The Sun Valley Figure Skating Club (SVFSC) has announced three new USFS gold medalists in ice dancing. They are Natalia Irvine, Grace Hoffman and Abby Chase.
Attaining U.S. Figure Skating gold medalist status is a difficult and distinctive accomplishment for skaters, according to Andrea Nelson, SVFSC publicity chair and test co-chair.
She added, “Crowning three in one month is a rarity (for a skating club) and an impressive reflection on the hard work and talent these three graceful athletes embody.”
In the sport of figure skating, an athlete’s competitive status is determined by passing tests before a panel of U.S. Figure Skating judges.
The number and type of tests required depends upon the skater’s chosen discipline: Singles, pairs or ice dancing.
Formerly called “compulsories,” Pattern Dance tests serve as prerequisites to the Free Dance test series, which determine a skater’s competitive level in partnered ice dance competition.
The recent introduction of Solo Dance as its own competition series opened the sport up to a much larger demographic. Pattern Dance tests are now also used to determine competitive level in Solo Dance competition.
To become a USFS Gold Medalist in ice dancing, skaters must pass no fewer than 23 dance tests divided into seven levels, Preliminary through Gold.
It’s no easy feat, but professional skater and local coach Natalia Irvine did it in three years, often stunning the skating community by passing five to nine dance tests in a single session. Hoffman and Chase showed similar discipline.
Hoffman, 13, a Community School eighth grader, passed each dance test on her first attempt. She attained gold with a stellar test record free of retries.
Chase earned her gold test at age 14 while simultaneously taking Free Dance tests and traveling to pursue her goal of competing in partnered competition.
All three dancers have demonstrated remarkable passion and self-discipline.
Here are their profiles sbumitted through the SVFSC:
· Natalia Zaitseva Irvine began skating in Lipetsk, Russia at age three. At age 13, she enrolled in a school for training pairs skaters east of Moscow. Shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union, Natalia was awarded the distinction of Master of Sport in Pairs.
After her partner retired, Natalia was invited to train at the School of Olympic Reserve in Yekaterinburg. After graduating, she moved to Moscow and entered the Academy of Sport, where she studied figure skating and other sports for two years. She also joined the Moscow Ballet on Ice.
In 1997, Natalia joined Disney on Ice, traveling the world as an international professional skater for 14 years.
Natalia has skated the roles of Disney heroines including Snow White, Belle, The Little Mermaid, Jasmine, Mulan and Nala. Four years ago, Natalia stopped touring internationally to settle in Sun Valley.
She studied Master Choreography Techniques with the American Ice Theater, graduating last February. She performs with both Sun Valley on Ice and The Ice Theatre of New York. She also coaches ice skating and teaches classes in off-ice conditioning, Zumba, ballet, and hip hop.
Natalia describes summer in Sun Valley as “an ice dancing paradise for all ages and levels, with amazing coaches to guide you all the way to the international tests or just have a good time and enjoy skating.”
Always busy training as a pair or a freestyle skater, Natalia never had an opportunity to try ice dancing before coming to Sun Valley. She gravitated to ice dancing watching Program Dance Sessions on resort ice.
Coach and Sun Valley On Ice cast member Joel Dear partnered Natalia through most of her dance tests. She also worked coach Ty Cockrum. Coach and former Olympic Ice Dancer Judy Blumberg helped Natalia with Gold and Pre Gold Dance tests.
· Grace Hoffman began skating as a second grader in the SVFSC “Fabulous Fridays Skate-With-Us” classes.
Inspired by her former coach, decorated Russian ice dancer Elena Dostatni, Grace fell in love with ice dancing at age nine. When Dostatni moved away in 2012, Judy Blumberg became Grace’s primary coach.
Understanding the local limitations imposed by lack of available dance partners, the 14-year-old Community School eighth grader elected to pursue a non-competitive test track with the goal of completing her Solo Dance and Moves in the Field tests.
However, training two-to-three hours a day, five days a week, while maintaining straight A’s at school, soon gave rise to a competitive yearning, and the Solo Dance series made it possible.
Grace currently plans to test her skill by competing in the fourth season of the USFS Solo Dance Series this year. She is a 2014 recipient of the prestigious Joyce Komperda Athlete Support Fund award.
Hoffman also trains with coach Lisa-Marie Allen and receives additional instruction and test partnering from coaches Brent Bommentre and Joel Dear, and she has attended the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy.
· Abby Chase first put on skates at two. In 1994 she moved to the valley, joined the SVFSC and enrolled in “Skate-With-Us” classes.
Abby developed an early interest in ice dancing and performing as a member of the summer Sun Valley On Ice children’s cast.
She credits Sun Valley’s show skating environment, its outdoor summer ice-dancing sessions, and its summer dance coaches and professional show skaters for nurturing her love of ice dance and performing.
By sixth grade, Abby’s desire to compete led her family to relocate to Washington during the winter months to search for a suitable dance partner. She currently drives two-and-a-half hours round trip to train at the Vancouver Ice Dance Academy in Burnaby, B.C, where she trains at least six hours a week in an elite dance program.
She returns to Sun Valley each year to skate in the Christmas Eve Ice Show and to spend as much time as possible on Sun Valley ice.
A former Hemingway Elementary School student, Abby is currently a 14-year-old freshman and honors student at Bellingham High School. She earned her Gold medal in ice dancing on the same day she passed her first International Dance, the Silver Samba, in Everett, Wash.
Abby credits many coaches for contributing to her testing success, including coach and Sun Valley On Ice cast member Ty Cockrum, who took her through her first ice dancing tests and partnered her through her final Gold test, and coaches Lisa-Marie Allen, Brent Bommentre, Kim Navarro and Joel Dear.
Abby is currently looking for a partner and hopes to compete in partnered dance the near future.