Ice dancers Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre just joined forces this year, but they hope to stay together for a long time, not just long enough o make at run at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy in February. “We plan to be together for at least five years, and I hope forever,” Navarro said. “It just happens that this is an Olympic year that we got together,” Bommentre said. “We’re trying to just focus on our skating but the thought of the Olympics is there.”
Both skaters have been to U. S. Nationals on several occasions with former partners. Bommentre placed sixth in 2005 and fourth in 2004 with Kendra Goodwin. Navarro finished as high as sixth in 2001 and 2002 with Robert Shmalo. Navarro had stopped skating competitively in October 2003 after Shmalo retired to go into law practice. “I had one semester left in my senior year at Columbia University,” Navarro said, “so I decided to concentrate on school. I had one normal semester before I graduated. Everyone knew I was done with school and wanted to compete. I had several partner tryouts but none worked out.”
“I continued skating on my own,” she continued. “And I was performing with the Ice Theatre of New York. It freaked me out to have all that free time after training for so many years, but I was glad to have a year off to refocus on what I wanted to do. I went back to California and worked with some high level skaters there. It was great to have some of my mentors ask me to choreograph programs for their students and I did about ten programs, some working with my mom. I even went to Nationals in Portland just to watch.”
In February 2005, shortly after Nationals, Bommentre broke up with Goodwin, because she wanted to return to skating with her former partner, Chris Obzansky. “Several people helped Brent and me connect,” Navarro said. “We played a lot of phone tag before we got together for a tryout in April.” “We scheduled a three-day tryout and did a lot of skating in those three days,” Bommentre said. “It was a lot of fun and we had a great relationship on the ice. Kim’s had the perspective of being out of skating and finishing her education and that’s something I don’t have. I thought from the first that it was the perfect situation because we share the same ideas and philosophy. I couldn’t let her leave.” “I was still living in New York,” Navarro said, “but I got on the train and came to Ardmore to start training. “We’re fast getting comfortable with each other.”
The dancers are training primarily with Robbie Kaine in Ardmore, PA, with three sessions a week with Natalia Linichuk at the Rust Ice Arena at the University of Delaware. “I love both rinks,” Navarro said. “There’s a lot of adult skaters and we get a lot of support. It’s nice to be with some of the other high-level teams at Delaware.” “The Bulgarians are awesome skaters,” Bommentre added, speaking of Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski, who are working with Linichuk this season. “They have a great presence on the ice. It’s something to learn from.” Navarro and Bommentre train for 4-5 hours a day, five days a week on ice with plenty of off ice work.
“Kim’s an off ice beast,” Bommentre said. “She’s always working out, at least two hours a day.” Both skaters have hip-hop classes and general conditioning workouts. Navarro does Pilates and yoga and is training to be certified as a Pilates instructor. Bommentre is into indoor rock climbing and has started running more. “I’m also doing a lot of lifting,” he said. “I jumped on it after Nationals because I saw the need to improve my overall strength. Strength is the key. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in thanks to Kim. She’s rubbing off on me. I’m even eating healthier, only a cheesesteak a week.” That’s a big change for Bommentre, who loves to go to good restaurants with his 17-year-old sister.
Kaine and Linichuk choreographed the duo’s programs for this season. “Robbie’s dedicated to the new rule book,” Bommentre said. “He knows how to strategize and build things into the program to get the most out of the new system. It looks like we have the most control over the technical score, but the most important thing is skating skills. Good skating is still good skating.”
For their free dance, Navarro and Bommentre are using music by Michael Bublé. “In the past, I did a lot of Latin programs and Kim did a lot of unusual programs,” Bommentre said. “Our strength is the emotion that’s paramount in our programs. We talked a lot about the concept of our free program and about what emotions we wanted to have the audience feel. We thought the blues would show our strengths so we started with that concept.”
“I got the Bublé CD at Starbucks, ” he continued. “I heard a song towards the end that I liked and I played it for Kim in the car.” “I got goosebumps when I heard it,” Navarro stated. “I knew I wanted that piece.” “It was a struggle to find something that complimented it,” Bommentre added. “Finally, we found another rock and roll Bublé piece that would work.” The two pieces are “How Sweet It Is to be Loved By You”, originally by The Temptations, and Nina Simone’s “Feelin’ Good”, both covered by Bublé. “We both get goosebumps doing it,” Bommentre said.
“The original dance music took a bit of a process to find,” Bommentre noted. “We listened to a lot of music, especially Cuban music. We knew we had to have something that would fill the arena, something with a lot of bass. Finally, we found some Cuban-style hip-hop music, ‘Represent Cuba’ by Heather Hedley from the Havana Nights soundtrack. Then Robbie (Kaine) had some music that he’s been dying to use for the last four years, ‘Dance With Me’ by Delebah Morgan.” “We’re doing cha cha, cha cha and merengue,” Navarro continued. “The first cha cha is upbeat and the second is sensual and seductive.”
After they finish their competitive careers, neither skater has a future profession fixed in mind. Navarro graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English from Columbia University. “I loved studying English,” Navarro stated. “I chose it because I liked it, not because I had a future profession in mind. With a university education, you have the tools to do other things. There are so many options you can take.” Bommentre has graduated from high school, but is not yet attending college. He is coaching skating for about ten hours a week, while Navarro has a handful of students and is doing a lot of dance partnering.
The dancers were inspired during the summer by watching Lance Armstrong win his seventh Tour de France cycling road race. “Lance is my role model,” said Bommentre, who wears one of the Lance Armstrong Live Strong bracelets. “I got up early every morning to watch the race. Lance didn’t win a stage but he won the race. He’s patient and smart and hat’s what we’re trying to do. We want to be competitive, but our approach is a patient one. We’re making progress every day.”
Navarro and Bommentre finished fourth in the compulsory dances, fifth in the original dance, and sixth in the free dance at their first competition together, the 2005 Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships in August, just a few months after their partnership began. Now they’re looking forwards to U. S. Nationals. “Nationals will be interesting and fun to watch because it will be so competitive,” Bommentre said, “but we’re willing to put in the time to develop our skating.”