Showcasing their talents on ice, many teams of synchronized and individual figure skaters, all under the banner of the Niagara Centre Skating Club, sharpened their blades and skills, offering an entertaining program of synchronized skating in front of about 200 people Saturday.
The Meridian Community Centre (MCC) in Pelham hosted the Matrix gala, which helped everyone involved prepare for upcoming Skate Canada’s competitions, including Winterfest in Brampton and Synchrofest in Oakville, and the Synchro Series in Kanata near Ottawa at the end of February.
Similar to line dancing, except on ice, the many synchronized skaters zoomed in and out with precision creating lines, circles, formations and various configurations, executing graceful moves like spins, steps and other dance-like manoeuvers, sometimes while skating sideways or backwards.
Athletes of all age groups represented most skating teams from the Niagara area, including West Lincoln, Thorold, Brock University and Pelham.
The gala gave them an opportunity to “get the jitters out,” including about nine of those who have never performed in front of a crowd, explained Tracey McGarrigle, Thorold resident and manager of the Matrix adult team. The gala also allows family, relatives and friends to see what their children are “working so hard toward.” This is particularly important since many competitions can be out of the area or far from home.
McGarrigle knows this feeling of accomplishment all too well as the proud mother of Katie McGarrigle, organizer of this event and a head coach. A professional seamstress, McGarrigle voluntarily sewed all of the costumes for the adult Matrix team to keep costs down. Katie is hoping to rekindle the popularity of synchronized skating. She's been coaching at Brock for two years and is now coaching the Matrix (adult and juvenile teams), which she formed in April. The Matrix teams are comprised of skaters from all over the region, as well.
“Having synchro back in Niagara is something new and exciting. The more people are finding out about it, the more people are wanting to come back and skate,” noted Katie.
Synchronized skating was more popular several years ago, and Niagara had about eight teams, noted Tracey. Whether due to the additional costs and time commitment involved in the sport, there are currently only about three teams in Niagara, she said. Katie’s goal is to expand the Matrix from two to four teams and hopes this will be a catalyst for more new teams to develop.
Comparing it to Triple “A” Hockey, she said, “No sport is cheap.” Figure skaters can pay from about $400 to $600 a year to join a club. It costs more for private coaching lessons and there are additional costs to joining a synchronized team. The difficult part with synchronized skating is that all of the members have to be present for performances. On the flip side, she said, synchronized skateers allow people from many skill levels to become involved and to perform.
Dressed in an Afro-wig and leopard-skin pants, Thomas Turner from the Brock University Varsity Skating Team and assistant coach for the Juvenile Matrix team, added a touch of humour by skating to I’m Too Sexy. He was one of several single skaters who performed, and led Brock’s upbeat presentation of Eminem’s infectious hit, Lose Yourself. Youngsters from the Matrix team performed to the theme song of the blockbuster hit, Aladdin, while N’Ice Blades from Pelham looked impressively adorable. West Lincoln’s Skating Club was also well represented.
“It’s the formations and step sequences that are the most difficult to do,” noted Katie. The most challenging aspects of her job include getting “everyone in sync with each other, and motivation.” Practices are held once a week at the MCC, during the early morning hours prior to attending school and jobs, which requires dedication. Obviously, Katie believes it’s worthwhile as she's been skating for 20 years and has always wanted to be a coach.
“This has been Katie’s dream and passion,” said Tracey, following the Matrix gala’s successful debut.
Closer to home, the Niagara Centre Skating Club will likely have a gala in March in Pelham at the end of their season, she added.
Anyone interested in joining synchronized skating can visit their Facebook page, email: email@example.com or call Katie at 289-213-8379.