‘Ice Dreams’ show draws sellout crowd to state-of-the art Twin Rinks venue

26 Sep

By Liz Leamy

A sold-out crowd of more than 2,600 people gathered at Twin Rinks Ice Center in East Meadow, N.Y., on Sept. 20 to cheer on several of the country’s top skaters and a talented local contingent as they performed in the show “Ice Dreams.”

Headliners included Olympic medalist Jason Brown, 2012 U.S. pairs champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, 2013 U.S. pairs silver medalists Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, and New York-area standout Samantha Cesario, U.S. junior silver medalist Mariah Bell and U.S. junior bronze medalist Jimmy Ma.

The show served as the official opening for Twin Rinks, a privately funded $15 million state-of the-art venue nestled in Eisenhower Park, located near Jones Beach, the famous New York State Park. The 165,000-square-foot facility consists of two indoor, NHL-sized skating rinks, as well as one outdoor rink.

Senior and pre-juvenile teams from the Skyliners, a nationally ranked New York-area synchronized skating program, glided, turned and twizzled their way around the ice, along with a cast of more than 120 young up-and-comers who performed group numbers.

The 18-year-old Bell, who trains in Monument, Colo., under coach Kori Ade, felt the crowd’s excitement.

Mariah Bell

Mariah Bell

“It was so much fun to be out there,” Bell said. “Everyone has been so great and I have had the best time.”

Show producer Tara Modlin was thrilled with the turnout as well as the energy that permeated in the building.

“It was a great night and I don’t think one person left without getting a picture or autograph, which is nice because you want people to have those memories for years,” she said. “We want to reach out to as many people as possible to increase interest in skating, and shows like this are a way to do that.”

The good feelings continued at the show’s after-party in an upstairs room at the venue, where skaters posed for photos, signed autographs and chatted with fans.

“This has been such a fantastic experience, the people have been so great and the energy is amazing,” Brown said. “I love it here and being in New York; it’s an incredible place.”

Brown ignited the crowd with a lively rendition of Little Walter’s song “Juke,” the competitive short program he will use this season, as well as “Cotton-eyed Joe,” which he performed in the Smucker’s Stars on Ice tour this spring.

In the latter, he wore overalls and a red and black plaid flannel shirt. He reeled off a soaring Russian split and lightning-quick triple flip, triple Lutz and two triple toes.

“I’m always pushing myself to be the best I can be and I just want to inspire people with my performances,” the 19-year old from Highland Park, Ill., said.

Brown put skating in the national spotlight last season with his electrifying Riverdance free skate at the U.S.

The Skyliners' Lily Young and show headliner Jason Brown

The Skyliners’ Lily Young and show headliner Jason Brown

Championships in Boston. The performance helped earn him a U.S. Olympic Team berth.

To date, this program has generated more than 4.8 million YouTube views, making it one of the most-watched figure skating programs ever on the Internet.

“I love to perform and bring skating to people; that’s what drives me,” said Brown, who like Bell, trains under Ade in Monument.

Brown’s presence was much of the reason for the huge crowd, according to the show’s organizers.

“I think [the show] represents a means of introducing skating to people and this was a way of really bringing it home,” said Mary Lynn Gelderman, Twin Rinks’ skating director and coach of Cesario. “I think the U.S. has a wealth of talent and I would like to do everything I can to help these athletes reach their full potential.”

 Mary Lynn Gelderman

Mary Lynn Gelderman

Last summer, Gelderman, who with the late Peter Burrows, coached 1982 World champion Elaine Zayak, relocated to Twin Rinks with the goal of helping grow figure skating in the New York-metropolitan area.

“Over the next few years, I see limitless possibility here,” Gelderman said. “We’re trying to bring a training facility to Long Island for all levels, from the grassroots to the champions, and everyone has been great in terms of making this happen, especially the owners who are people with incredible vision.”

Vision, of course, is everything, particularly in a sport such as figure skating.

Sarah Hughes, the 2002 Olympic champion who grew up and trained for many years on Long Island (with Patti Johnson D’Alonzo, a Twin Rinks staff member, who had taught her from Basic Skills through junior ladies) said in her opening speech that learn-to-skate programs and shows are what help spark the passion in athletes.

“This is where it all begins,” Hughes told the crowd.

Skyliners coach Josh Babb agreed.

“We want to bring the sport to as many people as possible,” Babb said. “This show has been a fantastic opportunity for the Long Island community to see a skating display of this type and I’m so glad synchro is a part of it.”

Other coaches here said shows like this have a profound effect upon people, particularly the younger generation.

