Few would have imagined that the skating capital of the world would find its home in Michigan.
Already acknowledged as the ice dance capital of the world, the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills is enhancing that reputation as a hub for not only elite ice dancers but singles skaters as well.
Respected coaches and choreographers Anjelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo have developed an ice dance training facility that is luring some of the world’s finest.
And Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen have established a school for singles skaters that has mushroomed into an international training venue.
THE RIGHT MOVE
At the end of the 2008 season Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje sat down with their then-full-time coach Shae-Lynn Bourne to discuss their future. While the duo trained at an exclusive Toronto skating club, they trained alone. Bourne knew they needed a better working environment.
“Shae-Lynn told us that we were missing an important aspect in our training, the competitive atmosphere,” Weaver recalled. “She had a couple of options of where we could go, but her first choice was for us to try out Pasquale and Anjelika. She did not know Pasquale that well, but she really liked his work, his ideas and his artistry.”
Weaver and Poje followed their coach’s advice. “We went to Detroit and loved it right away and in 2009 we made the move,” Poje said.
When the duo first arrived at the facility, they trained with the Italian team of Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali. “Shortly after we moved there, Federica and Massimo went to Delaware to train with another coach,” Weaver said. “But we stayed because our skating had already improved, and I think that was the start of a big year for us. We had already made a lot of progress.”
Throughout the following summer numerous international teams and singles skaters came to the training venue for choreography. Poje said things really started to change after that. “I think that when a bunch of people decided to move from Colorado Springs, that was the start of the influx. It kind of just steamrolled and more and more teams just kept coming.
“Now we have two split training sessions because there are too many teams for one ice dance session.”
Weaver and Poje said that being the sole focus of their coaches in the beginning was a blessing. “We had Shae-Lynn’s full
we are not stuck in a grid. We are always improving.” One of the things Weaver and Poje love about their training venue is the camaraderie. “I think it is a unique situation where we are, because everyone hangs out together outside of the rink, which gives us a sense of family,” Poje explained. “We always cheer for each other and support each other. Everyone is competing for the same thing but we all support one another because it is all about us succeeding as individuals and as a whole.”
Weaver said that was never more evident than when the 2011
World Championships were postponed. “Before Worlds was assigned to Moscow we had other skaters around us who were in the same position as we were. I often wonder what it would have been like to be alone in that situation. We had people to share that with, and that made a huge difference.”
Weaver and Poje are extremely fond of Krylova and Camerlengo. “I think Anjelika has so many positives as a coach. She was a World champion. She was so good at technique and artistry. She was the whole package,” Weaver said. “As a coach she is compassionate, but she knows when to push us.
“Sometimes we are scared of her but always with the utmost respect. We really do love her. As a coaching team I think she is such an artist and Pasquale has such great ideas.”
Poje agreed. “With Pasquale every movement has a purpose. He knows how to create the perfect picture but also understands skating technique. He knows what we need to do to take our- selves to a higher level.
“Anjelika is such a great technician. She can always see what needs to be changed to make us go faster, stronger, deeper on an edge. It is amazing how much she teaches us in that respect.
“As a team I think they complement each other perfectly. One without the other would not work.”
Bourne is still involved with every major decision that Weaver and Poje make and has a lot of input. “We are working with Shae-Lynn mainly on the free dance this season because it was her idea,” Weaver said. “When it comes to our costumes we try to give every person an equal say and take everyone’s opinions into account. This year we are taking a different route and we had a ballroom company make our costumes.”
Weaver and Poje got a head start on this season before the last one had ended.“A bunch of us took ballroom classes while we waited for the Worlds announcement,” said Weaver, 22. “It gave us an opportunity to explore the Latin character for this season’s short dance.”
With a dozen dance teams now under their tutelage, Krylova and Camerlengo approached Scali, who is not competing this season, to join their coaching team. Scali’s competitive future is on hold as he and Faiella wait to see if her back injury will finally heal.
Poje laughed when asked about working with his former rival. “We work with Massimo on the Latin short dance and getting that Latin fire out there. He is very involved with our training, and we do a lot of steps with him every day,” said Poje, 24. “Massimo brings a new breath to the coaching staff. He is so young, vibrant and in-your-face. He pushes us even further. We love him.”
Weaver agreed. “He is so passionate about what he does, but he is a stickler and is very hard to please. He adds a lot of energy to the whole rink.”
Elizabeth Punsalan Swallow, a five-time U.S. dance champion, and Natalia Annenko, a former ice dancer who represented the Soviet Union, are also important members of Weaver and Poje’s coaching team. “We work with Natalia more than Liz, but whoever we are with, we are always learning and growing. Everyone pushes us,” Weaver said. “Natalia is an excellent technician. She came from the Soviet era and her lines are so beautiful.
“Liz is so creative. She is very detail-oriented, so she adds another facet to our skating. Everyone has made a contribution for us to become the team that we are right now.”
With so many teams under their wing, Krylova and Camerlengo will have their work cut out for them once the new season starts, but Weaver and Poje are not concerned. “Who knows who will be at the boards with us at competitions,” Poje said. “We are comfortable with everyone we work with, so it is all good. There are so many teams at our rink that they will have a full schedule of who will go where.”
Weaver said she and Poje received positive feedback on their new programs at the national team camp and are excited about the new season. “We are looking forward to starting this crazy fall schedule. We have three events: Skate Canada, NHK in Japan and Rostelecom Cup in Russia.”
As for their training venue, Weaver and Poje said there is nowhere else in the world they would rather be. “Our rink has energy, we have great training mates, coaches and a great environment that makes us want to train. We have everything we need,” Poje said.
“The Detroit Skating Club is probably the best place in the world to train right now because I don’t know any other place that has as many high-level skaters in all the disciplines,” Weaver added. “I do not think that we would be any happier in any other environment. This is the perfect place for us, and I do not know where we would be without it.
“We have transformed ourselves not only as skaters but also as people. We are very, very happy.”
Originally published in December 2011