Meet ice dancer Mina Esfandiari

In this Q&A, we introduce you to Mina Esfandiari, an ice dancer who competes in the junior solo combined dance events. She finished eighth at the 2022 U.S. National Solo Dance Finals. She trains with Krigor Studio at Montclair State University and is coached by Igor Lukanin and Kristin Fraser. 

Tell us about how your skating journey began. What drew you to the ice? Do you have any special memories? 
When I was 7 years old, I was invited to a birthday party at an ice-skating rink in Virginia. At first, I was holding on to the board and couldn’t even stand up. Then when I walked out of that party, I started telling my mom that I loved it and wanted to begin lessons. Ever since then, my love for ice skating has only grown!

The special memories from when I was little include my mom taking me to the rink when I first began and I would just skate around the boards, not caring about anything else in the world. I had just started and all I wanted to do was skate, because the feeling made me feel so free in those moments.

When and why did you choose to do solo dance?
At age 8, I was competing as a freestyler and after my third season, I asked my mom if I could take ice dance lessons to improve my edges and step sequences within my program. From there, I started taking lessons in January 2019 with my first coach and he thought I had potential, so he enrolled me into the solo dance series. That year I began competing Pre-Bronze Patterns, while I was still competing as a Juvenile freestyler.  My love for ice dance grew with each competition I entered. That year, I qualified for Solo Nationals and won Bronze.  From that day on, I knew that I belonged as an ice dancer, and I made the switch.

What do you like most about Solo Dance? What kind of music to you like to skate to the best? Why?
Solo dance has matured me as a skater, while it also made me feel comfortable in my body. The Solo Dance community is such a wonderful group of people, and everyone support each other no matter what happens.
My favorite style of music includes Latin or hip-hop. Although, I love skating to the upbeat styles of music, I enjoy learning all different kinds of programs. For example, this year I am trying something entirely new that I have never done before.

Tell us about your training site. (Location, facilities, dance mates, classes, coaches, etc.)
My head coaches are Kristen Fraser-Lukanin and Igor Lukanin. I train at Montclair State University Ice Arena in Little Falls, New Jersey. The training facility is the campus of a college which includes tracks, tennis courts, etc. To start our morning, we have a daily edge class and many varieties of off ice classes every day. The off ice classes include different forms of dance, conditioning, and stretching.

Who choreographed your programs. What do you like best about dancing them? 
Igor Lukanin choreographed my programs for this season. What I love most about Igor is that the choreography comes natural to him. I learn choreography quick which allows us to have more time to perfect the programs. In my Rhythm Dance, I love how I am able show my passion for tango. My favorite part of my free dance is definitely my choreo step. I use a lot of body movement that I have never done before which allows me to show everyone what I am capable of performing.  

Solo Dance will be an international discipline this season? Share your thoughts about this change. 
I am so excited solo dance is an international discipline this season. All my life, I have been waiting for this day as solo dance has become a big part of my skating career. This was a big step forward, as it shows everyone that this is a community now. Solo dance has grown over the years and has made so many changes to match the dance team rules.

In skating, what are you most looking forward to this season? What will be your biggest challenge(s)? 
This season, I am looking forward to stepping out onto competition ice and performing the best programs possible. I have been training hard to show the different styles and what I can do. My biggest challenges and goals are qualifying for Nationals and placing.

If you could have a lesson with any ice dancer past/present, who would it be? Why?
If I could have a lesson with any ice dancer, it would be Caroline Green & Michael Parsons or Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir. Both of those teams have unique body movements and expressions, as well as incredible edges and technique.

What are your favorite off-ice activities?
My favorite off-ice activities include hanging out with my family and friends. It’s nice to take my mind off of skating for a day and be around all the people that I love.

Please share anything else you would like our readers to know about you as a skater?
I am forever thankful I gave ice dance a try, because it has brought me amazing people and the best skating family I have always wanted. Thank you to Kristen, Igor, and my former coach Andrejs Sitiks who have made my dream come true. I would never have been where I am now without any of them.