Heather Smarick’s ISI Dance 10 ‘Project’ Is Complete!
by Eileen Viglione
Sixteen-year-old Heather Smarick describes herself as the type of athlete that likes to complete the projects she begins. The high school junior successfully completed one such “project” — a lofty goal she has been striving for since a young age. Heather, an ISI Freestyle 7 skater, passed the prestigious ISI Dance 10 test in July.
“Achieving the Dance 10 level has been one of my top goals as a figure skater and to have reached it is surreal,” she said. “I am truly thankful for the opportunity to showcase the dances that have pushed me as both a skater and a person.”
Stamina is certainly a challenging aspect of the ISI Dance 10 test, according to Heather. “No matter how much intense training or multi-pattern run-throughs I prepared with, the test-taking itself proved difficult to effortlessly skate through due to the nerves that come with performing for judges to watch.”
Heather began skating at age 2, under the direction of coaches Bob Mock and Barb Gahagen, and she has been an ISI member since she was 4 years old, when she skated in her first competition. She began private lessons with Mock, her ice dance coach, when she was 9 years old. Her home rink is Alpha Ice Complex in Pittsburgh, Pa.
“I have been ice dancing since I was 9, originally used as a form of additional support for my freestyle training,” she said. “However, after passing a few of the early tests, I became interested in ice dancing for all that it had to offer. I love that through ice dancing, I can channel my perfectionism into something beautiful. The whole point of skating is to perform, and ice dancing allows me to do this while focusing on my edges, upper body carriage and flow.”
While Heather appreciates the focus on perfectionism in ice dance, she also thinks it fosters frustration at times. “The need to execute every step cleanly, on the correct count, and with the right expression can be overwhelming,” she said. “However, I must say, this challenge presents the opportunity for incredible satisfaction and much fine-tuning.”
Heather skates with a professional partner, Jeff Petri, for test sessions and used to dance with Daniel Taimonov. She and Taimonov were selected to perform together in the 2018 ISI Worlds Benefit Show.
She practices four times a week, incorporating private lessons, practice time and her assistance with learn-to-skate classes.
She has participated in dozens of local ISI competitions over the years as well as national events.
“In the spring of 2022, my home rink held the Northeast Championships, at which my team, Ice & Blades of Western Pennsylvania, won the overall team award,” she said. “I plan to continue competing for as long as I’m able to!
“ISI competitions from over the years have been unbelievably fun and rewarding experiences that I genuinely believe have shaped me as a young girl. The most memorable events have been the 2017 Winter Classic, the 2018 World Recreational Team Championships and the 2022 Northeast Championships.
“These competitions have provided me with the opportunity to meet inspiring skaters from around the world, travel with my close friends and teammates and perform in front of unimaginably supportive audiences.
“The feeling of receiving a gold medal or passing a test is truly unlike any other. These events have given me the opportunity to perform, which is undoubtedly my favorite part of the sport. Through competing and testing, I’m able to show off the dances and programs I work on every day I’m at the rink.”
Heather is appreciative of her family’s support throughout her skating journey because it has enabled her to achieve such an exciting feat.
“In middle school, my parents allowed me to ‘cyber school’ to advance my on-ice training,” she shared. “When I made the decision to return to a brick-and-mortar setting for high school while keeping an intense skating regimen, they supported my decision 100 percent. Outside of the rink, I can often be found at my dance studio, where I take ballet, pointe, jazz and contemporary classes weekly. I truly enjoy working with kids; in years past and present, I have helped teach learn-to-skate at my rink and dance classes at my studio. I’m also involved with World Vision’s Next Gen group, a humanitarian organization filled with high school and college-aged students.”
What is Heather’s advice for skaters aspiring to achieve ISI Dance 10?
“I would say, with no hesitation, go for it! Make sure to practice off-lesson, focus on your timing and give each performance your all!”
Established in 1959, the Ice Sports Industry (ISI) — creator of America’s first learn-to-skate curriculum — is an international trade association encompassing all aspects of the ice sports industry. Our goal is to promote ice skating as a participant sport and recreational activity for everyone — all ages and abilities. For more information, visit skateisi.org.