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SKATING Ice dancing attracting more and more adults



Published: Wed, February 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Adults who brought their kids now strap on skates.

BOARDMAN -- Some adults may think ice skating is just for kids, pros and Olympic hopefuls, but others are finding it an enjoyable way to spend leisure time, socialize, or learn new skills.

Maria Koman, the skating director at Ice Zone, says they have about 30 regulars -- from beginners to accomplished skaters -- who attend adult ice dancing on Thursday nights. "It's for those 18 years and older. The music is different than for the kids, and it's also a social function."

And just how old is "older?"

"Our oldest couple is in their late 70s and early 80s," says Koman, and there are all ages in between.

To begin the session, Koman or one of the other instructors start with exercises, then the group breaks up into different levels and some pair up as couples. The instructors might teach a new dance, or work with those who are less advanced. The group might work to the blues, a Hickory hoedown, Dutch waltz, or Canasta Tango.

Never too old

There are programs geared toward beginners, as many adults initially take up skating to spend time with children or grandchildren. Teresa Santilli of Boardman has been skating for four years. "I started when my daughter was 4," she said. "I wanted something we could do together." Her son started at age 3. Now all three compete.

Mike Wheatley, who isn't shy about giving his age -- 62 -- said he can't let the kids have all the fun. "Three years ago, my granddaughter started skating at age 6," he said. "I thought, 'Too bad I'm getting old, I would have loved to do this.'" Then he decided to sign up, and now comes two to three times a week. He plans to compete after he learns a little more.

For those looking for more creative dancing, free dance uses fancier footwork and moves that are not in standard dances. Free dancing is choreographed and includes lifts and "pass-throughs."

Many adult skaters like the opportunity to work as a team, and find synchronized skating enjoyable and challenging. They can learn to do circles, pinwheels, lines and blocks. This activity, formerly called precision skating, is becoming very popular, and has been demonstrated at the Winter Olympics.

It's both work and fun

Emily Slaven of Poland is the youngest in the adult group. At 16, she is too advanced for the youth group. She has been skating for six years and says she likes to compete, doing jumps and spins.

Her friend Alyssa DeMaria of Austintown, 19, has been skating for four years. "I do it for fun," she says. "I like the ice shows, competitions, and synchronized team."

Some adults come to Ice Zone for the social aspect and camaraderie. They can enjoy skating with free coffee, tea, or hot chocolate on Tuesday mornings by joining the Ice Zone Coffee Club.

Betty Yazwiak of Canfield said she began skating as a teenager. "Now that I am retired, it is a passion," she says. "I come three to four times a week."

Many adults like the challenge of performing in shows and competing with skaters, not only from Ohio and Pennsylvania but also in World Championship competitions. Each skater can set personal goals, advancing through the self-paced levels. Skaters also have opportunities to be tested before U.S. Figure Skating judges who offer feedback.

In addition to skating, Denise Powell has also been president of the Ice Zone Figure Skating Club for three years.

Skaters can also participate in dance weekends all over the country and in Canada. These wine-and-cheese social events feature three to four hours of dance and a seminar where an instructor teaches something a little more complicated. Ice Zone has hosted dance weekends in the past, and may do one this summer.

XFor information on all the events, sessions and public skating times, call (330) 965-1423. Ice Zone is located on 360 McClurg Road in Boardman. www.theicezone.com.




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