In this Q&A, we introduce you to Amanda Urban, an ice dancer who competes in the junior solo combined dance events. She trains with ,at Ashburn Ice House and is coached by IKatrina Shalin, Vitaliy Shalin, and Ruslan Goncharov.
Tell us about how your skating journey began. What drew you to the ice? Do you have any special memories?
My skating journey began in 2015 when my parents signed me and my sister up for a learn to skate summer camp. I had no idea how to skate and had never really tried it before the camp. I remember the first time I stepped on the ice, it felt so much different than how I expected it would be, but I loved it. After the week-long camp, I really wanted to continue learning how to skate so my parents signed me up for learn to skate classes and it pretty much took off from there.
When and why did you choose to do solo dance?
I began my skating journey competing on a synchronized skating team. On my third season of synchro, my coach suggested that I try ice dance lessons to help with things like my timing, posture, skating skills, etc. I ended up taking lessons and I loved it! After just a few weeks of lessons my coach, Vitaliy Shalin, asked if I wanted to try competing in the solo dance series. He explained that I could compete in the preliminary patterns, and that if I scored high enough I could qualify for nationals. Of course I said yes, and in 2019 I competed in preliminary patterns, and I ended up qualifying and competing at nationals in Provo, Utah. I’ve competed every year since, and I am now competing Junior Combined. Ever since my first season, I have absolutely loved competing in the solo dance series.
What do you like most about Solo Dance? What kind of music to you like to skate to the best? Why?
I love that solo dance gives dancers the opportunity to still compete without a partner. I love to compete and while I am searching for a partner, I am so grateful I am still able to perform and stay competitive. In solo dance, the junior and senior levels have a rhythm dance and a free dance, just like the ice dance teams. This season the junior rhythm dance theme was tango with your choice of style from the options they gave. I chose to skate to a flamenco along with the tango, and I really have enjoyed it! I like to skate to all styles of music but I think the flamenco and tango styles this year have been one of my favorites. When I hear my music I feel I need to skate with lots of power, I need to be fast and fierce, and I really enjoy that. I also really like skating to contemporary or lyrical pieces of music, I like to just skate and feel the music, it’s one of the best things about skating.
Tell us about your training site.
I have skated at the Ashburn Ice House in Ashburn, Virginia since the first time I’ve ever stepped foot on the ice. This summer, I’ve started training more at SkateQuest in Reston, as we have dance only ice time Monday through Thursday which has been super helpful since it gets quite busy on summer freestyle sessions. My coaching team consists of Katrina Shalin, Vitaliy Shalin, and Ruslan Goncharov. I can’t imagine a better team of coaches, they all contribute different things to my skating/programs and are just so helpful to me. They are each extremely dedicated at what they do and spend so much of their time perfecting my skating, and all of their other skaters as well. It is very important to me to not only have coaches who can teach well, but to have coaches who truly care about their students and want the best for them. We have a pretty big group of solo dancers, skaters from the lower levels to the higher levels, but we all support one another. This season we also have five junior dancers, including myself. We all are competitive, of course, but we are all friends and we cheer each other on. We’re all a team and very supportive of each other, it’s a great group!
Who choreographed your programs. What do you like best about dancing to them?
Katrina Shalin and Ruslan Goncharov did my choreography this season. They are very creative and know exactly what each program needs. This year I chose to skate to the “Avatar” movie soundtrack for my free dance. Originally I chose a contemporary style of music, we choreographed a little less than half the program but then I decided it just didn’t feel right. In order to skate to music, you need to have a connection with it, which I didn’t feel to that piece of music. I told my coaches and we immediately began searching for new music. I was searching for something with more of a storyline. I wanted something unique and cool, something that would really be interesting to watch. I heard the “Avatar” soundtrack and I really liked the idea. I then told my coach, Katrina, about this idea and she helped find some more songs and brainstorm new ideas. We got this program completed very quickly, just in time for the 2023 Solo Dance Camp in Dallas, Texas. At solo dance camp I had the opportunity to work with Randi Strong who was also very helpful in adding things to both of my programs.
Solo Dance will be an international discipline this season? Share your thoughts about this change.
I am so excited to hear about Solo Dance becoming an international discipline! I think this really helps open the door for many dancers who are struggling to find a partner, or just want to compete in ice dance without a partner. Since my first year of solo dance, back in 2019, I’ve seen it grow. I believe since it will be on the international stage, more attention will be brought to it, and more people will want to try it. I think it’s also great to not only compete against skaters from your region or within your country, but to have the opportunity to compete against skaters from other countries as well. I’m just so happy to see that solo dance will be international, and can’t wait for the opportunities that this will bring.
In skating, what are you most looking forward to this season? What will be your biggest challenge(s)?
I am most looking forward to competing at my last couple of qualifying competitions, and hopefully the National Solo Dance final in Chicago, IL. I’m really excited to compete in Lake Placid, New York. It’s a fun competition, and skating on the rink the Olympics took place is really a great experience. I think my biggest challenge will be nationals. I’ve been working harder than I ever have in past seasons and I really do feel it’s paying off. My goal this season is to skate two skates that I am proud of and earn a medal at nationals; I would love to win. So far I have earned a gold medal from all six of my competitions, and I am really proud of that. If you were to tell me last season or even just before this season started, where I am at right now, I would not believe you. I have really surprised myself so far and I am excited for what’s next!
If you could have a lesson with any ice dancer past/present, who would it be? Why?
This is a hard decision as there are so many amazing ice dancers I look up to. But, If I were to pick, I would say either Maddison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue or Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. Both teams have such unique styles of skating that really inspire me. I love their power and effortless styles of skating.
What are your favorite off-ice activities?
This is a question I get asked often and I never know what to answer because I like to be on the ice pretty much all day everyday. It’s something I don’t get tired of, but if I had to pick I would say shopping and traveling. I travel a lot for competitions and I have gone to really cool places, some of my favorites have been Provo, UT, Lake Placid, NY and Nashville, TN. They all are really pretty areas and I’ve really enjoyed visiting there.
Please share anything else you would like our readers to know about you as a skater?
Something I want people to see when they watch me skate is my passion for skating. I don’t just skate because I’ve been doing it for a while or for any other reason. I skate because I truly love it and enjoy coming to practice every day. I think that is what really can make a skater stand out.