Belleville News Democrat SOI article

Olympic ice dancers bringing show to St. Louis

BY SUZANNE BOYLE
News-Democrat

If you're a figure-skating fan, the 2010 Olympics image imprinted on your mind might be the one of petite Meryl Davis hovering above her partner Charlie White as he moves down the rink. She is facing the opposite direction, held aloft by standing on her left skate, which is planted on his left leg stretched out behind him.

The crowd roared.

The newly minted silver medalists in ice dancing aren't about to let the unique maneuver they call the "Phantom Lift" disappear into the night.

"You'll see it. It's one we still do," said Charlie, 22. But area residents will get just one chance to see it live, when he and Meryl join other skating notables Friday during the tour stop of Smuckers Stars on Ice at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

They don't typically name their lifts, the pair said by phone from Hershey, Pa. But when it caught the attention of the world during the Winter Games, they picked the name because the lift occured during their performance to music from "Phantom of the Opera."

Also included in the Stars on Ice tour -- and a huge hit on YouTube -- will be their Olympic routine to Bollywood music.

Skating for a rapt audience, but minus judges, has been a change of pace -- to say the least.

"This is a different chapter in our lifes," said Meryl, 23, of joining the tour that has them on the road until June, seeing different cities almost daily.

Charlie chuckled when asked what city he was in during the phone interview.

"I just totally blanked!" he said, explaining how they often are on a bus for hours, driving in the dark to reach a hotel "in the wee hours of the morning." They then try to get in some sleep, food and practice before a 7 p.m. show.

"I miss home, but we haven't been home much this year," said Charlie. "It's like we're almost used to being away."

"We get Mondays off!" said Meryl, who added that it's been a fun group to train with. "I think we can learn a lot on the tour."

That "fun group" includes Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek, 2006 Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto and other Olympians, including Jeremy Abbott, Todd Eldredge, Michael Weiss, Yuka Sato and Alissa Czisny.

"It's a new concept for us," Charlie said. "Of course we've seen the show, but now we get out on the ice and have fun. Usually, there is so much pressure (during competitions), and while we love to compete, this is nice."

The two have been skating together 13 years, longer than any other skaters in U.S. figure skating history. And while they train and compete together, they are not romantically involved. Both were born and raised in Michigan, skated and trained near their homes, then chose to attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor so they could remain close to family and friends. They're both juniors, but put college on hold this year because of the Olympics combined with the World Championship and then Stars on Ice.

How have they managed to remain friends off the ice and partners on the ice for so long?

Charlie: "We have the same work ethic."

"We have a lot of the same goals," Meryl said. "We have different personalities but we complement each other."

Charlie may learn the routines faster, but Meryl is the perfectionist, they said. Charlie is more easygoing.

When they sleep, they both dream of skating, and have a tendency to listen to music with an ear for how they could use something in a routine.

They both want to finish college, but hedge about their plans for the next few years, including whether they will compete in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

For now, a vacation suits both of them after the tour ends. Somewhere sunny and warm.

"Then it's right back to the routine," Charlie said of training for competitions in 2011.

"We take it year by year," said Meryl. "We can't make any promises."

Still, they will be just 27 and 26 during the 2014 Olympics. (Friends and ice dancers Belbin and Agosto finished fourth at the 2010 Games at ages 25 and 28.)

"We're at a point where everything is fluid," Charlie said. "We want to compete as long as we love it."

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