Hoffmann and Elek Revive Hungarian Ice Dancing

Articles, Articles by Barry Mittan

Nora Hoffmann and Attila Elek

It’s been almost 25 years since Hungary had a highly competitive ice dance team. The country was last a power when Krisztina Regoczy and Andras Sallay won the World Figure Skating Championships in 1980. That was the same season that Judit Peterfy and Csaba Balint won the silver at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships, Hungary’s only medal at the event until Nora Hoffmann and Attila Elek came along.

Hoffman, now 19 and Elek, only 22, served a long apprenticeship in international junior competitions. Over their junior career, they competed at Junior Worlds six times, winning the silver medal the last two years. They also won the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final for the 2003-04 season after finishing second the previous year and won a number of medals, many of them gold. They won the senior ice dancing championship in Hungary for the third time this season after winning the junior dance title for the previous three years.

As seniors, Hoffmann and Elek have competed at the World Championships the last two years, finishing 18th both times. They also competed at the European Championships both years, finishing 11th in 2004 and tenth in 2005. “The last two years were too long,” Elek said. “Nine or ten competitions are too hard. We couldn’t really train as much as we wanted for seniors because we had to learn junior and senior programs. This season we only have to train three compulsory dances instead of eight and only one free dance. That’s much better. Now that we’re concentrating on seniors, we have a good chance to move up, especially after the Olympics in 2006. We may not have a chance to move up much this season, but we plan to go to 2010 and beyond.”

This season, the talented young dancers finished sixth at the Cup of China and seventh at Trophee Eric Bompard Cachemire in their first season on the senior Grand Prix circuit. “We’re just realizing how the new judging system works,” Hoffmann explained. “We need to change a few things to get higher levels. But everybody wants the higher points level. In the free dance, everybody is doing the same things. It’s just lift, split, lift, split, lift. It’s really depressing to have to do all these lifts like pairs. It’s not dancing. It’s bring. They need to have fewer elements. They’ve gone crazy for the technical.”

After 12 years together, their partnership is still going well. “Nora is very beautiful and she can do anything she wants,” Elek said. “She’s good at all styles of dancing.” Hoffmann, who has listed one of her hobbies as talking, said, “Attila is good because he’s silent. I’m always talking and he is listening, but we don’t fight like some couples. He just comes and works hard in every practice.”

Elek has been skating since he was five. “I started singles just as a hobby,” he remembered. “I had almost all my double jumps and finished as high as third in novice men. I was a little afraid of the jumps, but then I decided to do dance because it was a better chance for me to win. I started dancing with Nora when I was nine. She was my first partner. Our coaches put us together.”

Hoffmann started at the age of six. “My parents would take me to the ice rink with my older sister for her to skate,” she recalled. “I was not a good child and was always running around so my parents decided to send me to skate too. I started dance right away and did both dance and singles until I was eleven. I could do double jumps, but then I fell and broke my leg on a jump so I stopped singles. I don’t like jumps. When I was jumping, I was always thinking that I would fall.”

The dancers train with Sandor Nagy and Gabriella Remport, mostly in Budapest, Hungary. In the summer, they travel to Sofia, Bulgaria to skate. They train in the same rink with Attila’s brother, Gyorgy, who dances with Zsuszanna Nagy. “I train harder with my brother there,” Elek said. “At first, he preferred jumping and didn’t like dance, but four years ago he came to dance. Now we both train at the same time.”

Hoffmann and Elek usually work on ice for two hours a day, six days a week. “Two days a week, we try to skate for four hours,” Elek added. “We also have off ice training five times a week for an hour or an hour and a half. Every day is different.” But their off ice training does include one of Hoffmann’s pet peeves. “I hate running,” she said. “I don’t understand why I have to run. It’s so boring.”

Remport and Marta Gruber choreograph their programs. This season they are using “Singing in the Rain” for their foxtrot and music from “Ballroom Dancers” for their quickstep in the original dance. “Our coach picked the music for the original dance,” Hoffmann said. “Last year, we wanted to use ‘Singing in the Rain’ for our exhibition, but our coach said no way. There was no question that we would use it this year. We hope maybe the judges will see it as something different.”

For the free dance, Hoffmann and Elek are using music from the soundtrack of “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.” “I heard it in a store and thought ‘Oh, my God’, I love it,” said Hoffmann. “It’s a little bit different style of music for us. We never did a tango or a flamenco.” Both dancers also listed the tangos as among their favorite compulsory dances. “I like to skate to fast music,” Elek said. “I don’t like to skate to slow music.”

Hoffmann, who excelled in mathematics and English in high school, is in her second year of university studies in international connections. “I want to be a businesswoman,” said the lively blonde. “I like to see how international companies connect. We study everything about the companies so you can get something new from each of them. I can do the work through the Internet, but I go to class whenever I can. I do all the exams in person. December is the worst month. I have like ten exams.” She is also interested in coaching skating. “I’d like to be a choreographer,” she added. “I do some choreography for students now. It’s fun to find the music and do the programs.”

“I’m in my last year of university studies in computer science,” Elek related. “I go to school three days a week up to 6-8 hours a day. Soon I’ll have to do an internship to graduate. I’ve been working in both computer assisted design and business applications, but I need more experience. I want to work in programming, preferably in web design. I like that the most.”

Between school and skating, they have few holidays and usually just remain in Hungary. “I don’t like to travel that much,” Hoffmann said. “Sometimes my family goes to the Hungarian Sea. It’s really a lake but we call it a sea. My favorite trip was to Phoenix, Arizona. It was very beautiful there and the hotel had four Jacuzzis.” She would like to visit Canada and Cyprus, while Elek wants to see Africa.

To relax, Elek likes to go out with his friends on weekends and watch movies, mainly comedies. In the summer, he plays soccer and tennis. He collects his accreditation cards from events and keeps all his gifts from skating. “I want to collect more medals,” he added. Although Elek said he didn’t have a favorite kind of music, he doesn’t like techno. Hoffmann enjoys going out with friends and shopping, watching old Hungarian movies, and listening to rhythm and blues music. She also designs some of their training costumes. As for pets, she has both a dog and a cat. She also plays ping-pong and billiards.

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