Skating program readies for season finale

Skating program readies for season finale

DANVILLE – Jane Smittkamp likes to spend quality time with her daughter and found a way to do so and get exercise, too.

Smittkamp and her daughter Mary-Hunter Smittkamp of Paris, drive to Danville to participate in the Learn to Skate program at the David S. Palmer Arena.

The elder Smittkamp took lessons for three years when she lived in Nashville, Tenn., and has been involved with the local program for two years.

"I love to skate," she said. "When there was an opportunity to start an adult class last year with two other women about my age and skill level, I jumped at the chance. Besides, it's a chance to spend time with my daughter and do something fun we both love."

Smittkamp, 42, said she has dreamed of being a skater since she was a child.

"I just didn't have the opportunity where I lived," she said. "There's something beautiful and empowering about skating. It feels like freedom as you glide across the ice and feel the breeze on your face. You feel graceful and pretty."

Smittkamp and more than 30 other students are gearing up for this weekend's end-of-the-year show.

"Ice School Musical" is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at the arena, 100 W. Main St. The show uses music from Disney's "High School Musical" as well as other school-related music. Admission is $5 per person.

Also performing are three guest skaters from the Indiana World Skating Academy in Indianapolis, who compete nationally.

The Learn to Skate program is under the direction of Debby LeVeck of St. Joseph. It uses the U.S. Figure Skating Association basic skills program, which incorporates eight skill levels and six free-style levels.

"We have three tot levels," LeVeck said. "We use games and songs to incorporate skills with the little ones. At the end of each lesson, we have an evaluation time and students get stickers and patches for achieving skills."

LeVeck said she has beginners in each of the age groups she teaches.

Smittkamp's daughter, who is 12, has skated for three years. She's also an honor student, plays piano and clarinet, participates in Scholastic Bowl, her school play and is active at her church.

"Skating is somehow different. It sets her apart. It makes her feel special," the proud mother said. "It's not an everyday, run-of-the-mill sport."

"Skating is more than exercise, it's also a great social time," LeVeck said. "I met so many people and got pen pals through competing. One of my goals is to provide as many opportunities for my students as I can and encourage them to compete."

LeVeck, 35, will show off some of her own skills during the show Saturday.

"I was asked about doing a solo and had to really think about it," LeVeck said. "I've sustained some injuries over the years, but it's fun to have the occasion to go out and do some of the skills I've acquired."

LeVeck said her performance serves a practical purpose too.

"We have so many costume changes, my skate gives the kids time to change," she joked. "I am really having fun getting ready, though. I've battled injuries and I can't push myself like I used to, but I'm having fun and, getting the exercise in preparation, I've lost five pounds."

Smittkamp feels the same way.

"I can't wait to skate any time I'm coming to the arena," she said. "But when you do a musical, you have a goal. It enhances the enjoyment of skating."

LeVeck will teach at an ice arena in Bloomington over the summer, but will be back at the Palmer Arena in the fall for a new series of Learn to Skate sessions.

For information, call Mary Ellen Baer at the arena at 431-2424.

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