In the latest edition of our New Team Series, we meet U.S. novice ice dancers Emily Renzi & William Lissauer, who are currently ranked fifth in the 2022-23 U.S. National Qualifying Series..
Tell us about your individual skating journey?
Emily: I am the youngest of three girls. Both of my older sisters liked to skate, so I followed in their footsteps. When I started walking, I started skating. At eight years old, I became a pair skater and skated with my partner for 2 years. We went to Nationals both years and came in third in the country. At 10, Covid hit, I switched coaches, clubs and rinks.
Will: I began skating when I was 5 years old in a suburb of Baltimore, MD at the Reisterstown Sportsplex. There I started in the Snowplow Sam Learn to Skate program. I became more interested in skating so my mother added in private lessons with my very first freestyle coach, Melyssa James. When I was 7, I moved to New Jersey and continued with freestyle and also synchro, but I also started testing beginner solo dances. When I was 8, I began competing in ice dance in the Solo Dance Series and eventually decided to fully commit. I remember one of my first solo dance competitions in 2015 at the Ice Dance Championships in Lake Placid and seeing just as many men to women skaters and feeling like I finally belonged. After that was when I first partnered.
What drew you to ice dance?
Emily: In 2021, I injured my lower back with a stress fracture and was not allowed to jump. Since I wanted to continue training through my injury, I asked the dance coach, Igor Lukanin, to give me a few lessons. (I had been doing pattern dances since I was 8 years old and was scheduled to test my final five dances a few days after the rinks closed down.)
Will: There are two reasons why I started ice dancing. The first is I actually preferred ice dancing to freestyle because I really didn’t like jumping. The second reason is I liked skating and competing with a partner and not by myself.
What are your earliest skating memories?
Emily: At 3 years old, I began lessons in Learn To Skate. I cried and acted like I didn’t know how to skate. One day my coach offered me a cookie to do a trick and her jaw dropped when all of a sudden I knew how to skate.
Will: My earliest skating memories were of my first competition when I was 5 years old. It was a Basic Skills competition. I won against a 4 year old.
Tell us about how your partnership began?
Emily: Igor had plans! I thought I was taking edge classes and finishing my pattern dances. Igor was developing a new ice dancer. He asked me if I would tryout with William. We actually did 2 tryouts because I wasn’t ready to give up singles after the first. I sure am glad I said yes!
Will: Emily’s and my partnership began with my mother reaching out to my partner’s mom, asking if Emily ever considered ice dancing because Emily is a former pairs skater. (Emily is homeschooled like I am and skates full time as a freestyle skater at the same rink with Julia Lautowa.) We had a few tryouts and at first, Emily wasn’t ready to commit to ice dancing. After a few more times together on the ice though, she agreed to partner with me.
Who are your coaches? Tell us about your training location?
Our coaches are Kristin Fraser-Lukanin and Igor Lukanin. We train at Montclair State University Ice Arena in Little Falls, New Jersey. It’s pretty cool there as it’s on the campus of the college so we have athletic fields and a track we get to use for off ice training.
Can you give us background on your programs this season?
Our program is Modern Cinderella with pieces of music from the new live-action Cinderella movie on Amazon.
If you could have a lesson with any ice dancer, past/present, who would it be?
Emily: I would love to have a lesson with Charlie White and Meryl Davis. Ever since I was little, I enjoyed all of their programs.
Will: I would like a lesson from Zachary Donohue because he is a very powerful skater and one of my favorites, as well.
Tell us about your training challenges during the pandemic?
Emily: During the pandemic, I was lucky to be part of the National Development Team. They offered great classes. There was not a lot of ice but I skated whenever I got the chance. I did conditioning, stretching, and ballet classes at home to keep myself in shape.
Will: During the pandemic, all the rinks had been shut down so for a very long time I was not able to skate. However, I did some off-ice classes and I was even lucky enough to take daily Zoom lessons with Zachary Donohue and Jean-Luc Baker.
What do you like most about skating with your partner?
Emily: I like that William wants to succeed and does whatever is asked of him. He always tries his hardest and makes me feel better when I’m having a bad day. William is humble and willing to work. He always shows up with a positive attitude. William is knowledgeable about the sport and has introduced me to a lot of new people.
Will: I like the power and speed Emily has on the ice. She’s a very powerful and expressive skater and it makes it fun to go all out in our programs. I already like Emily’s competitive drive. She pushes me to go further and work harder than what I think I can do, and I really respect and appreciate it.
What are you looking most forward to this season?
Emily: I am looking forward to hopefully earning a spot on the National Development Team and traveling throughout the season for my competitions. I can’t wait to perform at Bryant Park this December!
Will: I’m looking forward to building a better skating connection and friendship with Emily that could really take us to the next level with our skating skills as a team.
Is there anything you would like our readers to know about you as a team?
We are working as hard as we can because we want to succeed. Our dream is to become part of Team USA and compete internationally. We are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve our goal.