DYER | One of the main things that differentiates figure skating from ice dancing is the latter doesn't include jumps — but don't jump to conclusions by thinking that ice dancing is easy.
"To be a good ice dancer, you need to skate on the edges and be expressive to the music, while making everything look effortless," said ice dancer Stephanie Peters, 20, of Highland. "It is a lot harder than it looks."
Peters has been skating — dancing and figures — for most of her life. She acknowledges that jumping is not one of her strong points, but when it comes to keeping her blades on the ice while moving to the sounds, Peters has proven to be among the best in the nation.
At the U.S. Figure Skating Solo Dance National Championships held Sept. 20-23 in Colorado Springs, Colo., Peters won the gold medal in the Gold (top) Level competition.
Ashley Schons, 16, of Crete, and Olivia Hlebasko, 13, of Crown Point, accompanied Peters to Colorado Springs.
Schons won a bronze meda in the Pre-Silver Level competition. Hlebasko placed seventh in the Bronze Level competition.
As ice dancers progress to higher levels, the compulsory dances get more complex. Along the way, skaters must master styles including tangos, waltzes, marches and blues.
All three train with coach Julie Ponder at Midwest Training and Ice Center in Dyer, Arctic Ice Arena in Orland Park and the Homewood-Flossmoor Ice Rink in Flossmoor.
"We go wherever we can find ice time," said Schons, who has also won many medals in figure skating, and is a member of the Chicago Jazz figure skating team, which recently traveled to a competition in Switzerland.
Ice dancing can also take you to places like Sochi, Russia, or Pyeongchang, South Korea, the respective sites for the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics.
"For me, it's already too late for 2014," Peters said. "Maybe for 2018, but in ice dancing, you need a partner. The Olympics don't have solo ice dancing."
Though strictly a solo dancer now, Peters has entertained the idea of skating in pairs.
"But finding the right partner can be difficult," she said.