Taking skating to the next level

Taking skating to the next level

Take the popular reality show “Dancing With the Stars,” minus the injuries, tears and drama. Add talented choreography. Oh, and you’ll need one more thing: an ice skating rink.

Mix those ingredients together and you’ve got ice dancing, U.S. Figure Skating’s newest discipline, which is based on ballroom dancing and emphasizes skill, precision, power, musicality, speed, flow, rhythm and presentation.

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For Aleksandra Brittain, a junior at Cherry Hill East, life as an ice skater began at age 4 in New England.

“We lived in Connecticut at the time and there was an outdoor rink,” her mother, Rasa Kaye, said. “Everyone skated.”

The family spent five more years up north before moving to Cherry Hill when Brittain turned 9. At the time, ice skating was a recreational activity for Brittain, but she enjoyed it and stuck with it, she said.

Once she got to middle school, Brittain decided to give acting a try. After performing in “High School Musical, Jr.,” Brittain discovered a new direction she would take in skating.

She fell in love with the choreography in the musical and realized she might be well suited for ice dancing. She got connected with an ice dancing coach and began to practice and compete in the new style.

Fast-forward to a few years later and Brittain is about to compete in the National Solo Ice Dance Championships Sept. 23 through 25 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Brittain has been training about two hours a day, most days to prepare for the big event. If the rink was occupied, she’d take her exercising to the streets for a run.

She’s been practicing her solo routine on the ice, while also trying to account for the altitude differences in Colorado. The location is about one mile above sea level, she said, so the oxygen is a bit thinner there.

“When practicing, you just have to do everything longer and harder to prepare,” Brittain said.

Brittain has competed in regional events, but this will be her first performance in front of a national audience.

She tested into the third highest of seven categories in the event and will be competing at the silver level. She’s up against 18 other girls. In total, 123 are competing at the championship event.

Even if she receives a high ranking at the event, Brittain said there is no further advancing. She said she is not worried about the next level, just yet, and is excited to compete on a national stage for the first time.

“If I place, it will give me a name in ice dance. For now, I’m just focusing on what I love,” Brittain said.

Finalists in this event cannot qualify for the Olympics, because there is not a solo ice dance competition. There is, however, an ice dancing competition for pairs in the Olympics.

“Boys are a hot commodity in the ice dance world,” Brittain said.

Kaye said while her daughter is more suited for ice dance because of her speed and power, she said she’s a little hesitant about pairing her up with someone she doesn’t know.

Brittain is 5’9, a few inches taller than many competitive figure skaters.

“It would be great to have a partner, but I’m tall, so it would be tough to keep up and lift me,” Brittain said.

Brittain said she is proud of the work she’s done to get to nationals and thanks her family and coach for supporting her.

“My coach Gary Irving is fantastic. I don’t think anyone else could have gotten me to nationals, and certainly no one else could have made me enjoy working as hard as I have,” Brittain said.

Her mom is beaming with pride, too.

She said she is excited about her daughter’s performance at nationals this weekend.

“Did we think we’d have a nationally-ranked skater in the household? This is her sport. It keeps her healthy and it challenges her,” Kaye said.

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