by Anne Calder | Photos by Daphne Backman

Angela Ling & Caleb Wein are competing in their final year of junior ice dance eligibility. Next year Wein will age-out and the team will move up to seniors.

“We want to have a strong last season in junior. We’re happy that we’re competing internationally. Our main goal at those events will be to have a good time and skate our best. It was difficult losing a year in junior to Covid, but we’re just trying to set ourselves up as best we can to enter senior next year.”

Each was born in April, but three years apart and in different countries. Ling claims Kitchener, Ontario Canada as her birth city, while Wein was born in Rockville, Maryland USA.

Ling was four years old when she first learned to skate in Canada’s Canskate Program. Three years later she started private lessons in freestyle, adding ice dance shortly thereafter. 

“In freestyle, I landed up to a clean triple loop and a cheated flip, but I never did it in competition,” Ling said. “My coach had suggested that I start ice dancing to improve my skating skills for freestyle.”

Ling began focusing solely on ice dance in 2018 when she and her first partner began training at his home rink in Ilderton, Ontario. Olympic ice dance gold medalist Scott Moir’s aunt, Carol Moir coached the novice team.

Angela Ling & Quinn Bisson competed that summer in the North American Series in Toronto, Ontario.  After the 2019 Canadian National Championships, they went their separate ways and Ling posted on Partnership Search.

Some of Wein’s earliest skating memories are of going to the local ice rink with his family when he was four. They all took group lessons in the Learn to Skate program. Two years later he joined the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy and began ice dancing. 

Wein competed domestically and internationally including several JGP assignments for more than six years with Emma Gunter prior to her retirement in 2018. 

“After my partner retired, Elena Novak, one of my coaches at the time, noticed Ling’s profile on the Partner Search website and invited her to Maryland for a tryout,” explained Wein.

“In February 2019, I came a few times before making the ultimate decision, which for me was the craziest and most difficult thing I’ve had to do so far,” Ling revealed. “I had to finish school in Canada for the last two months, but I ended up doing the exams early so I could start training consistently as soon as possible.” 

The new team hit the ice and in July competed at the Cannon Texas Open (sixth) and the LPIDI (eighth). In addition they won the Challenge Cup, were second at the Eastern Sectionals and placed sixth at the US Ice Dance Final to qualify for the 2020 Championships. The duo finished sixth at their Nationals’ debut in January. 

Then Covid happened. All Maryland ice rinks were locked down March 30, 2020. 

“For a few months we really didn’t skate at all,” Ling added. “This was the first time either of us had gone without skating for more than a week or two which definitely felt crazy. We did off-ice classes with our coaches plus ballet, modern, jazz, and hip hop with Meredith Jones, who had [already] been doing classes with us.” 

“We had only been skating together for one season and losing that time was definitely difficult,” Wein explained. “That was time we wanted to use to really gel as a team on the ice.”

The competitive 2020-2021 skating season got off to a negative start when most early events were canceled including the entire Junior Grand Prix Series. In January, Ling & Wein finished fifth at the 2021 National Championships – their first in-person event in a year.                         

Afterwards, the team was anxious to get started on their programs for the upcoming season. Since both Ling and Wein play multiple instruments, they used their expertise to do the musical searches and cuts for both programs.

“On our own time, we would find songs we liked and our entire team including Dima [Ilin] and Greg [Zuerlein] would listen to them with us the next day,” Ling said. 

After struggling for several months to find the right Free Dance music, ironically they chose as a closer, “Can’t Pretend” by Tom Odell, a song that Coach Ilin had been playing on the ice every day. Then they needed another piece of music to go with it.

“We were extremely lucky to find “April” by The Lumineers. It matched really well and was even in the same key. The only problem was that it was a little too short, so I used my piano, and we composed 20 seconds off the motif/theme of the original piece to put at the beginning,” revealed Ling. 

Next, Ling & Wein went to Michigan for a week to work on choreography with Charlie White, the 2014 Ice Dance gold medalist with partner Meryl Davis.

“Doing choreography with Charlie was unbelievably amazing,” Ling said. “He puts so much thought into the tiniest details – not only how it should look but also why it should look that way. He also takes a lot of effort to ensure that everything flows well and works well from a technical standpoint.” 

“We spent a lot of time discussing our characters’ motivations for each movement and how that related to what we were hearing in the music and for the storyline we were creating,” Wein added. “Mostly we worked on the look and feel of the program, and how we could dig deeper into the movement and our characters. 

