Anna Waugh (12) and Nikolai Balabardin (15) are a new U.S. intermediate ice dance team this season. 

Tell us about each of your skating journeys, including any special memories.
Anna Waugh (AW): My first steps on ice was at 17 months old. At age 3.5 years old I started Learn to skate. My first competition was in 2015 , I was 4 years old. I finished in 2nd place, my mom presented me huge lollipop after this competition!! To this day, I love to compete!

I did freestyle for 5 years, I decided to start ice dance with partner also … in our first competition we got a gold medal. We were so excited! It was good skating year with a lot of medals… and at end of skating season 2021 we qualified for ice dance final and became National Development team members in Juvenile! We qualified for National Development Team in 2022 as well, in intermediate.

Nikolai Balabardin (NB):I started skating when I was 3 years old because both of my parents are skating coaches and it was easier to have me on the ice, rather than just hang around the arena. I landed my first axel at 5rys old and at 6yrs old, I was the pre-juvenile champion of Alberta, Canada. Some of my most special memories are meeting and skating with some of America’s greatest skaters in Sun Valley, Idaho. I have shared the ice with Jason Brown, Nathan Chen and Polina Edmonds. I was also very lucky to have been invited to dinner with Nathan’s Mom to watch him skate in the Sun Valley Ice Show.

What made you choose ice dance?
(AW): My coach Mathew Gates, and also my favorite skater- Madison Hubbell.

(NB): I chose to switch from freeskate to ice dance because I love the feeling of gliding on the ice. I have landed jumps up to triple salchow, but I always preferred when my skates were on the ice, instead of the air.

Tell us about you and your families. Do you have siblings? Do they also figure skate? Do you have hobbies?
(AW): I do not have siblings. Mom likes to skate too and she sews all my costumes! My father is a baseball fan, but he is became ice dance fan now too!

(NB): My parents are both figure skating coaches in Kerrisdale, Vancouver, British Columbia. My Mama is Canadian and my Papa is Russian. They met in Disney on Ice, where they skated and toured for 6 years. I have an 11yr old sister that also skates. She is currently skating in the Pre-novice level.

How and when did your partnership begin? (Partner Search, training mate, etc.) Describe the tryout? 
(AW): After we broke up with my old ice dance partner, my coach found me Nikolai, from Canada. At March this year, after 10 days of trying out, we decided to skate together as a team. Our journey with Nikolai started 5/17/2023 when he relocated to North Carolina.

(NB): Mathew Gates, our coach, contacted my parents by e-mail after seeing my profile on Partner Search. My parents met Anna’s parents on Zoom, and there was an instant connection. Anna’s family was so warm, friendly, and her Mom could communicate easily with my Papa as she is speaks Russian. We arranged a time for me to go to North Carolina where I tried-out with Anna. I was there for about 2 weeks and I really enjoyed not only skating with Anna, but the training environment and coaches Mathew Gates and Sasha Zaretsky.

What do you already like most about dancing with your new partner?
(AW): Nikolai is a hard working guy, he has very good skating skills. He loves to skate a lot, like me. We both love skating and we get along great!

(NB): I really enjoyed how we picked up the dance spins and transition movements
quickly. Anna is also full of energy and is super friendly. She is easy to get along with and I think that she will help bring out my fun side as I am quieter and more shy.

What are you each most excited about for the new partnership?
(AW): I am very excited for the new season with Nikolai, excited to progress in new skating skills and to hopefully impress everyone! We would like to qualify for finals and also to qualify for National Development Team!

(NB): I am most excited about competing to see how far and well we can to together.

Where do you train? (Location, facilities, dance mates, classes, etc.)
(AW): We are training at Extreme Ice Center, Elite Training Team, Indian Trail, North Carolina. We have a mix of freestyle & ice dancers at our rink. There are currently 7 teams training in our team from pre-juvenile level up to Senior – World/International level.

(NB): We will be training at the Elite Skating Academy in the Extreme Ice Center in
Indian Trail, NC. I don’t know many skaters yet, but I look forward to meeting them all soon.

Describe your training schedule. How often do you skate? Do you also go to school? 
(AW): Favorite subject? We are skating 6 day a week, 4 hours a day. Also, we are doing ballet, ballroom, strength and conditioning. We also help with Learn to skate classes at our rink . I am doing a homeschooling program. My favorite subject is Mathematics.

(NB): We will be skating about 5 to 6 days per week, and around 4 hours per day, including on and off-ice training. I will be doing home-school next year and my favourite subject is French and Physical and Health Education.

Do you each have a favorite pattern dance? Why?
(AW): My favorite pattern dance is Rocker Foxtrot, because I like the patterns and key points in it.

(NB): My favorite pattern dance is the Argentine Tango because the steps feel comfortable and flow together.

Who are your coaches? Did either of you or both have to relocate? If so, tell us about the move(s).
(AW): My main coach is Mathew Gates, along with Alexandra Zaretsky and Alina Efimova. Nikolai relocated to North Carolina all the way from Vancouver, Canada.

(NB): My coaches are Mathew Gates and Sasha Zaretsky. I have to relocate to North
Carolina from British Columbia, Canada. I feel nervous to be away from my family for so long, but I am excited to start my ice dance journey with Anna.

If you could have a lesson with any ice dancer past/present, who would it be? Why?
(AW): Madison Hubbell!

(NB): If I could have a lesson with any ice dancer, it would be Shae-Lynn Bourne. She has choreographed some of my favourite programs and she has the amazing capability to create all programs to every type of music. She also seems so full of energy, and has wonderful style.

What is your debut competition this season?
Our debut competition was in intermediate level (pattern dances) at Chesapeake open after we skated together for about one month. We competed at the Dallas NQS in Texas and finished third.