Article by Karen Frank

int-tchesnitNetchaeva & Tchesnitchenko are two Russian coaches who teach in the Ann Arbor area in Michigan.

One of the keys in building a strong Ice Dance program in the United States is the development of training centers and coaching throughout the country. The Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club, in Michigan, home to Coaches Iaroslava (Yasa) Netchaeva and Iouri Tchesnitchenko, is one such center. In the 2003-2004 season, Netchaeva and Tchesnitchenko’s young teams won several medals at the National and Regional level, indicating a thriving program and promising future for the Ann Arbor Program.

Netchaeva and Tchesnitchenko have been coaching in the United States for five years, after a 15 year competitive and professional career that included the 1992 Junior World silver medal, 1992 Skate Canada Silver Medal, appearances at the European Championships, touring with Torvill and Dean’s “Ice Adventures” and performing with the Ice Theater of New York. “We’ve progressed from competing, to skating professionally, to now having an opportunity to coach the next generation of skaters. After years of competition and professional skating, it’s the best job we could wish for. We enjoy this challenging and exciting phase of our career,” said lasa.

Already their next generation of skaters has met with considerable success. Their novice team of Sarah Noel and Karl Edelmann finished second at Eastern Great Lakes Regionals and tenth at Midwesterners. Fellow novices Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates’s career highlights include a bronze medal in Juvenile at the 2001 Junior Nationals, a gold medal in intermediate at 2002 Junior Nationals, a bronze medal in Novice at 2004 Nationals, and a silver medal at the 2004 Estonia International Ice Dancing Championships. The intermediate team of Madison and Keiffer Hubbell have won two championships in a row at Junior Nationals, finishing first in Juvenile last season and Intermediate this season. Before breaking up recently, Intermediates Alexis Hauser and Nathan Truesdell placed second at Eastern Great Lakes Regionals, and sixth at Junior Nationals.

“Being trained in Russia we bring our particular flavor of knowledge and experience to our students. Russian training techniques are based on strong stroking skills, include elements of ballet, and focus on nuances.” Obviously Netchaeva and Tchesnitchenko are doing something right. Not only are their teams skating well, they all also are enjoying themselves. “They are so good and fun to work with that we wouldn’t ever think of changing,” said Samuelson. The Hubbells agree. “We like the fact that our coaches demanding and expect a lot out of us, yet are still fun to work with.” Noel and Edelmann added that though their coaches are strict and get things done, they “still keep it at a friendly level.”

An advantage to having a former competitive team coaching is their ability to teach by example. It’s a perk for both the students and the teachers. “Developing choreography for our teams is our primary opportunity to skate together,” said lasa. “louri and I enjoy the opportunity to skate together as we design our programs and demonstrate new routines for our teams.”

Though their training background is Russian, Netchaeva and Tchesnitchenko have a more international vision for skating. “The world of Figure Skating is truly a cosmopolitan. Every nation brings something of it’s one, something different.” This world-view allows an eclectic approach to choreography. “We draw on a wide array of inspiration for our choreography. It could come from a show we went to, a movie we have seen or the music piece itself could be inspiring. It’s difficult to specify where the influence might come from – it’s different for every program.”

There may be more opportunities to directly compare Netchaeva and Tchesnitchenko’s choreography for their teams next season, as all three of their remaining teams intend to compete at the novice level. Evan Bates sees this competition as a positive force in his training. “I also admire all the teams that Emily and I train with.  They are all really hardworking and they push us to work hard too.”

Of course, another key to building a strong ice dance program is to be able to keep teams together beyond the first building year and through the initial successes as the teams move up through the various competitive levels. Netchaeva and Tchesnitchenko say there are no easy answers to discovering how to do this, however having passion for the sport is a good place to begin. “There is no simple solution. A successful skating career is a long journey. A love for skating is more important to a successful career than measuring immediate results. If you truly love to skate and you work hard, that will bring you the most satisfaction and success in the long run.”

At A Glance: The Ann Arbor Teams

Sarah Noel and Karl Edelmann have been skating together for just over a year. “We met at the PSA tryouts in Dallas and then had a three day tryout in Ann Arbor in March, 2003.  Things just clicked and Sarah moved to Ann Arbor in April.” Both have been skating since they were eight years old and their goals for the upcoming season are to improve and make it to Nationals.

Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates were both taking freestyle lessons from Coach Gary Clark. Clark, who was aware that both were looking for a partner, suggested a try-out. “Everything went well and we’ve been together since,” said Emily. After narrowly missing out on a trip to 2003 Nationals (they were 6th at Midwesterns that season), they were thrilled to medal at their first Nationals in 2004. “Our goal going into Nationals was to skate our best, but we did want to place in the top 6,” Emily said. Added Evan, “When we finished 5th after the compulsory dances, we were very pleased.  Then we skated really well in our free dance and were hoping to move up to 4th.  When we found out that we had placed 3rd, we were ecstatic and yes, a little bit surprised.”

Unlike many sister/brother teams, Madison and Keiffer Hubbell were not initially paired together. It was only after Madison’s previous dance partnership ended in 2001, that they decided to give the partnership a try. Since then, they’ve won Junior Nationals two years in a row, something they consider to be their biggest achievement to date. “Our goal for Junior Nationals was first and foremost to skate the best that we could after working so hard all year. In addition, we were hoping to place in the top four. We were both happy with the way we performed through the event. After skating the final round freedance the relief was indescribable.”