faster pace than when we were simply learning the steps slowly,” explained Cesanek.
“We got used to it though, and it just came down to leaning and mastering the technique so we could present it with the character it has,” she added.
When the theme for this year’s Rhythm Dance (Musicals and/or Operettas) was announced, Cesanek’s grandmother suggested they check out shows with Tommy Tune. They had no idea who he was, but researched him and found one they loved – My One and Only. Their coaches agreed.
They listened to all the numbers and even found a piece with the correct bpm [beats per minute] for the Tea-Time Foxtrot. They chose the songs “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and “Can’t Be Bothered Now”, and it all fell into place.
“My grandma has given me music ideas since I began skating, so to be able to give her all the credit for finding our RD music this year, means a lot to me,” Cesanek said.
She explained the theme of the Broadway play. “It was an award winner in the 1980’s starring Tommy Tune and Twiggy about a boy [Yehorov] determined to meet and win a girl [Cesanek]. By the second half of our routine, I am dancing around with him because my character has fallen in love.”
For the free dance, the team selected two pieces by Matt McAndrew to express an illustration of love and the power that love carries. It opens with a romantic blues section to “Make It Rain” and closes with “Take Me to the Church.”
“Yehor and I really love both of our programs, so we want to have our stories felt by every individual watching and for them to enjoy the dances as much as we do, Cesanek said.” Our ultimate goal is to have our audience so captivated by the end of our performance that they want to see it again.”
This fall Cesanek & Yehorov will be adding a new challenge to their itinerary when Cesanek begins classes at American University in Washington, DC. One positive is the elimination of the traveling back and forth between the Virginia suburbs where she attended H.S. classes and Rockville, MD.
“It will only be a 20-minute drive for me from my dorm to the training facility. Now the five-hours spent driving can be repurposed as needed. We can even train more,” Cesanek noted.
At the end of our conversation IDC asked Cesanek & Yehorov to share a few little known facts about their teammate.
Cesanek about Yehorov:
- Ever since he tried beef jerky in the U.S., it has become one of his favorite foods.
- He loves fishing. His dream is to fish in exotic places around the world like the Amazon River and Alaska. He also wants to Marlin fish in Costa Rica.
- He is super organized with his things – actually he’s obsessed with putting them in the exact same place every day.
“As silly as he is though, Yehor is the best partner ever, and we really enjoy skating together.”
Yehorov about Cesanek:
- She makes sure I eat healthy and doesn’t let me drink soda or sugary foods, which is good.
- She makes me practice and improve my English. She prints me different worksheets to do and then checks them like a teacher. She is tough on me sometimes, but I appreciate it.
- She loves ‘run-throughs’. If the coach says, ‘double run-throughs’ as a joke, Molly is excited.
“Molly and I are great partners. When we first started communicating, it was really tough, but now we think the same, do the same, and have the same goals. For that I have the best partner in the world.”
Since the IDC interview, Cesanek and Yehorov have enjoyed several new and exciting ice dance experiences. First they won the bronze medal at the Lake Placid Ice Dance International – the first time together on an international podium.
Soon after arriving home to Virginia, they received their new Team USA jackets.
”I’ve been dreaming about this day for so long – as long as I can remember,” giggled Cesanek.
Another great moment was their first Junior Grand Prix assignment to Riga, Latvia (September 4-7).
“I am so honored to be asked to skate for Team USA at Riga, Latvia,” said a thrilled Yehorov. “Competing internationally for Team USA is so exciting,”Cesanek added.
Cesanek & Yehorov have high hopes for a successful season. They began with a medal at the Lake Placid Ice Dance International. Riga, Latvia is the next step in their competitive journey.