Ling & Wein’s music involvement has also influenced their timing and interpretation of the ice dance choreography. 

“Since we’re constantly listening to different pieces, we can more easily pick out details to highlight a certain movement,” Ling noted.

In mid July, only one month after working with White, they introduced the free dance at the Dallas Cannon Classic. At that point, they had no rhythm dance even though Wein had been searching a long time for the music.

“I finally found two pieces that everyone liked,” Wein explained. “We had the music cut and Coach Zuerlein choreographed the program [in two days].”

According to Ling, creating that program was the most fun she’s ever had doing choreography. 

“Choreo with Charlie was the absolute coolest; choreo with Greg was by far the most fun.”

The team only had a few weeks to tweak the program before testing the waters at the Chesapeake Open in August. 

A week later Ling & Wein won silver with both programs at the Lake Placid Ice Dance International at the Skating Club of Boston in Norwood, Massachusetts.

The couple made its international debut as a team at the Junior Grand Prix in Krasnoyarsk, Russia in the middle of September and returned home with the bronze medal. They’ll close out the Series at its final event in Linz, Austria.

In addition to their figure skating and music, Ling & Wein’s resumes include other impressive skills and hobbies.

Angela Ling is a multi talented seventeen-year old. She has passed both the level eight RCM (Royal Conservatory of Music) piano and level seven Russian ballet exams. She also plays the guitar and violin.

“I haven’t been doing Russian ballet outside of skating for a bit now, but Caleb and I have been doing private lessons together,” Ling said. “I had an amazing ballet coach who provided me with really good foundations. Since a lot of skating is based on ballet and ballroom, having a ballet background has really helped.”

Caleb Wein’s curiosity has led him down a variety of paths. He’s currently an aerospace engineering major at the University of Maryland. A few years ago he felt his skating was in a rut and wanted to take it in a different direction. That’s where his exploration into dance, especially modern began. 

I’ve taken courses in several different modern dance techniques including [those of] Lester Horton, Martha Graham and José Limón,” Wein said. “I’ve also had the opportunity to be in classes led by choreographers and dancers such as Ronald K. Brown, Matthew Rushing, Charles O. Anderson, Micaela Taylor and Christopher Morgan.”

“This past year, one of the classes I took at the University was about the creative process in dance. There I was able to really explore with my own choreography. I also got to choreograph a solo in collaboration with the lighting design students.” 

“All these experiences have really opened my eyes to the different possibilities of dance. In the future, I want to start incorporating more of what I’ve learned in these other experiences and bring something new and fresh onto the ice.” 

Ling & Wein love ice dance because they love dance…

“I love the focus on creativity and actual dancing,” Ling said. “I definitely like having a partner too; it helps make both practice and competition less stressful and a lot of fun! It’s cool to have someone going through almost exactly the same thing you are – you understand each other and can talk about anything.”

Wein added, “It’s really the dance part of ice dance that I think is so amazing and is what is so appealing to me. To be on the ice, dancing with another person with the music is such a unique and special thing. There is so much artistry and artistic potential in ice dance.”

Angela Ling shares the positives about ice dance that she would tell a person unfamiliar with the discipline. 

“Ice dancers are always trying to convey feelings, emotions, relationships, and/or stories. Our goal is to connect with you whether that is through joy, heartbreak, love, or another universal understanding. Within a single free dance event, you’ll be able to experience multiple different stories, different styles of movement, and different genres of music and dance.” 

“There will always be something that you’ll really enjoy. In the rhythm dance, there is a theme but even while there will be a certain similarity between everyone’s programs, the variety of music selections and differences in interpretation keeps it fresh and entertaining throughout the entire event! Ice dance is such a multifaceted event and is continuously evolving. I really hope more and more people can discover it and realize what they’re missing!” 

Caleb Wein shares why he thinks a person unfamiliar with ice dance should attend an event?

What’s so great about ice dance is that it is an art and can be appreciated the same way something like a painting is. A competition is like going to an art gallery. Within a competition, you have a complete range of genres and moods, each its own piece of art. You have emotional routines, exciting routines, entertaining routines, etc.” 

“There is something there for everyone. And if you don’t like the current routine, all you have to do is wait for the next team. If you are still not convinced, then at the very least you should watch purely to appreciate the skill it takes, not only to be dancing, but also to be dancing on the ice with another person.” 

The Junior Grand Prix Series concludes October 6-9 with Cup of Austria, Linz, Austria.                                                  Event information: Ice-dance.com