J. Barry Mittan, the Electronic Photojournalist

Nowak and Kolasinksi by J. Barry Mittan (1996)

When you think of ice dancing, you usually don't think of Poland, but Sylwia Nowak and Sebastian Kolasinski are working very hard to change that. The Polish dancers have been moving up the ranks each year, taking the World Junior Championships gold medal in 1994 and reaching 11th at the 1996 Worlds. This year, they finished at Skate Canada, at the NHK Trophy and at the Cup of Russia.

Nowak and Kolasinski hope to reach the top ten at the 1997 Worlds. After that, depending on their health, they hope to skate until 2002, maybe longer. After that they plan to continue helping other skaters. Sylwia says "We've spent almost all of our lives in skating. I like working with children and teaching younger dancers." Both skaters are enrolled at the Warsaw Physical Academy studying physical education to help prepare for teaching careers.

Both skaters started at the age of 4. Sylwia volunteered in kindergarten when coaches came looking for new talent. Sebastian started to skate after an illness, when a doctor told his parents it would be good for him. He started in dance because his mother was afraid of the other disciplines, but continued because "I really like the women," he says. Sylwia chose dance because "I was afraid of jumping." Coaches paired the two in 1991 when her former partner hurt his knee and another Polish dance team split up. "We love to skate together," says Sylwia. "We have a great coach (Maria OLszewska-Lelonkiewicz) and she helps us to skate really well together," adds Sebastian.

"We train very hard," says Sebastian, "a lot of time in the rink--at least 5 hours a day skating." Off ice, they have ballroom and ballet dancing classes, conditioning, and choreography sessions. Each season, the skaters begin by selecting the music for each program. "Everyone sits together choose the music, but we have the last word," he says. "We look for music we can feel, which we can use to make good steps and feel the beat," explains Sylwia. The dancers prefer the free dance and original dance over the compulsories. "No one likes the compulsories," claims Sebastian, "The Golden Waltz is very nice, but it's very difficult. The free dance is our dance." Sylwia elaborates, "We can show more emotion and have more fun in the free."

For the last two years, the duo have done Latin free dances but "it was too much. Enough is enough!" Sylwia exclaims. Now they are using Polish gypsy music. "We like the special character of the music," claims Sebastian. He notes that the gypsy music reminded him of some of the programs of Bestemianova and Bukin, his favorite ice dancers for expression. Sylwia's early favorites included Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, especially Bolero. Now they both like the technique of Oksana Gritschuk and Evgeny Platov and the expression of Anjelika Krlova and Oleg Ovsiannikov. Natalia Linichuk, who choreographs dances for the two Russian couples, also did their free dance.

For relaxation, Sebastian enjoys horseback riding, swimming, skiing, and hunting. Sylwia also likes to swim, but is not as good at it. She enjoys club dancing and listening to Madonna and Polish music. Sebastian is partial to classical and Russian music. Sylwia also loves to take photographs. "Anything at all," she says, "I spend all my money on pictures."

Sylwia loves to travel but doesn't like to fly: "My coach was afraid so now I am too." The couple most enjoyed the Junior Worlds in Seoul, Korea, where they took second. "It was so much fun. We did not expect to do so well," Sebastian explains. "Korea was a new experience for us, something very different," Sylwia adds. She actually prefers to remain in Poland, but would like to visit Greece and Australia. Sebastian likes countries with few people -- Australia is his dream vacation. Both skaters were touched by the fans in Canada. "The kids were very cute," says Sylwia. "In Poland, figure skating is not popular so we were surprised when they recognized us and wanted our autographs. We loved it." Both skaters enjoyed their visits to St. John and Edmonton last year, citing the party atmosphere surrounding each event.

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