Wednesday, 18/7/2018 | : : UTC-7
Skate Today

Car Crash Doesn’t Deter Dancers

Nathalie Wojton and Michael Soyfer

For some skaters, winning a medal is the most important thing, but for Pennsylvania ice dancer Michael Soyfer, just being able to skate again was a victory.

The 18-year-old was involved in horrendous car crash in May 2009 that totaled his car and left him in the hospital in a coma with a fractured skull and a shattered left arm that had to be reassembled with metal plates and screws.

“I don’t remember anything about the accident,” he said, “but as soon as I came out of the coma, I told my Mom I wanted to start back skating.” “I told him that the only way he was going back on the ice was with a helmet,” Mrs. Soyfer noted.

After a lot of physical therapy, Soyfer was back skating again within a month, but didn’t regain full use of his arm for a few additional months. It wasn’t until August that he was first permitted to do any lifts.

That put Soyfer and his partner, Nathalie Wojton, behind schedule for this season, their first as juniors. They placed eighth nationally in juvenile dance in 2006, ninth in intermediate dance in 2007, and 11th in novice dance in 2009.

The couple won a silver medal in the original dance and bronze in the compulsories at BC Summer Skate in Vancouver in their first competition after returning from the injuries.

“We just want to establish ourselves and not look like a novice team this year,” Soyfer said. “We need to have more speed and energy and show more expression. We’re hoping to improve our levels on the elements, especially the footwork sequences.”

“Our big goal this year is just to make it to Nationals,” Wojton added. “We’re just starting and we want to keep skating for as long as we can – as long as it makes me happy.”

“I’ll keep skating as long as it still makes sense,” Soyfer added.

Soyfer first went on the ice when he was eight. “My cousin played hockey and had a party at the ice rink,” he recalled. “I liked skating so I started taking lessons. I did freestyle for two years, and then a girl approached me at a competition and asked me to dance. That was Sami Shell, my first partner. We skated up to juvenile.”

Wojton started skating when she was five. “My parents knew someone who skated so they took me skating,” she said. “I was bad at jumps so I got into dance when I was nine or ten because there weren’t any jumps.”

The couple started skating together in 2005. “My coach knew her coach and they decided we would make a good match,” Soyfer explained.

Robbie Kaine and Cheryl Demkowski Snyder coach the dancers, who train primarily at Iceworks in Aston, PA alongside the current world gold and silver medalists, Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin and Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto.

“Watching them makes me want to try harder,” Wojton said. “It’s a great example for us of how great skaters train,” Soyfer added.

Wojton and Soyfer normally train for four to five hours a day, five days a week.

Natalia Linichuk has choreographed their programs for the last two seasons. For 2009-10, Wojton and Soyfer are doing an Eastern European Jewish folk dance to music by The Klezmatics and Giora Feidman.

“I was searching online for music eight hours a day and just happened upon those two pieces,” Soyfer said. “Natalia liked them too so we went with them.”

Their free dance is the pas de deux to the “Adagio” from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”. “Natalia wanted us to do a more modern version of ‘The Nutcracker’ as well as the adagio,” Soyfer explained, ” “but after the accident, we needed a slower piece so we just kept the adagio.”

“I’m normally not a big fan of classical music, but I like this one,” Wojton added. “We’re total opposites. I like hip hop and stuff and Michael likes classical.”

“I’ve been attending a music school for the past three years and on scholarship for the last two,” Soyfer noted. “I’ve been playing piano for five years so I get a lot of classical exposure.”

Soyfer has graduated from high school and will be a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania this fall. “I want to study criminology, philosophy and Russian literature,” he said. “I read a lot of 19th century Russian and French literature and some American literature and philosophy,” he said. “I’m going to start learning Russian in school.”

Wojton will be a sophomore at Springford High School this fall. “I have no idea what I’m going to study in college,” she said. “I’m thinking of going into dance. I started dancing when I was four, first ballet, then jazz and then modern. I still take a class every week and like to watch ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ on television.”

She also likes to hang out with friends, swim, chat online, and listen to music a lot.

–Photos by Brett Barden

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Skate Today was created in November 2004 to showcase the people of the skating world, skaters and coaches and others, who make figure skating and ice dancing a pleasure to watch for fans from around the world. The goal was to create a site that would give viewers an insight into the personalities of the people involved in this sport and to give you a more personal connection when watching them live at an event or on the television. Our staff knows how much time and dedication is put into this sport and that's why Skate Today was created.

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