Monday, 22/1/2018 | : : UTC-8
Skate Today

Georgia on Their Minds

Isabella Tobias and Otar Japaridze

Georgia, the country not the state, should have a dance team at Europeans and Worlds next season with a chance at placing a team at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. The new team of Isabella Tobias and Otar Japaridze has a chance to be Georgia’s first Olympians in dance after a successful first season in which the couple finished 14th at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships after less than a year together.

“We had no expectations this year,” Tobias said, “especially as a new team. It was a dream to be in the top 20. Next season, we hope to do well at Europeans and Worlds.”

Japaridze, whose father is the president of the Georgian skating federation, started when he was seven. “Both of my parents were skaters,” he said. “My mother was twice winner of the Cup of the Soviet Union, but my father stopped at the junior level in the USSR. I started just for fun, but I liked it. I stayed in singles until I was 15. I had a triple toe loop and a triple salchow, but then because of injuries and a growth spurt, I moved to dance. I thought about doing pairs, but it’s the hardest. Dancing is more fun.”

The 20-year-old had success with two previous partners, reaching Junior Worlds three times beforehand. He previously danced with Marina Sheltsina, finishing 21st at Junior Worlds in 2004, and Ekaterina Zaikina, with whom he placed 21st at Junior Worlds in 2006 and 16th in 2007.

Tobias, who will be 17 in August, first went skating when she was seven. “I used to watch ice dancing on television,” she recalled, “so I decided to try it just for fun. I skated by myself until I was ten, then I started ice dancing.” Tobias placed fourth at U. S. Junior Nationals with Kurt Lingenfelter in 2002 in intermediate dance, then finished fifth at Eastern Sectionals with James Warren in 2003 in novice.

“Then I stopped skating to focus on my ballet career, Tobias continued. “I started ballet when I was seven. When I was eight, I auditioned and was accepted at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet in New York City and trained there from 1999 to 2007. It’s the best school for ballet and it was such an incredible experience. I wouldn’t be half as good a skater if I hadn’t gone there. But I missed skating. That’s what I really love to do. So I came back in September 2007.

While with the ballet, Tobias danced in many performances with the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center in New York City and in Saratoga Springs in the summers. Her favorites were Coppelia, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

Tobias and Japaridze began skating together in the spring of 2007. “I had trained in Russia for seven years and I wanted to go the United States and start something different,” Japaridze explained. “I first came to see Evgeni Platov, who was Isabella’s coach as a single ice dancer. We were both friends of Vladimir Kaprov, who coaches at Hackensack. When I was looking for a new partner, I saw Isabella skating at the rink and had a friend arrange a tryout in April. It went great.”

The couple began working with Platov but then switched to Nikolai Morozov. They train at the Ice House in Hackensack, New Jersey. “I saw Nikolai’s choreography with Shae-Lynn Bourne and with Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov and loved his work,” Tobias said. “We started with Nikolai in December 2007.”

Skating a Russian gypsy dance for their original dance, Tobias and Japaridze used “Two Guitars” by Zoltan and his Gypsy Ensemble. “Otar and I picked the music,” Tobias explained. “We debated whether to use a flamenco or Russian gypsy music. We wanted the challenge of gypsy music but Otar had done a Georgian folk free dance with his previous partner and didn’t want to repeat it.”

For the free dance, the couple skated to “Sarabande” by Georg Handel, “Furioso” by Aria and “Sarabande Suite” by Globus. “We looked up the Sarabande music and found the original classical piece by Handel and mixed it with the newer music,” Tobias said.

“We love skating to music that is powerful and moving,” Japaridze added. “We needed to rise to the challenge of skating to this music. We always enjoyed skating to it.”

Off ice, Japaridze listens to all kinds of music, while she prefers hip-hop, pop and alternative music. “I like anything that makes me want to get up and dance,” Tobias noted. “I take hip-hop dance classes. But I don’t like American country music or rap. I have a vast knowledge of classical music from my ballet classes.”

To relax, Japaridze likes to hang out with friends, watch movies and sports on television and play computer games. He also likes to play soccer and tennis. Tobias said. “I like to have fun and live life to the fullest. I like to be with my friends and family and my four dachshunds.” She also likes to shop.

Tobias attends the School for Young Performers in New York City and will be in her final year of high school this fall. “I enjoy reading great books and I like world history,” she said. “I hope to eventually go to Columbia University to further my education.”

Japaridze is just finishing his degree from the Institute of Physical Education and Sports in Georgia and plans to be a skating coach.

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