A Figure Skating Passion Sparkles with Fashion

For this particular skate, the most important one up to now, she’s dressed in red. With a short, black shrug around her shoulders. No bling. It’s the dress meant to help Danielle McManamon pass the test.

Danielle & coaches
Danielle with Coach Gail, middle, and Coach Stephanie on test day.

The test is the United States Figure Skating Association’s Senior moves test. It’s one of the highest level of achievements in U.S. figure skating. Every U.S. Olympian has passed through this golden gate.

On March 12, 2015, at the age of 15, Danielle passed, too.

In the near future, she’ll be carrying her Gold Medal status to two competitions. She’ll be performing in June at Clearwater Ice Arena (CIA), and then again in July at Worlds in Chicago.

For these events, Danielle will require one of her fashion favorites: a coral-colored, heavily jeweled dress. “It has an open back and lots of stones. I love the stones,” Danielle says, her face lighting up as she describes it.

But more on the upcoming competitions and her fashion selections later …

In her red dress on test day, the 9th-grader at Countryside High School skated a clean Senior moves-in-the-field test, earning her accolades from the judges, a grape juice toast from her coaches, big smiles from her friends, and the proof that a decade of hard work and passion can pay off.

Achieving this level of figure skating is a high point that marks years of lessons, ice time, competitions, and tests.

“Danielle is a fierce competitor,” says Stephanie Messler, one of Danielle’s two coaches. “She is a determined, hard-working, dedicated young lady.”

Coach Gail Roeper agrees: “Danielle passed every one of her (moves) tests the first time.”

Not many skaters can lay claim to that achievement. There are eight moves-in-the-field levels: Pre-Preliminary, Preliminary, Pre-Juvenile, Juvenile, Intermediate, Novice, Junior, and Senior. Each test consists of progressively more difficult edge and step patterns. Skaters must perform each field move in the specific pattern with power, quickness, edge control, and leg extension.

If the performance doesn’t meet at least two out of the three judge’s standards, the skater is required to retry the test at a later date.

For Danielle’s senior moves test, all three judges gave her high praise:

  • “powerful control of turns and tempo”
  • “lovely extension”
  • “strong flow and speed”
  • “good power pulls & quickness”
  • “nice edges”
  • “great smile and presentation”
  • “very well prepared & presented!”
  • “A great way to end your testing!”

“It’s Danielle’s perseverance and work ethic that led to a test well done and gave her the achievement of becoming a gold medalist,” Coach Gail says.

In the anxious days leading up to a test or competition, Danielle likes to hit the ice to help calm her nerves.

“I like to skate a lot because I feel less nervous when I’m actually doing it, than when I’m thinking about it.”

Jordana, her mom, has her own strategies.

“I just try to keep breathing,” she says.

Finding out Danielle passed her Senior moves with glowing remarks allowed Jordana to finally breathe a big sigh of relief.

“I’m very proud of her and all the hard work she put into it,” Jordana says.

Danielle, who started skating at 5 years old, has spent thousands of hours on the ice at Clearwater Ice Arena where she trains. A Novice-level freestyle skater, she also participates in off-ice training.

While she has reached one of her top goals, she still has other achievements to accomplish on her ‘to-do’ skating list.

“I want to land my double Axel and get my double Lutz completely consistent,” she says. “I love jumping. I don’t really know why, I just like it. It’s fun.

“Well, I like landing them,” she quickly adds. “I don’t like falling. Even if I fall, though, it’s still good because I tried.”

Danielle will perform two Freestyle 8 programs at the 29th Annual ISI Competition at CIA June 11-13, 2015.  One performance is an artistic program to the song, “I Believe,” by Christina Perri. The other is a footwork program to the music, “Heist,” by Lindsey Stirling. Click below to see Danielle in a lesson with Coach Gail as she puts some final touches on the upcoming competition programs.

In addition to June’s competition, Danielle will travel to Chicago in July to compete both programs at the 2015 ISI World Team Championships. She, along with fellow figure skater, Justin Brown, also will compete in a “jump and spin” event at both competitions. Danielle also is a member of Team Sunfire, a synchronized skating team that will perform at both events as well.

With all that skating ahead, picking out the perfect dress is key. After all, the dress is part of the comprehensive package that a skater puts in front of the audience.

And for Danielle, it’s the dress that first drew her to the ice.

“Honestly, I was five,” Danielle says, referring to her earliest skating days. “I liked dresses.”

Whether it’s a dazzling pink one or a neon green one, the outfits Danielle wears to test and compete are thoughtfully selected by her. She has adorned more than 30 dresses over the years as she has competed and tested her way to success. Click below to see some of the dresses she’s worn.

For the upcoming footwork program, she’s wearing one of her favorites.

“It’s coral with lots of stones. I wore it last year at (Florida) State Games for my short program,” she says.

For her artistic program, she’s wearing a light blue dress with a cluster of stones, a mesh back with criss-cross straps.

“I just thought it matched the music well,” Danielle says. “But we added more stones to it because it wasn’t enough.”

She tried about seven dresses before landing on the red dress for testing. Dressing for a test is different from a competition. The judges seem to prefer less sparkle for tests. Danielle explains why she picked the red and black combo: “It was comfy. It wasn’t too warm. I like the color and the black shrug made sure I wasn’t too cold. So it was a good balance.”

And in figure skating, balancing hard work and dedication – with just the right dress – can lead to success.

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