“This has been an extraordinary opportunity for young skaters to watch and admire some of U.S. Figure Skating’s top talent,” said Dawn Wagner, a coach who works at Twin Rinks. “It’s exciting to be part of this experience, because it’s all about helping build the sport to its biggest possible extent.”

Mariah Bell, Elene Gedevanishvili, Samantha Cesario, Alexa Scimeca, Caydee Denney, Piper Gilles; back row, l-r Jimmy Ma, Jason Brown, Chris Knierim, John Coughlin, Paul Poirier

Mariah Bell, Elene Gedevanishvili, Samantha Cesario, Alexa Scimeca, Caydee Denney, Piper Gilles; back row, l-r Jimmy Ma, Jason Brown, Chris Knierim, John Coughlin, Paul Poirier

U.S. Figure Skating Fantasy Football – Week 3 Recap

23 Sep

The third week of the inaugural U.S. Figure Skating Fantasy Football League is complete. Ashley Wagner and Chris Knierim sit atop the standings at 3-0. Evan Bates and John Coughlin are still looking for their first win.

Miner Problem(Ross Miner | @rossminer) def. Snowplow Sam, 121-45

Ross Miner’s miner problem notched the league’s highest score of the week, beating Snowplow Sam, 121-50. In fact, Snowplow Sam would have been beaten by every other team in the league. Miner got off to a great start, benefiting from the Atlanta Falcons huge win on Thursday by way of Julio Jones’ 28 points. Another 24 points from Marshawn Lynch and double-digit performances from four others helped secure the win.

Team Aaron (Max Aaron | @MaxTAaron) def. Team Bradley (Ryan Bradley | @RyanSBradley), 91-73

For the second straight week, Max Aaron put his team in the win column (Since winning #SLC2014, he’s been on quite the streak!). Aaron’s heavy investment in the Philadelphia Eagles paid off after he got 26 points from quarterback Nick Foles and 21 points from wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Bradley was hurt by just one point from Frank Gore and two points from the 49ers defense.

Team A-Wags (Ashley Wagner | @AshWagner2010) def. Team White(Charlie White | @CharlieaWhite), 78-50

The improbable streak continued this weekend with Ashley Wagner improving to 3-0 against fellow 2014 Olympic team member Charlie White. Wagner has yet to win a matchup by fewer than 22 points—a league best. Wagner used Andrew Luck for 31 points, but was otherwise held to single digits. White’s highest (and only double-digit) scorer was his kicker, Nick Folk (15 points).

Team Knierim (Chris Knierim | @ChrisKnierim) def. Coach Coughlin (John Coughlin |@JohnCoughlinUSA), 70-66

Chris Knierim moved to 3-0 with a come from behind win over John Coughlin’s now 0-3 squad. Trailing entering Sunday night, Cutler used 16 points from Jay Cutler to get the four-point win. Coughlin was counting on Brandon Marshall to have a big night, but after being slowed by an injury early in the game, Marshall ended with zero points.

Team Thah ‘D’ (Ricky Dornbush | @RichardDornbush)  def. Team Bates (Evan Bates | @Evan_Bates), 89-77

Ricky Dornbush took the gold medal at the Lombardia Trophy and picked up his first fantasy football win of the season (Not bad, huh?). He was led by 19 points each from Drew Brees and Pierre Garcon. Bates, who was hampered by four five-point or fewer performances (Eddie Lacy, Joique Bell, Keenan Allen and Jimmy Graham) could have won if Alshon Jeffery had had a big game on Monday night, but came up 13 points short.

Greatest ‘Phan’: Attending 18 performances of The Phantom of the Opera is just the beginning for skater Amy LaReau

18 Sep

By Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz     

Amy LaReau saw her first performance of The Phantom of the Opera in San Francisco in 1995. For this adult skater, who makes London her home, it marked the beginning of an almost 10-year love affair with the timeless musical.

“I had heard so much about the musical, that it was a must-see,” LaReau said. “I had heard ‘The Music of the Night’ many times and liked it, so I was curious and took my mom. Franc D’Ambrosio starred in the title role and he is the longest-running Phantom in the world, having performed the role 2,600 times.”

LaReau, who was skating at Sharks Ice at San Jose in Calif. at the time, was hooked. She loved the extraordinary special effects, from the chandelier bursting from the stage above the audience, to the New Year’s Eve party, to the final return to The Phantom’s lair.

