Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates stood on the podium for the fourth consecutive time when they won the junior dance crown this January. Previously, they finished third in novice in 2004, first in novice in 2005, and second in juniors in 2006. The dancers also won the silver medal at the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final in their second season on the junior international circuit after winning events in Mexico City, Mexico and Taipei City, Taiwan. Last season, they finished eighth in Slovakia and fifth in Bulgaria before placing tenth at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships. Their goal for this season is to improve on that finish.
Samuelson started skating when she was five. “My family lived in Europe for my dad’s job,” she recalled. “One day in Switzerland, I saw a girl in a pretty white dress skating on an outside pond and decided I wanted to skate. I started lessons right away when I returned to the U. S.” She competed in singles up to intermediate ladies, but tested through novice, landing up to a double lutz. When she was nine, her coach, Karen Lingenfelter, suggested she try ice dancing. The next year, Lingenfelter matched Samuelson with her son, Kurt, but they only did one local competition.
Bates comes from an athletic family. His father captained Princeton University’s cross-country team, his aunt was an adult skater, his father and sister are marathoners and his brother plays dodge ball. He began skating when he was four. His mother lost him every time she brought him to the rink while his sister trained in singles and dance so she put him on the ice where she could see him. He tested in freestyle through junior men, learning up to a double axel jump. When he was nine, he began taking lessons from Iouri Tchesnitchenko and Yaroslava Netcheva when they moved to the U. S. and switched to dance shortly afterwards. He competed at the 2000 Junior Nationals with Arielle Chudnofsky, finishing in the second ten. Then in May, he joined forces with Samuelson on the advice of their freestyle coach, Gary Clark.
Tchesnitchenko and Netcheva coach the dancers, who train in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They train on ice for almost four hours a day, six days a week during the summer, and about three hours a day during the school year. Off ice training takes another two hours a day. They have ballet class twice a week and ballroom dance classes.
Both coaches choreograph the couple’s dances, which included an Argentine Tango, “Quehas de Bandoneom”, for their original dance and a Latin Medley, “Thalia’s Hits Remixed”, for their free dance. “The tango character was new for us, but the free dance was familiar,” Bates said. “We’ve been doing a lot of Latin programs in the last few years. Last year, we had the cha cha and two years ago our free dance was Latin. I’m ready to try something else next year.” The couple is always adding innovative lifts to their programs. “Iouri is a fan of Cirque du Soleil and he’s always bringing us new things to try, some of them impossible,” Samuelson said.
Bates is a sports fan and likes to watch any sports. Both the skaters are involved in other sports. Bates played soccer for five years as a midfielder, played guard on a basketball team, swam freestyle on a swimming team, and ran cross-country for his school’s team. He also skis and plays golf, as does Samuelson. She used to do gymnastics and still swims and plays tennis. “The gymnastics helps with my flexibility now,” she said. She also took dance classes in tap, jazz, modern dance and ballet starting when she was five.
Samuelson competed for Miss Teen of Michigan, finishing in the top ten in the pageant. Off ice, Samuelson enjoys hanging out with friends, shopping, reading and watching movies. She has a dog named Lady, while he has two teacup poodles, Mishka and Sasha. Bates also likes to chat on his computer and play the guitar. Both Samuelson and Bates also do volunteer work for their churches.
Samuelson is a junior in high school and plans to go to college at the University of Michigan but doesn’t have a planned major. She is taking mathematics, Spanish and Latin courses online and he received a Presidential Award for Educational Excellence in 2004. Bates is a senior honor student at Ann Arbor High School, and will attend the University of Michigan next year majoring in psychology.