Alison Gregson left the competitive skating world at 16.

Now, at the age of 44, she’s preparing for the final dance of the Diamond Dance Test in order to get her certification.

In the skating world, the Diamond Dance Test is the highest level of ice dance test that can be taken.

There are six dances involved in this challenging test, and Gregson has now finished five of them. All six dances contain different skill sets for each ice dance in order to get a passing mark.

“The last one is called the Golden Waltz — I’m working on that right now,” said Gregson.

There were no hard feelings when Gregson left the demanding schedule of being a competitive figure skater when she was 16 years old. At her last competition, she knew there wasn’t much time left before she had to choose a university.

“It was more of a rite of passage, as opposed to quitting or giving up,” Gregson said.

By passing the Diamond Dance Test, Gregson hopes to join an elite group of skaters who have previously reached this accomplishment. This alumni includes Canadian skating legends Scott Moir and Kaitlyn Weaver. Photo by Ingrid Ho

The first time she put on a pair of ice skates, was at the age of three. From there, she began her competitive journey in the singles category of figure skating, until she was 16.

In the last 20 years though, Gregson said she’s still been involved in ice skating, but instead of spending her time perfecting her craft, she’s been using her expertise to coach. Gregson believes coaching is an always-evolving process that allows her to grow and learn from each experience that she has had.

“I think we always have to continue to grow and challenge ourselves and challenge the way we do things,” Gregson said.

It was five years ago she decided she wanted to take the Diamond Dance Test.

“The idea sort of came to me and I thought I was a little insane at the time!”

One of the requirements of the test is to perform with a partner and when it came to choosing hers, Gregson wanted someone with just as much dedication to the craft.

Gregson’s partner, Ben Westenberger, is a retired international ice dance skater who also coaches figure skating. She met him through another coach and started training back in 2015 for the test.

Westenberger said that the Diamond Dances are generally geared towards competitive and elite dancers who would be people who are seen on television.

Gregson explains the “Golden Waltz” dance is two minutes of constant, continual movement and pushing. The upper body and the lower body are always in movement. The work of the partner is equally intricate.

“You have to use each other to sort of press against so you can move from one step and one curve to the next,” said Gregson.

The dance requires the man to dip the woman and the woman to do a quick spin, which happens in three to six beats of the music.

“It’s physically demanding and we are wiped out at the end of the session,” Westenberger said.

In 2016, the training came to a stop for several months when Westenberger broke his foot. The loss of time forced them to start from square one, but Gregson and Westenberger persevered.

“We had to kind of build upon what we had, but also starting at the grassroots of it all and again learning to skate together,” Westenberger said.

In preparation for the dance Gregson has also hired a personal trainer and nutritionist so she strengthens endurance needed for the test.

Gregson sees her personal trainer, Candice Hughes, once a week. It’s here that Gregson is coached through exercises such as teaching the proper form and activating core-stabilizing muscles.

After identifying Gregson’s strengths and weaknesses, Hughes developed a specialized program to train her for her upcoming challenge.

“I like to introduce new exercises each week to keep her motivated and progressing,” Hughes said.

With a passion for ice dance that refuses to quit, Gregson continues to work towards passing the most difficult level of ice dancing in existence.

“I mean, I’ll be 70 and I’m sure I’ll be still working.”

iho@cjournal.ca

The editor responsible for this article is Brandon Tucker and can be contacted at btucker@cjournal.ca