In The Loop had the opportunity to talk to the promising new U.S. junior ice dance team, Katarina Wolfkostin and Jeffrey Chen, who graciously agreed to speak with us prior to their Junior Grand Prix debut at JGP Courchevel this week. Although they just teamed up earlier this year, Katarina is the 2017 US Intermediate Champion and the 2018 US Novice Champion with her former partner Howard Zhao, while Jeffrey is the 2018 US Novice Silver Medalist with former partner Gianna Buckley, and also the younger brother of 2017 US Champion Karen Chen.
Katarina and Jeffrey currently train in Novi, Michigan under their coaches Igor Shpilband, Pasquale Camerlengo, Adrienne Lenda, and Natalia Deller.
Read about their programs, goals, role models and more in our interview with them here!
How do you feel to be making your JGP debut as a team at Courchevel?
Katarina & Jeffrey: It’s great! We are really honored and excited to be here.
As a new team, what has been your biggest challenge in the lead up to your first competitions together?
Jeffrey: As a new team, in the beginning one challenge was that we had to adapt to each other’s technique. It helped that we both had experience and that we could push each other and learn quickly. Each skater starts with their own style and then we have to merge our styles together.
Katarina: Yes, we really have to adapt to each other for the best unison. We also worked on finding the best ways to communicate on ice and off ice. We’ve worked well together, leading up to our first competitions. It’s great working with Jeffrey.
Can you tell us a little about your programs for this season, selections from “The Boy from Oz” and the “Fire on Fire” Sam Smith medley, and how they came about? What is it like having restrictions on the type of music for the Rhythm Dance?
Katarina: We were looking through different music options for the rhythm dance, and Igor suggested this piece (from “The Boy from Oz”). We really liked the defined beat, and we felt it would really go well with our foxtrot. So then we started choreographing. Having restrictions on the type of music for the rhythm dance gave us a chance to explore and have fun with this genre of music.
Jeffrey: And for the free dance, I thought the “Fire on Fire” music was really powerful and moving. We thought we could interpret it well, and that it might go well with our expressive style. It was also a good contrast to our foxtrot music.
What was your favorite moment while building your programs?
Jeffrey: I enjoyed choosing the music, thinking about the possibilities.
Katarina: My favorite is the choreography. It’s fun to develop the program and see the ideas coming together.
How do you feel about the theme of this season’s Rhythm Dance? Is there a challenge to having a completely new pattern like Tea Time Foxtrot as the required pattern?
Katarina & Jeffrey: Since the tea time foxtrot is an entirely new dance, we attended seminars and watched videos in order to learn the dance. The coaches were new to this dance as well, so we all worked together. And the way we interpret the dance is constantly changing and evolving. It’s very exciting.
What is each of your guys’ favorite element/piece of choreography from this season’s programs to perform?
Jeffrey: I like the teatime foxtrot. It’s a fun dance, and interesting. It gives us a chance to really perform, and it gets more and more rewarding the more we do.
Katarina: Yes, I really like the teatime foxtrot. Also the step sequences and rotational lifts.
Who are your role models in figure skating? Do you have any role models outside of figure skating who help you stay motivated?
Jeffrey: So many great role models..
Katarina: Yes, like the senior teams at our rink in Novi. I admire how Christina (Carreira) and Anthony (Ponomarenko) bring not just their skills but also really great energy to the ice every day.
Jeffrey: ...And Scott (Moir) and Guillaume (Cizeron). Scott’s edge quality and his presence when he performs, and Guillaume’s elegance and deep knees, how effortless he makes everything seem.
Katarina: And Meryl (Davis), not just for her beautiful performances but also off ice, how she pushes herself to be excellent in school and other areas of life at the same time.
Jeffrey: Outside of skating, we both have had great role models in our families.
Katarina: Yes. Siblings, parents, grandparents. And they have all been really supportive.
Jeffrey: Our families are so important.
How did you get into figure skating, specifically ice dance? Was it gradual, or was there a moment where you thought “this is it, this is what I want to do”?
Jeffrey: I was originally a singles skater. My sister Karen encouraged me to do ice dance. I didn’t think I would enjoy it at first, as it didn’t look as impressive as the jumps. Then, in my first year of ice dancing, at one point I realized that as a single skater, jumping might be 80% of your focus, but in ice dance there is so much more time for choreography and attention to detail.
Katarina: The shift to ice dance was gradual for me. I did both freestyle and ice dance together for several years. I skated with a partner when I was nine, and it was nice having someone by my side to work on things together. Plus the lifts were exciting. I realized how much I liked the artistic side of skating, focusing on presentation, execution, edges, and the different techniques in ice dance.
How do you motivate yourselves in figure skating, and balance your life with your training?
Katarina: There are definitely times it’s harder. You have to expect that there are going to be times when things feel good or don’t feel good. Having a partner who goes through the same thing helps. Sometimes you have to just push through it, or push each other. It also helps to spend extra time to work on something that's not going the way you want. Skating is a big time commitment, so we have to plan things in advance. Like when we travel, it helps to do the school work early.
Jeffrey: Right. We have to work very efficiently, trying not to waste time. We’re not in school right now, for the summer, but when we are both in school full time, time management is everything. My best advice is don’t let it overwhelm you. Make a schedule for yourself.
Katarina: Save time to relax. Enjoy time with your family. Get enough sleep. Feed your pets. Go outside.
What are your goals for this season?
Jeffrey & Katarina: This season we want to get lots of experience, to have successful competitions, and to gain exposure as a team so other people can get to know us and what we can do. Really to share our love of skating.
Have either of you been to France before? Do you plan on taking any extra time to see the city?
Jeffrey: Neither of us have been to France before. We plan to stay for a couple of extra days and check out some tourist attractions and maybe also some local attractions in Lyon and Paris.
Once again, thank you so much for your time, and good luck in France!
Katarina & Jeffrey: Thank you! And thank you so much for the interview.