On any given weekday morning, the Olympic ice rink at Skatequest in Reston had quite a smattering of people enjoying its smooth surface.
As McLean resident Michael Weiss, a member of the U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team, practices complicated jumps on one side, a couple from the Bulgarian Olympic Figure Skating Team works on turns in the center. On the other side, an instructor works on free-style basics with a young girl as her mother watches on, and in the midst of all of this, several women from Great Falls and other nearby communities perfect their ice-dancing moves with instructor Gary Shortland, a former ice dancing British National Champion.
"I started about two and a half years ago because my daughter wanted to come skating," said Maureen Berk, a resident of Great Falls.
Berk says she realized pretty quickly that she was "probably going to take us both down" if she did not pick up some skating skills in short order. Subsequently, she signed up for a group class at Skatequest.
"After the first couple of weeks I was completely addicted," said Berk. "I loved it and I couldn't get enough of it."
Rather than learning free-style skating, which includes the high-flying jumps and turns associated with the Olympics, Berk opted to take up ice dancing.
"I like it because it combines the artistry of dance with the athleticism of sports," said Berk.
As it turned out, it also proved to be a wonderful way to make new friends. Through practice, Berk met Jane Drewes a grandmother, Great Falls resident Debbie Kantarian, and Paige Eldridge, a resident of Arlington who has been skating since she was a child.
"It's really fun," said Eldridge. "There's about five of us and we come three or four times a week."
However, it is not all fun and games. All of the women participate in test sessions which are performed in front of a panel of judges. There are several different levels, and each of them moves up through the ranks at her own individual pace.
"Each level has three dances," said Eldridge. "Each dance you have to some steps in front of the judges."
According to Berk, this can be quite nerve-wracking, even if it is just for a personal sense of enjoyment and achievement.
"If you never skated as a child, I think it's even harder to get in front of them," said Berk.
For the competitions, the women put on their "sparkly costumes" which are for the most part, sewn by Drewes.
"The ladies are fun," said Shortland. "Everyday is a new day and everyday is different."
*If you are interested in taking skating lessons with Gary Shortland at Skatequest in Reston, please contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.