“It was just all so exciting to me,” LaReau said. “I really didn’t know what to expect. At the very end of the show when Meg Giry enters The Phantom’s lair and removes his black cape only to find his mask remaining, I cried because I thought The Phantom died of a broken heart when Christine chose Raoul over him. I enjoyed it so much I went back a few weeks later to see it again.”

And again. And again.

When LaReau’s husband Brian was transferred to London, LaReau settled into skating at Queens Ice and Bowl, just 20 minutes from her London home. She also began attending more performances of The Phantom and to this day has seen the production 18 times in just about every venue imaginable.

“I took my husband Brian to see the performance when we were first dating,” LaReau said. “It returned to San Francisco and I had gone on and on about how it’s my favorite musical so he was curious. He loves nearly all genres of music and enjoyed the performance, I think. At that time it was probably my fifth or sixth time seeing the production.”

La Reau and her husband Brian stand in front of The Phantom at Her Majesty's Theatre in London.

La Reau and her husband Brian stand in front of The Phantom at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London.

Other memorable productions include attending her former high school’s version of the famed musical (Presentation High in San Jose) and two performances at The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

“It was an abbreviated performance but I still enjoyed it,” LaReau said. “In typical Las Vegas style there were many special effects that other productions did not have, such as The Phantom hanging from the chandelier.”

The LaReaus also saw the Broadway production.

“I was so excited we got seats in the second row,” she said. “That particular night, however, The Phantom was played by an understudy. I think it’s tougher to be the understudy, especially for a theater role of that magnitude, but he forgot some of the words to ‘The Music of the Night.’ I knew the words myself and I was kind of mouthing them. The orchestra kept playing and Christine Daaé gave him kind of a funny look, but the poor actor was dumbfounded and didn’t even try to fake knowing the words. He just stood here with Christine Daaé in his arms. I felt sorry for him.”

Since moving to London, the LaReaus have had the luxury of experiencing The Phantom at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End, where it permanently plays.

“It’s easy to get there from our flat. How convenient,” LaReau said. “I have seen six of the various actors who have portrayed The Phantom over here. I have had the honor of meeting Peter Joback, who is a Swedish platinum recording artist and Marcus Lovett, who is from the United States. They are both really nice. Both Peter and

LaReau, wearing her skating jacket, meets up with Phantom Peter Joback in London.

LaReau, wearing her skating jacket, meets up with Phantom Peter Joback in London.

Marcus have had the opportunity to perform as The Phantom on Broadway.”

LaReau also met many of the actresses who have portrayed Christine.

“My very favorite is Sofia Escobar,” she said. “She is from Portugal and recently left the role to start a family. Sofia is a wonderful singer, a very strong soprano.”

The LaReaus have even made The Phantom part of their annual holiday tradition.

“We have seen the performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre the past two Christmas Eves,” LaReau said. “We already have tickets for the Christmas 2014 matinee. It’s really cool because once the entire cast is on stage for the curtain call they sing ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas.’”

Although LaReau loves the music, she still has not included any of the soundtracks in a skating program.

“I would love to someday,” LaReau said. “I came very close to using ‘Wishing You Were Here Again’ for my camp program this year.”

LaReau attends the Dorothy Hamill Figure Skating Fantasy Camp for adult skaters each year.

“That’s the song that Christine Daaé sings at her father’s tomb,” LaReau said. “This year marked the 50th anniversary of my father’s passing so I was going to do it as a tribute to him since he passed away when I was a toddler and I hardly got a chance to know him. I love the song. It’s quite lovely, but I really get emotional every time I hear it and I don’t think it would be possible for me to skate it.”

She also has a secret dream of maybe one day taking part in an actual performance.

“There is something magical about all the performances I’ve seen and I am always thinking about how fun it would be to be on stage as a cast member, even a small part,” LaReau said.

In the meantime, she enjoys traveling with her husband and attending matinee performances if the show happens to be playing in their destination city.

“I would love to see it in another country, especially another European country, or Japan,” LaReau said. “Whenever we travel I always check online to see if The Phantom of the Opera is playing. I guess one might say I am a true ‘phan.’”

“Amy is a bit obsessed with it, but she always has a lot of fun and is thrilled with each performance,” added her husband Brian.

LaReau already has ticket number 19 ready for December.

LaReau already has ticket number 19 ready for December.

Carroll to share vast knowledge, wisdom with fellow coaches in mentor role

17 Sep

By Amy Rosewater

Frank Carroll decided about six months ago that he wasn’t going to take on any more new skaters, but he has signed up for a new role that might have him working with more skaters than ever.

