by Jacquelyn Thayer

For sisters Isabella and Anastasia Cannuscio, skating has been a family affair from day one, as Isabella recalls.

“We started skating when my aunt took both of us to skate with our cousin one day,” she says, when Isabella was four and Anastasia three. “From then on it just sort of stuck! Ice dance was always our life. Our first coach, Denise Falvo, wanted us to start ice dance because she thought it would enhance our freestyle and overall general skating. We’ve done it ever since!”

Ice dance eventually pushed both sisters to compete at high levels for the U.S.

With previous partner Ian Lorello, Isabella took pewter in the novice and junior ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, finishing as high as sixth at senior in 2011 and competing at three Grand Prix events in 2010 and 2011. This past season, she and new partner Michael Bramante easily won Eastern Sectionals as well as their debut event, Challenge Cup.

Anastasia and partner Colin McManus finished sixth at this year’s U.S. Championships after making their Grand Prix debut at Skate America in the fall. Previously, the team competed successfully on the junior international circuit, winning silver at one Junior Grand Prix event in 2010 before finishing seventh at the 2011 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, a season in which they also attained national bronze at the junior level.

bella-stasia-earlyyearsThe sisters and their partners train together at the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club, a situation both acknowledge can have positives and negatives.

“I think the best thing about training together is that we’re always there to support and push each other,” says Anastasia. “She’s my older sister and someone I always have and always will look up to. The worst thing is that sometimes we can get a little too comfortable. Yes, we are competitors, but we’re not exactly competitive with each other.”
And Isabella further highlights one primary issue: “Being around each other all day! While I love my sister, there’s a point where I need my alone time,” she says.

Though having grown up together as skaters, the sisters note particular differences in their styles as ice dancers.

“Bella is a very graceful skater, and I think I’m more of an athletic skater,” says Anastasia. “In that way we’re kind of opposite. Growing up I’ve always looked up to Bella as a skater, she really does skate so beautifully, and I’ve learned a lot from her in that aspect over the years.”

Isabella compares their approaches similarly. “Stasia is more of a go get ‘em, all or nothing skater, and I feel like I’m more of a careful, technical skater. We have always been that way, even when we were little!”

The art of balancing a family connection with competition might pose a challenge, but for Isabella and Anastasia, the relationship has proven an asset.

“We are supportive of each other outside of skating, and especially with skating,” says Isabella. “There was a time when we first started competing against each other at Nationals and she placed higher than me, and I was a little upset at first. It took me a competition or two to get used to it, but once I did I realized it didn’t matter, I was just happy for her!”

And this support both on and off the ice has helped create some special memories for both. Isabella recalls Stasia and Colin’s bronze medal in juniors at the 2011 U.S. Championships. “I don’t think I’ve been more nervous for them, and when they finished skating I started bawling. I was so proud of them for all of their hard work, they deserved it!”

For Anastasia, Isabella and Ian’s performance at 2010 Trophee Eric Bompard was a standout. “It was the first competition of hers I got to watch just as a spectator; in the past when I watched her I was always competing too. I was just there to support her, and I loved that. Her and Ian skated an absolutely amazing short dance and I just remember how happy I was for her.”

Both are hoping to make a further splash on the dance scene in this coming season.

bella-stasia-2012“Michael’s and my goal this year is to get into the ISP and show everyone an improvement from last year,” says Isabella. In pursuit of their goal, the team will be skating a short dance to a selection from Harry Connick, Jr., and a Classical Waltz medley for the free. “Both programs are very different from anything either of us have skated to,” she says, “so we are very excited to show everyone a different side of our skating.” 

For Anastasia and Colin, the aim is to build on this past season’s accomplishments. “We would love another Grand Prix assignment,” she says. “Competing at Skate America last year was something I will never forget, and I would love to get the opportunity to represent Team USA on the Grand Prix circuit again. I feel like Colin and I grow as skaters more and more every season, and we want to continue to progress just as we have over the past few seasons.” The team has paired its take on the Finnstep short dance with two standards as interpreted by Rufus Wainwright – “Puttin On the Ritz” and “Get Happy” – and will be skating their free dance to An American in Paris.

The sisters have also been involved in a few additional skating pursuits. In April, Anastasia and Colin competed as part of Act 1 of Boston at the Nations Cup Theatre On Ice event in Logroño, Spain. 

“Being able to compete with Act 1 was an amazing experience,” says Anastasia. “Colin had competed in Act 1 in the past, but I had never done anything like that before. It was different than anything I’d done before, but I’m so happy we were given the opportunity. I had a blast, and would do it again in a heartbeat.”

And alongside her own efforts as a competitor, Isabella coaches potential future contenders. “I coach mostly younger kids in Basic Skills, with getting them ready for their first USFSA tests and taking them to various local competitions,” she says. “Colin and I have a dance team we teach and are getting them ready for the 2014-15 season. I have been blessed with great, hardworking students with super sweet families. I’m very lucky! I love to coach as much as I do because of them!”

Anastasia summarizes the key to the duo’s success in balancing sisterhood and sport on a daily basis. “Bella and I are fully supportive of one another,” she says. “All we want is for the other to succeed and I think that’s what makes our relationship on and off the ice work so well.”