U.S. Off to Fast Start in Inaugural ISU International Solo Ice Dance Season

The theme of the first domestic ISU solo dance competition was camaraderie as 24 U.S. skaters took the ice in Reston, Virginia.

Above: Senior medalists (l-r) Emmy Bronsard (CAN), Lucas Appel (USA), Alana Pang (GBR). Photo by Melanie Heaney
By Troy Schwindt

When Brooke Tufts boarded a plane in April for Finland, she checked a couple of boxes in her personal and skating career. It was the first time for the 20-year-old to travel outside the United States — a big thrill. Equally exciting, she and two other skaters from the U.S. made history by competing in the inaugural ISU International Solo Ice Dance competition in Helsinki, Finland.

A couple of weeks later, the first domestic ISU International Solo Ice Dance event took place in Reston, Virginia, with 24 U.S. skaters and skaters from four other countries represented.

Brooke Tufts kneels on the ice with her left arm extended outward during her performance. She is a woman with blonde hair wearing a brown skating costume

“I was excited to see a different country with different culture,” Tufts said.  “I was also excited to be a part of this growth in solo dance becoming international.”

Tufts, a two-time U.S. senior solo dance champion (2021, 2023), won both segments of the senior competition that featured 10 skaters from Great Britain, Poland, Spain and Finland. She performed to “Cold Hearted Snake” by Paula Abdul for her rhythm dance and to music from Carmen for her free dance.

“I truly enjoyed being able to talk with the other skaters,” Tufts, a dance major at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey, said. “We all follow each other through social media and it was lovely to finally be able to see them in person and to talk for a while before and after the event.”

U.S. teammate Taapti Rana captured the solo advanced novice event in Helsinki, sweeping the pattern dances and free dance in the field of 12 skaters.

“All the girls in my event were extremely respectful and we connected with each other as soon as I got there,” Rana said. “It was an amazing experience getting to see solo dance and its rules being interpreted in so many ways, something that's more difficult to notice at home within competitors who are constantly competing against the same people. Every competitor showed a high level of athleticism, and each program was different, displaying how versatile solo dance can be.”

U.S. Figure Skating launched its inaugural national solo dance series and final in 2010, and since then, the discipline has grown exponentially. In 2022, 467 registered for the series, and in 2023, 774, up a whopping 40%. The 2024 series registration is 839.

Solo ice dance is an opportunity for skaters to develop ice dance skills without a partner. Solo ice dance demonstrates artistry, expression and musicality; it also serves as a developmental tool for the discipline of ice dance and is an educational tool to assist the sport's developing nations in growing their athletes. Solo ice dance allows skaters to learn how to skate to music, which is essential in figure skating across all disciplines.

Appel Enjoys Home Cookin’

When Lucas Appel won his first U.S. senior solo ice dance title in 2022, he said he hoped to one day represent the United States in international competition.

Lucas Appel skates with his arms extended and a determined look on his face. He has short brown hair and is wearing a black and gold jacket over a white shirt and black pants

The 19-year-old freshman at Florida Gulf Coast did just that and more, winning the inaugural ISU Washington Picken Solo Ice Dance International at SkateQuest in Reston, Virginia.

“It was an amazing experience going up against solo dancers from other countries,” said Appel, who skated to “The Show Must Go On” by Queen for his winning free dance. “Seeing the representatives from Great Britain, Canada and other countries has been just incredible as it is pushing me to be a stronger skater than ever before.

“I was able to make new friends from different countries. It was great getting to learn more about skating and solo dance growth in all these countries and how they plan on expanding the discipline.”

Also from the United States, James Koszuta claimed the rhythm dance portion of the senior event and placed fourth in the field of 15 skaters.

Other U.S. skaters who won their divisions in Reston were Amal Israilova (junior), Emily Zhou (advanced novice), Evelyn Zheng (intermediate novice) and Vasilisa Serova (basic novice).

“It was fun to listen to the skaters’ different languages and accents; that really drove home that a variety of countries were represented,” Heather Nemier, acting president of the host Washington FSC, said.

John Millier, a solo ice dance official and cochair of the ISU’s International Working Group created to bring solo ice dance to the international community, said the gravity of the event in Reston hit home with him after seeing athletes from three countries standing on the podium in the senior event.

“Of greatest benefit to the athletes is their camaraderie seen nowhere else in figure skating to this extent,” said Carol Wooley, national vice chair of the Solo Dance Subcommittee. “They provide constant encouragement to and huge cheers for each other, even their closest competitors. In addition to learning valuable life lessons about work ethic, perseverance, exercise, healthy diet, etc., they are continuing in their beloved sport of ice dance.”

The next ISU International Solo Ice Dance events take place in October in Great Britain and in January in Poland.

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