Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dance Takes Center Stage in Aston

The rolling hills and wooded landscapes of Aston, Pa., a low-key suburb of Philadelphia, are pulsing with a bit more rhythm these days after a sudden influx of the world's best ice dancers.

When the husband-and-wife coaching team of Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponossov arrived at the four-surface IceWorks Skating Complex last year, they brought an estimable stable of students, but no bona fide superstars.

That changed this spring, when a disappointing fourth-place finish at the 2008 ISU World Figure Skating Championships prompted reigning Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto to leave long-time coach Igor Shpilband to train under the couple, who won the 1980 Olympic title.

"What we have been looking for is a fresh breath, if you will," the 26-year-old Agosto said. "After skating together 10 years this month, we had reached a certain point where we were no longer feeling anything new, no longer enthusiastic and excited about what we were doing."

So far, he added, the move is paying off.

"Coming here to work with Natalia and Gennadi has been an incredible experience so far . . . it's like learning to skate all over again," Agosto enthused. "Every day a new amazing thing is revealed to me."

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