by Anne Calder | Photos by Daphne Backman
Emilea Zingas & 2020 World Junior Champion, Vadym Kolesnik officially announced their Senior Ice Dance partnership on May 15, 2022. The duo is training in Novi, Michigan with Igor Shpilband’s group.
The Grosse Point Farms, Michigan native spent 13 years honing her skills in singles prior to making the move to ice dance. Brooke Castile O’Keefe, 2007 Pairs US National and Nebelhorn Trophy gold medalist with Benjamin Okolski was one of her coaches.
The youngest of four siblings, Zingas was the 2018 U.S. National Novice silver medalist in San Jose, California. Since she has dual citizenship with Cyprus, a decision was then made to represent that country.
“Since they have a Federation, my parents, coaching team at the time, and I decided it would be a good idea to represent Cyprus because it was a fairly easy transition,” Zingas explained. “I competed internationally for them for two seasons attending four Challenger Series competitions and the 2021 World Championships.”
The Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany was the final qualifying event for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Igor Shpilband was there with a team and so was Emilea Zingas hoping to earn a spot for Cyprus.
“After my skate, Igor asked me about trying out with Vadym,” Zingas said. “The idea of ice dance was a little bit shocking at first because I’d never really considered it at all. I later agreed to a tryout.”
Meanwhile, Kolesnik had been searching for a partner while still training at Novi. One day he received a call from Shpilband. “I found this amazing girl at this competition,” he said. “I’ll try to arrange a tryout. You’re going to love her, but she’s still competing.”
Kolesnik, who had been in Ukraine for his birthday, Zingas, and Shpilband eventually met at the Novi Ice Arena for what the coach said was for just an introduction. Since she had a competition in a week, there would be no tryout. Shpilband then suggested Kolesnik just take her hand and try skating.
“We skated around and it felt good,” Kolesnik said. “It was a bit awkward at first, because Igor didn’t tell me we were actually going to skate.”
“I didn’t know we were going to skate together either,” Zingas confessed. “I had never skated with anyone at all on the ice. Even holding his hand felt really weird at first. I got used to it pretty quickly.”
Their adjustment was something good from the first try – their personalities and all.
“I enjoy working with this girl,” Kolesnik said. ”I felt some kind of understanding from the first time we skated, which I didn’t feel for a while. I missed it. It had been a long time. I’m still adjusting – coming back to competitions – it’s like baby steps again.”
“We’re both very dedicated people,” Zingas added. “We both love to skate, and the passion comes from there. That’s why we clicked right away. The transition to dance was difficult – I think I’m still transitioning – there’s so much to learn. Learning all that and adjusting my skating style and being mindful that I’m skating with someone else was a challenging transition for sure, but I’ve enjoyed every second of it.”
Kolesnik thinks skating close in position has been the most challenging. Elements are something you just practice. They’re repetition and repetition.
Zingas added, “Actually, I had never taken even a pattern dance. I never did any dances before this. The past months, I’ve had to test all my dances, which I found to be challenging.
The team drives forty-five minutes to an hour each morning to practice at the Novi Ice Arena. At the Chesapeake Open in June, they performed only the Rhythm Dance. The Free Dance made its debut at the recent Dallas Classic where the rookie team attempted the new Choreographic jump and earned a 1.68 GOE.
The Free Dance is a Philip Glass medley, which includes “Metamorphosis”, Violin Concerto No.1, “Truman Sleeps” (The Truman Show) and “Escape!” (The Hours).
With the difficult situation in Ukraine,” Kolesnik explained. “We were thinking about what kind of program we would like to do. We had many options with some modern pieces, but in the end we decided to do something dramatic by Philip Glass. It is something I could relate to very closely. It’s my interpretation of what is happening right now.”
“There are a lot of mixed emotions, so it’s good to be able to express them when you skate,” Zingas said.
Kolesnik’s mother is now in Michigan, but his dad, aunt and grandmas are still in Ukraine. His brother serves in the military. His neighborhood in Kharkiv was recently bombed.
The team intends to compete at Lake Placid. “We’ll skate there, then after that we’ll see what happens,” Zingas said. ”I can’t compete internationally until late November because I competed for another Federation.”
“We’ll try to do as many domestic competitions as we can,” Kolesnik added.
In addition to learning new ice dance skills, Zingas is working toward her neuroscience degree at Wayne State University in Detroit.
“It’s been a little bit of a challenge to balance all the skating and school, but I really enjoy both,” Zingas said.
Two weeks ago, Kolesnik received his Bachelor in Sports Psychology from Ukraine.. Fortunately, it was online since parts of the University have been destroyed.
“How it works in Ukraine is my parents sent me to school at age five,” Kolesnik explained. “We have eleven years plus four more for my degree. My brother is a lawyer in Ukraine. I was tempted to do that, but it’s kind of difficult with skating.”
In February 2017, sixteen year old Vadym Kolesnik moved to the U.S. to skate with Avonley Nguyen. The team achieved great success in three years, including numerous international medals and gold at the 2020 World Junior Championships. Two years ago he got his green card and is anticipating receiving his passport.
Zingas & Kolesnik will next compete in Lake Placid, NY at the 2022 Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships from July 27-29.