by Anne Calder | Photo by Daphne Backman

Isabella Flores and Adam Bouaziz became partners in the summer of 2019. The athletes were both born in Europe – Flores in Wiesbaden, Germany to U.S. military parents and Bouaziz in Sandhurst, Great Britain. They train in Colorado Springs, Colorado with Elena Dostatni and Erik Schulz.

IDC first caught up with the duo at the 2020 US National Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, NC. They later responded to questions after Bouaziz had returned home to Great Britain just prior to the pandemic shutdown.  

Although temporarily an ocean apart, they are still maintaining their couple skating skills by taking part in a number of off-ice zoom classes together plus their own separate daily workouts and stretch sessions.

The team has also begun choreography for next season with a new style of dance neither has performed yet, but is very excited to learn.

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

Isabella Flores was four when she first stepped on the ice at a public session in Virginia. She loved skating immediately, but it took her another two years to convince her parents to start lessons.

Flores skated singles at the World Arena in her family’s new hometown of Colorado Springs until Elena Dostatni became the Director of Ice Dancing and hosted a dance seminar at the rink.

“She brought me into the world of dance; I’m extremely grateful,” Flores noted about her current coach.

Meanwhile, in Great Britain, Bouaziz was put on the ice to help his sister learn to skate. He found it to be fun and challenging. David Phillips became his coach and introduced him to ice dance.

Bouaziz enjoyed the aspect of really performing and moving to the music with a partner.

“I decided to become a serious competitor to keep pushing myself to new heights,” Bouaziz explained. “Competing itself and all the costumes and performing in front of an audience is amazing.”

In 2017, Bouaziz won the basic novice gold medal at the Solo British Championships and also began a new partnership. The duo went on to win gold in their division at the 2018 ISU Egna Dance Trophy.

They were also selected by the British Skating Federation to attend ISU sponsored camps in Torun, Poland, and Oberstdorf, Germany. In August, the team spent 15 days in Vancouver, British Columbia at a Canadian ice dance specialist summer school.

“All [the camps] were completely amazing,” Bouaziz said. “In Oberstdorf, we worked with Olympic level coaches at fantastic facilities. In Vancouver, we got a chance to train with some top Canadian teams. I think this was my favourite experience as it really pushed me to want to be better.”

In 2019, while focusing on his GCSE exams, Bouaziz also began searching for a new partner. He put his name on a website and after unsuccessful try-outs with United Kingdom skaters, he started looking internationally. At the same time, Flores was searching for a new partner.

“I reached out to Adam first,” Flores said.  “He came to Colorado for a tryout in early April.  We began training at the World Arena in July.”

Like all new partnerships, Flores and Bouaziz had options to weigh and necessary adjustments to make.

“Moving to another country was not an easy decision, but I had an opportunity to take my skating to a level not really achievable in the UK,” Bouaziz said.

“My style of skating is a lot less refined and polished than Bella’s more typical Russian type with very precise movements and technique,” Bouaziz continued. “I had previously never applied these to my skating, so learning to perfect movements in [different] ways did not come easy to me.”

“I trained more hours than I ever would, and I pushed in ways I never would have imagined, but I am adjusting to the new way of skating here. Elena is a great coach, and I have come a long way.  The hardest thing for me has been to balance the full workload of training along with taking AP classes in a new school system while aiming for the best results in both.”  

“Getting used to skating with a new partner is always hard,” Flores added. “Since Adam and I have different skating techniques, skating in sync with one another was – and sometimes is – challenging.”

In addition to training with Coach Dostatni five days a week – often as early as 4:30 am – the team also works with World Arena jumping coach, Erik Schulz.

“Erik helps us with spins a couple of times a week,” Bouaziz explained.  “He used to skate pairs, and he adds another valuable layer to our skating.”

Choreographer Christopher Dean also has weekly sessions with the team.

“It’s certainly an amazing bonus to have him here. I was extremely excited after seeing him on television and being the [British] legend that he is,” Bouaziz said. “The opportunity to work with him on a weekly basis was a dream. Of course, he and I sharing British roots it’s always great to have someone who understands where you’ve come from.”

Flores & Bouaziz agreed that if given the opportunity, it would also be exciting to have a lesson from Canadian World and Olympic ice dance legends – Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

“They’re so passionate and give off so much emotion,” Flores said. “We actually use them as inspiration for some of our elements, so hopefully they would give us some pointers as well.’

Bouaziz added, “They inspire us to always challenge ourselves to be striving for the best. They project so much energy to the audience and connect in a movement and style that is so unique and pure.”

Only six months after pairing up, Flores & Bouaziz competed at the 2020 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, NC. The team spoke about the experience.

“We were so thankful to be able to skate at Nationals,” Flores said. “It was really amazing, especially with only juniors and seniors competing this year, it gave it an elite feeling.  Performing in an arena that big…it was like you’re in a fishbowl, but not in a bad way. It was a cool experience!”

Bouaziz added. “To get to Nationals in our first season was definitely a huge achievement for us. It was the goal we set, and we did it. Special for me was the opportunity to be around and learn from some of the top junior and senior teams in the world. It has inspired us to take our skating as far as we can.  It was like a show on live TV. You go out to the middle [of the ice] with the lights off and the spotlight on and the presentation. Also being in that huge arena with that screen. Just stepping into that for the first time was pretty awesome. British Nationals is like nothing compared to this US experience.”

Flores and Bouaziz shared their thoughts about those who have influenced their ice dance careers.

“My coach Elena is amazing and knowledgeable in just about everything,” Flores reflected.  “She’s been my head coach for almost nine years. Since then she’s taught me so much about not only skating and dancing, but also how to compose myself on and off the ice.”

“Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe, 2006 Canadian ice dance Olympians had a big influence on me, having had the honor of working with them in a summer camp,” Bouaziz said.  “They opened up my perspective to the high-level competitive world of ice dance and inspired me to want and strive to be part of that world.”