was a late entry into the skating world, beginning when he was 12.
"I have always loved the sport," he said. "My mom had
a friend whose daughter was skating at a local rink. I had a very
big crush on her and she told me that if I started skating, I could
be her pairs partner. I was thrilled. So I began taking lessons and
loved it. " Navarro's two brothers skated recreationally while
Shmalo's sister is a gold medallist in freestyle and moves.
In contrast, Navarro was literally on the ice from the time she was
an infant. "My mom is a skating coach and she would take me to
the rink with her when she taught," Navarro stated. "She
would dress me up in a snowsuit and sit me on the ice, instead of
leaving me with a babysitter. However, I do not believe she ever intended
for me to get involved in skating seriously. It just happened. "
She began skating when she was three.
Navarro said that she "competed in pairs and singles in addition
to dance, but dance has always been where my heart is most. I love
adagio skating, but never enjoyed competing in pairs. I also enjoy
skating by myself. However I prefer skating with someone else. There
is so much more you can do with another person -- such a different
dynamic. And with dance, I feel like it is so much more about the
actually skating rather than just executing elements. Shmalo agreed
stating, "I love singles, pairs, and ice dancing. What draws
me to ice dancing is the creativity, flow, and drama dancers are encouraged
to exhibit in their performances."
That explains why Shmalo's favorite skaters are Natalia Bestemianova
and Andrei Bukin. "We had the opportunity to work with Natalia
and her presence is larger than life," he stated. "Also,
Klimova and Ponomorenko were so sensual and passionate - they had
a special chemistry on the ice which really mesmerized me. "
Navarro said, "I love any skater who skates with their soul so
to say, those skaters who truly look like they love it out there on
the ice. Michele Kwan skates like that. I love the Canadian pair team
(Jamie Sale and David Pelletier) because they are always looking at
each other when they skate. They seem so connected. I also admire
Robin Cousins for his beauty as a skater and person. Someone who accomplishes
so much as a skater, and so much outside of skating, while being such
a healthy human being truly amazes me!"
Navarro formerly competed in freestyle, reaching as high as seventh
in senior ladies at Central Pacifics in 1999, and in pairs, where
she finished sixth at the U. S. Junior Nationals in Intermediate Pairs
in 1994 with Ashton Phillips She began dancing when she was 12. Her
first dance partner was Matthew Tinney, with whom she competed four
years, winning Juvenile Dance B in 1994 and finishing tenth in Novice
Dance at the 1996 U. S. Nationals. She competed with Nicholas Hart
at the 1998 Nationals in junior dance. Shmalo won three medals in
figures at U. S. Nationals, including a silver in seniors in 1997.
He competed in pairs for one season, winning at the Eastern Great
Lakes Regional in Intermediate Pairs with Lauer Shea in 1994. He had
a few dance partners, but never competed until he was matched with
Navarro in 1999.
The dancers met when their coach, Inese Bucevica, went with U. S.
ice dancers Beata Handra and Charles Sinek to work with Paul Spruell,
who had also coached Navarro since she was a child. Bucevica, who
had coached Shmalo for four years, recommended a tryout and the couple
fit well together. They now train for about 3-4 hours on ice and an
hour off ice at Sport-O-Rama in Monsey, NY. Their off ice training
includes balletics, strength building with a personal trainer and
ballroom dancing. One of this season's classes was in flamenco. Navarro
explained "I have been taking ballet since I was young. My first
class was a Mommy and Me ballet class. I had a special leotard to
fit over my diaper. " Shmalo added "besides ballet, we hope
to explore a class in Modern or Broadway-Fosse together."
Bucevica does the couple's choreography, but incorporates the dancers'
ideas into the program. Both skaters indicated that choosing the music
each year was a monumental task. "It is always such a project
between the OD and free dance, and the three tastes of Inese, Rob,
and myself," Navarro said. "I would be lying if I were to
say it was an easy thing! Usually we all listen to tons of music and
bring in anything we think might work well. " Shmalo added, "We
like to skate to music that is upbeat and dancey. I think that best
matches our personalities because we like to have fun with our skating."
"I like to skate to a vast majority of music. That is what is
so great about skating and ice dance specifically," Navarro continued.
"I truly enjoyed the first piece of our OD this year, "Hernando's
Hideaway," because it had a great mix of story, seduction, and
just plain fun. I also loved our free dance music ("Oceania")
because it was very strong. It made you move whether you wanted to
or not!" Among the compulsory dances, the Golden Waltz was their
favorite and the Quickstep their least favorite. "I really enjoyed
the Golden Waltz this season," Navarro said, "after Rob
and I had worked on it for a good deal of time. There is so much involved
in that dance- it really feels like a senior dance."
Navarro plans to continue to skate as a professional but isn't set
on a career path as yet. She is currently a sophomore at Columbia
University, where she is on the Dean's List. She plans to major in
English or writing and minor in dance. As for the future, she said,
"I think that depends where my studies at Columbia take me. I
hope to find another passion outside of skating somewhere at Columbia
that will spill over into my life after I graduate. But I hope to
always be involved in skating one way or another. " Coaching
is a possibility but as she noted candidly, "Instructing someone
or guiding someone does sound scarier than actually skating myself."
Shmalo has more definite career plans. He intends to become an attorney
practicing corporate or real estate law. A graduate of New York University,
he is currently in his second year as a law student at the Benjamin
N. Cardozo School of Law. This summer, he plans to work in an associate
position at a large New York law firm, Rosenman and Colin. Shmalo
has little time for outside interests. "I'm so busy with law
school, all I have time for now is my law books. I loved property
law and also find the corporate and securities law cases intriguing,"
he said. "Between skating and law school, my days are packed.
I love living in New York City and exploring all the different cultural
and social activities the city provides."
Navarro concurred. "Enjoying New York City is my favorite hobby,"
she said. "It is an amazing city. " Both skaters love to
travel. Navarro's favorite was Hong Kong, a city where the duo skated
in a Christmas show during their first season together. Shmalo said
that his "favorite trip was going to visit my best friend from
NYU. He is from Sydney Australia. The people were so friendly, the
country was beautiful - and we got to jump of a large cliff into the
crystal blue ocean below. It was amazing. " On holidays, both
skaters return to their home towns to visit their families.
Off ice, Navarro loves to dance and enjoys most kinds of music. "One
of my favorite types is Soul/R&B," she said. Shmalo listens
to techno music and R&B. "I think Prince is an amazing artist,"
he said, "and Patty Labelle can serenade me anytime she wishes.
Regretfully, Navarro said that "because of school I never get
a chance to read literature of choice, however I most enjoy my Renaissance
Drama class this semester. I loved Jane Austen when I read that in
school last year and Pride and Prejudice was the last novel I read
for fun. My favorite movie of all-time is 'Happy Texas. ' It has a
great mix of comedy and romance in its own kind of way and I am extremely
biased because it was the first movie my uncle directed, co-wrote,
made and it became this huge family project that brought our family
together in this incredible way."
The time constraints of skating and studying have made it difficult
for Navarro to continue here modeling career, so she helps defray
her expenses by working for a catering company, teaching inline skating
in the summers and performing in skating shows.