Q & A by Karen Frank
When did the two of you start skating?
Danielle and Alex: We started group basic 8 skating lessons at Newbridge Arena in Bellmore, New York at the beginning of the summer in 2000. By September 2003, we started to work privately with coaches Alex Esman and Marina Koulbitskya.
What got you interested in Ice Skating as a sport?
Danielle and Alex: We were always fascinated by skating. In fact, we started watching figure skating on TV with our parents when we were three years old (or even younger). We loved how graceful and strong skaters appeared to be. When commercials came on, we would glide across the floor in socks pretending we were skating. We went to a “skating birthday party” for one of our friends from school. It was our first time in skates. After that skating party we begged our parents for skating lessons.
Once you started skating, why did you choose to specialize in dance?
Danielle and Alex: We were drawn to ice dancing more than any other skating discipline from the beginning. Even though we watched freestyle and pairs along with our parents, it was ice dance that really got our attention more than anything else. In fact, we used to pretend we were ice dancers like Evgeny Platov and Pasha Grishuk whom we watched on TV during the 1996 World Championships. Our Mom says, one day when we were three years old, we came running into the kitchen screaming, “We want to be skater dancers, we want to be skater dancers.” There was never any question about what we wanted. It was really always Ice Dance. Watching Evgeny Platov and Pasha Grishuk at a young age really inspired us to dance; so having had Evgeny Platov develop the choreography for our 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 free dance has been an incredible experience for us.
Why did you decide to team up with each other, instead of each looking for a different partner?
Danielle and Alex: We are twins. We’ve always been a team. We’ve been doing things together since day one. We’ve always wanted to skate together. There was never any question about us teaming up. It came naturally.
So, what’s it like to skate with your sibling?
Danielle: It’s great to skate with Alex. I believe we have an uncommon connection. It’s a twin thing. Sometimes we annoy each other, but over all it’s awesome to skate with my brother. I think that the bond we have as brother and sister and in particular as twins helps us through times that are tough for us as ice dance partners. Our partnership is both on and off the ice so when the going gets tough, and sometimes it does, we know we have to work things out. We just can’t quit each other and look for another partner. That off-ice bond makes us work through things on the ice that maybe we wouldn’t otherwise work through. It makes us both more demanding and more tolerant of each other.
Alex: It’s so cool to skate with Danielle because we love each other and we’ve always wanted to skate together. Ice dancing as a team is a dream we’re making come true. There are times we get on each others nerves and argue, but we’re learning to get through that. The thing that was the toughest for us was when we hit twelve, Danielle started to get taller and heavier than me. It was frustrating for me. It made partnering, especially lifts, challenging. The good news is that we’re passing that hurdle now and I’m starting to gain height and strength. Overall, it’s wonderful skating with Danielle.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of skating with your twin?
Danielle: It’s an advantage because we have a very good connection and we can be open with each other. We see teams at our level and higher break up. We see the partner searches. The biggest advantage we have is that because we are related off the ice, we just can’t quit each other so we have to work through anything that comes up. We are naturally committed to our partnership. The only disadvantage is that we can get on each others nerves.
Alex: I think because we’re brother and sister we are closer and more open with each other than we would be if we weren’t. There’s a real bond that other teams can never have. It also doesn’t hurt that we are brother and sister twins because we physically match and look good together as a dance team. There’s really a lot more advantage than disadvantage but being close, we sometimes argue.
Time to gush. What do you like best about your partner?
Danielle: I like that Alex understands how to move. I also really like how quickly he learns and remembers all the step sequences in the compulsories and our free dance.
Alex: Danielle is very determined to do well and listens very intently. She works hard and is so persistent. She is the best.
How long have you been training as a dance team?
Danielle and Alex: We’ve been skating together as a dance team since September 2003.
What are your coaches like? How do they help you reach your goals?
Danielle: Well to start with, I wouldn’t have gotten to were I am now without them. I think skating with our coaches has brought my skating level up a lot because they expect a lot from me. When I’ve done something well, I hear it and when I haven’t, I hear it. They have helped me understand where my body should be in all the moves that I do. I feel very close and trusting of them and that’s important to me. They’re great!
Alex: I think our coaches are the best. They have a great understanding of the sport and are fun to be with. There’s no question that they expect us to work hard and there’s no question that they care about us.
Here’s a good coach story. If it wasn’t for our coach, Alex Esman we never would have gotten to the 2007 Junior Nationals in Cleveland last December. My family’s minivan broke down on the highway somewhere in Pennsylvania after a rock hit the under carriage and broke a radiator line. We were stuck there and needed to leave our car in Pennsylvania. Alex Esman picked us up and got us to Cleveland. Also there have been times when my parent’s schedules have gotten jammed up and they needed help getting us to school after the morning skating session. Alex has taken us.
What are your goals for the 2007-2008 season?
Danielle: As far as competition goals go, we would really like to medal in Lake Placid this year; keep our title as North Atlantic Regional Juvenile Ice Dance Champions, and with hard work, medal at the Junior Nationals.
We have many other goals too. The choreography for our free dance this season is challenging me to bring a lot of expression to my arms and upper body so they carry the story of the dance while I’m also focusing on the footwork and all the elements. So, one of my goals this season is to be able to do different Middle Eastern style movements with my arms and really skate at the same time. Along with this goal, I am working on developing a wider range of facial expressions. I also want to work on the edges and patterns in our compulsories to sharpen.
Alex: One of my personal goals for this season is to become more consistent and exacting with my footwork and extensions. Let me add to that: knees and edges. I’ve got to bend my knees more and have deeper edges. Another goal is to keep more air under my chin and avoid the tendency to glance down. I also want to work on getting into character before performing so when we get on the ice our expression connects better to the dance.
What’s your favorite element to perform?
Danielle: I love twizzles. I also like all kinds of footwork because I like the rapid change of direction and edges. It’s challenging and I like to challenge myself. I also like doing lifts because it feels like I’m flying.
Alex: I like lifts because there are so many different ways to do them. We just started doing combination lifts. I’m currently working on a spread eagle lift where Danielle is in a split on my legs and then changes position into a plank. I also really like a doughnut lift we do where Danielle is on my lap in a doughnut position and my knees are bent to ninety degrees. Getting our twizzles uniform, I enjoy that too.
Who are your role models?
Danielle and Alex: Evgeny Platov was the one skaters who inspired us the most. Along with Platov, Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomorov are right up there for both of us. We love how graceful, powerful and creative they are. Their speed is amazing.
Do you have any hobbies?
Danielle: We both study ballroom dance, ballet and go to the gym twice a week. Recently we’ve added Arabian dance lessons for our new program. We are in the eighth grade and we’re both on the honor role so outside of time spent on the ice along with off ice training, most of our time is spent doing homework and studying. I also spend time drawing, reading, playing with my rabbits and guinea pigs, and hanging out with my friends and family.
Alex: I read a lot when I can and I hang out with my friends. During the school year, when we’re not on the ice or in dance classes, we spend a lot of our time doing our homework. Summer is a lot easier.
Do you have a favorite subject in school?
Danielle: My favorite subjects are math, science, and art.
Alex: My favorite subject is French. I really like studying language and plan to study Russian next.
What are your non-skating goals?
Danielle: I want to do well in school and eventually become a pediatrician. I want to be successful in everything I do.
Alex: I don’t know exactly what I want to do in the area of professions yet but I do hope to go to an Ivy League school. Like ice dance, this is something I’ve wanted to do since I can remember.
Anything else you want to tell us about?
Danielle and Alex: You can learn more about us by visiting our Web site at www.icetwins.com