U.S. Figure Skating recently announced that Carroll, who in his decades of coaching has guided the likes of Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek, will figure into a mentorship role with the organization.

“Basically,” Carroll said, “if you have free time and want me to help you, I will help you. I don’t want to be responsible anymore and take more skaters to competitions and pick out music, deal with the politics and scheme for them. I’m really done with travel, but if you want me to help you, I will help.”

Carroll, 75, will continue to coach U.S. champion Gracie Gold, Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten, of Kazakhstan, Japan’s Daisuke Murakami and Cheyenne Taylor, who placed seventh at the novice level at the 2014 U.S. Championships.

Although details as to how Carroll’s role as a mentor remain to be ironed out, Carroll plans to free up his schedule so he can assist other skaters and coaches one day a week. On that day, his regular skaters will work with other coaches at the rink in stroking or drama classes.2010 Skate America

The key to making this mentorship program work, Carroll said, was that he will not take on new students so coaches do not have to worry that they will lose skaters.

“What I’ve been through with skaters — I have nothing left to prove,” Carroll said. “If I have another World champion, what’s that going to do for me? My career is basically set in stone for me. There is nothing more to add or diminish. I am excited to try a new venture in skating. The real purpose is how to push the coaches to get the skaters to take things up a notch.”

Carroll, who has been to every Olympic Winter Games since they were held in Sapporo, Japan, in 1972, will be 79 at the next Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018. He also has been coping with polymyalgia rheumatica, an inflammatory disorder that has resulted in extraordinary pain in his muscles. He has been so besieged by the ailment that he said he has lost 18 pounds.

“I really don’t have any answer for what I’ll be doing for the next Olympics,” he said.

One thing is certain, he will continue to be one of the hardest-working coaches around. Carroll, who only teaches while wearing skates, works every day, arriving at the rink at 8:15 a.m., and often he does not leave until 5 p.m. “And I bring my lunch bag with me,” he said.

U.S. coaches at Champs Camp were excited about the opportunity to work with Carroll. Some of the coaches there were Carroll’s former pupils.

“I took from Frank from 1996 to 1998 and he was such a wonderful asset to my career,” said Jere Michael, who with Alex Chang works with Courtney Hicks. “I watch him all the time at competitions. He’s calm, he’s smart and he treats everyone with respect. So often when I am coaching, I think, ‘What would Frank do in this situation?’ ”

Tom Zakrajsek, who coaches Max Aaron in Colorado Springs, said Carroll has been an informal mentor for years.

“I think it’s great that U.S. Figure Skating is supporting him in this way, and I think it’s only going to make Team USA and all of our coaches better, because he will share his wisdom with us,” Zakrajsek said. “His record is so extraordinary, and I think he will give a lot of coaches more confidence. I think it’s awesome.”

US Olympians at the USA House

 

U.S. Figure Skating Fantasy Football – Week 2 Recap

16 Sep

The second week of the inaugural U.S. Figure Skating Fantasy Football League is complete.  Here’s what happened:

Snowplow Sam def. Coach Coughlin (John Coughlin | @JohnCoughlinUSA), 96-88

Snowplow Sam got his first win of the season, knocking off John Coughlin who now falls to 0-2. Both teams scored relatively few points, with each of their defense’s being their highest scorers. Trailing coming into Monday night, Coughlin needed just eight more points from LeSean McCoy to force a tie, but couldn’t quite get there.

Team Aaron (Max Aaron | @MaxTAaron) def. Team Thah ‘D’ (Ricky Dornbush | @RichardDornbush), 73-39

Max didn’t just win #SLC2014 this weekend, he also won his fantasy match-up, beating Ricky Dornbush’s Team Tha ‘D’, 73-39. Aaron’s team, which had a dismal performance in week one, won by nearly 40 points—the league’s largest margin of victory in the week. Only one player on Dornbush’s squad scored in double figures (Drew Brees, 15), the other eight combined for just 24 total points. Ouch.

Team Knierim (Chris Knierim | @ChrisKnierim) def. Team White (Charlie White | @CharlieaWhite), 102-81

Chris Knierim, too, added to his #SLC2014 pairs title with a fantasy win over Team White. Aaron Rodgers (27 points) and Giovani Bernard (22 points) were two of five double-digit scoring performances for Knierim’s squad. Darren Sproles’ 23 points in the NFL’s final game on Monday night weren’t enough for White’s team to pull off the comeback.

Team Bradley (Ryan Bradley | @RyanSBradley) def. Miner Problem (Ross Miner | @rossminer), 111-92

Like Knierim, Ryan Bradley’s team moved to 2-0 after win over Ross Miner’s team, miner problem. This game followed the trend in the rest of the league in that it was a roughly 20 point margin of vivtory that was really never in question. Though Miner got a couple of strong performances, they were over shadowed by Jordy Nelson (26 points) and Peyton Manning (21 points) en route to a Team Bradley win.

Team A-Wags (Ashley Wagner | @AshWagner2010) def. Team Bates (Evan Bates | @Evan_Bates), 89-77

Ashley Wagner moved to 2-0 and into a tie for first place with her win over fellow Olympian Evan Bates. Wagner was pushed over the top with an 18-point performance from Andrew Luck on Monday Night Football. She also was helped by 20-point performances from Arian Foster and Alfred Morris. Bates had just one player score more than 11 points (Jimmy Graham, 23 points)

Ice Theatre of New York performance scheduled before Pacific Northwest Regionals

16 Sep

By Jennifer Bushong,
Director of Communications, Town Toyota Center

World-class performers, including Ryan Bradley, Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre, will be a part of the cast in the Ice Dance 2014 tour on Friday, Oct. 3, in Wenatchee, Wash.

The show, to be held at the Town Toyota Center, will feature new works by ballet great Edward Villela, modern dance choreographer Jacqulyn Buglisi and include repertory by Emmy Award winner Charles “Chucky” Klapow and artistic director Douglas Webster.

Also part of this all-star cast is former Wenatchee Figure Skating Club (WFSC) member Ty Cockrum. Cockrum is a tenure veteran with Ice Theatre of New York. He trained in Wenatchee until he was 14 before moving to the Seattle area.

The WFSC and the Town Toyota Center are also hosting the 2015 Pacific Northwest Regional Figure Skating Championships October 5–8.

More than 300 skaters will vie for medals.

“The regional competition is where I started and I want to wish all the skaters luck in pursuing something that I love and have done my whole life,” Cockrum said.

The show was scheduled due to the timing of the regional competition.

“I am proud and honored that we are hosting the Northwest Regionals in Wenatchee,” Town Toyota Skating Director Louise Kapeikis said. “The high caliber of skating that this competition, along with the Ice Theatre of New York, will bring to our area will inspire local skaters to strive for greater heights in the sport. The Northwest skating community has shown overwhelming support for hosting this headlining event in a premier facility”

Ice Theatre AD

 

Events conclude today at #SLC2014

14 Sep

With the 2014 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in the books, all eyes will be on the 2014 U.S. Novice and Junior Challenge Skate as events wrap up today in Salt Lake City. Here’s today’s schedule:

Sunday, Sept. 14

8:55 AM: Novice Free Dance

9:57 AM: Junior Free Dance

10:35 AM: Junior Ladies Free Skate

1:20 PM: Novice Dance and Junior Ladies Award Ceremonies

1:55 PM: Junior Men’s Free Skate

3:20 PM: Junior Pairs Free Skate

4:30 PM: Junior Men’s and Pairs Award Ceremonies

For the event’s full schedule, click here.

 

The leaders following yesterday’s short program and pattern dance competitions:

Novice Dance:

1. Elizabeth Addas and Jonathan Schultz (17.07)

2. Caroline Green and Gordon Green (16.95)

3. Eleanor Babaev and Scott Wenner (15.81)

Junior Dance:

1. Karina Manta and Joseph Johnson (34.42)

2. Maeve Pascoe and Micah Jaffe (32.63)

Junior Ladies:

1. Vivian Le (49.58)

2. Paige Rydberg (49.33)

3. Rebecca Peng (47.90)

Junior Men:

1. Daniel Kulenkamp (57.29)

2. Evan Bender (73.72)

3. Timothy Boore (48.88)

Junior Pairs:

1. Ai Setoyama and David Botero (46.10)

2. Olivia Allan and Austin Hale (38.67)

3. Gabrielle Marvaldi and Cody Dolkiewicz (38.24)

 

Important Links:

2014 U.S. Challenge Skate – Live Results/Starting Order

Icenetwork will provide complete event coverage of today’s Challenge Skate action. Recaps, news and photos will be accessible to all users. For more information, please visit www.icenetwork.com.

To follow the action live, follow @USFigureSkating on Twitter, “Like” U.S. Figure Skating on Facebook and check back here for exclusive content and behind-the-scenes coverage.

Want to catch up on everything U.S. International Figure Skating Classic? Complete coverage, including recaps, photos, and video, is available on icenetwork, usfigureskating.org, the SKATING Magazine Blog, and YouTube.

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