Interview With Colin McManus

Photograph of American ice dancer Colin McManus

If you haven't heard of Anastasica Cannuscio and Colin McManus, might I suggest another place to hang out than under that rock? It must be so dark trying to watch skating under there! The duo are a shining example of just what magic can happen when natural talent and hard work meet in the medal. After medalling on the junior level at the U.S. Championships and on the Junior Grand Prix, Cannuscio and McManus made the leap to the senior ranks and won their first senior international competition when they attended the Ice Challenge in Graz, Austria. Fresh off performing their hearts out in front of a hometown crowd at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston, Colin McManus took the time to talk about he and Stasia's career together, their goals for the future, Theatre On Ice and much, much more in this interview you're just going to love as much as their skating:

Q: You and Anastasia have medalled on the junior level at the U.S. Championships, represented the U.S. at the Junior World Championships and this season won the Ice Challenge international competition in Graz, Austria ahead of 12 other teams from around the world. What do you consider to be the highlights or most special memories of your skating career to date?

A: Just reading that list of accomplishments makes me incredibly proud of everything Stasia and I have done. When I first started skating with Stasia, I was a one year Novice skater making the jump up to Junior. Stasia had already been on the Junior Grand Prix circuit for a season (way out of my league), and now she had to skate with my sorry Novice self. So, people had some lower expectations. Needless to say, the expectations grew. Stasia and I truly started at the bottom of the proverbial skating ladder and over the past six seasons we have climbed every step from International Selection Pool to Junior Grand Prix to Junior Worlds to Senior B to Grand Prix. It makes every accomplishment so much more meaningful. Sitting back and thinking about it all, I am most proud of earning the host pick to Skate America in 2012. Breaking onto the Grand Prix circuit was beyond anything I ever thought I could do, and it made Stasia and I hungry to keep climbing and see what we could accomplish.

Q: Looking towards the 2014/2015 season and beyond, what kind of goals do you and Anastasia have? What direction do you want to go in with your skating?

A: In all honesty, this past season was a bit of a wake up call. Though we had some great highlights, the end of the season left a lot to be desired. We are both motivated to become one of the top dance teams in the country. We are ready to reinvent ourselves, and take chances. We are currently working with our coaches assessing the past 6 years, and setting up the best game plan for us. We want to get more international assignments, we want to get back onto the Grand Prix circuit, and we want to be on the podium at the U.S. Championships. We have a great support system behind us, and we are ready to take our skating in a new direction.

Q: You represent the Skating Club Of Boston and are from Massachusetts. What was skating on home ice in a packed arena at the 2014 U.S. Nationals like?

A: It is something that I had envisioned a lot over the season, and I didn't quite know how I would handle the extra emotions that come with it. One word I can use to describe it is overwhelming. I knew this was the first time that a lot of my family would see me compete live. Whenever I compete, I always make it a point to find where my parents are sitting when I am taking my laps. This time around I didn't have to look very hard to see people I knew. The crowd was scattered with so many familiar faces, and that alone made the competition incredibly special for me. Though it wasn't only family in the crowd that was comforting to me, I knew so many people involved with the Local Organizing Committee. Every corner I turned back stage there was someone from Skating Club Of Boston ready to give me a hug. My friends and family mean so much to me, and now they were all gathered to support me and everything I had been working so hard for. Its something that I will never forget, and for me I don’t think any other U.S. Championships will top it.

Q: I loved that you skated to "Bust Your Windows" by Jazmine Sullivan for your short dance in 2011. That song is so much fun! Where do you get your program ideas and what's one piece of music you'd love to skate to?

A: That was one of my favourite programs! We knew that it was our last year at the Junior level, and it was the first year of the new Short Dance event. So, we figured we would really push the envelope and make a memorable program. Our coach Karen had been dying for a team to skate to "Bust Your Windows". So we took that song and "It's A Man’s World" by James Brown and created an soulful edgy waltz/tango. With that program, Stasia and I were the first team to ever compete a short dance at an ISU event, we won our first Junior Grand Prix medal, and we went to Junior Worlds. So, it  truly special to me for a lot of reasons. We generally collaborate with Karen at the beginning of every season, and try to pick a piece that will challenge us and help us continue to grow. Looking for the right music is always one of the more stressful parts of your season! Two years ago I got the idea for our rock and roll free dance from a So You Think You Can Dance? group number by Wade Robson. The song was called "Comanche" by The Revels, and I was obsessed with the that cool laid-back style of dancing, and we built a whole program around that group number. There is one piece of music that I would love to skate too and that is "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg". Being very lyrical, I think the music suits my skating style, but by no means do I think I could do that music justice (especially after Tessa and Scott’s program in '08) I have wanted to skate that music for years, but there are audible beat requirements for Ice Dance music. So,we tend to steer clear of heavily orchestrated pieces just to be safe. That means no "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" for me! Maybe one day...

Q: What do you think you and Anastasia's biggest weakness as a team is and how have you worked to improve specifically in that area?

A: I feel like we have two weaknesses, one of them being lifts. Lifts have become increasingly acrobatic and I feel that our lifts are something that separate us from the top teams in the world. We are currently working with our coaches to bring in a fresh perspective on lift ideas, and we hope that will help give us a more well balanced program. The other big struggle for us is finance. Neither Stasia nor I come from wealthy families, so we try to work a lot with fundraising to help our families pay for the expenses. There are so many components to training, and we want to give ourselves every opportunity.

Q: You have participated in Theatre On Ice with Act 1 Of Boston. What do you enjoy most about Theatre On Ice and how do you think this discipline can get a little more exposure in the future?

A: Theatre On Ice is an amazing outlet for skaters of all levels. It’s actually how I found my first partner and got started in ice dance. The focus is more on your capability as a team to tell a story. I feel like it is the perfect combination of pairs, singles, ice dance and synchronized skating and I think that's what I enjoy most about the discipline. It really pushed me to come out of my shell, and actually have expression when I skated. I feel like that is a tremendous learning experience for young skaters. As far as exposure for Theatre On Ice, there is so much respect for Theatre On Ice in Europe. They have a completely different style of theatre over there, and they are so far beyond what we have in the U.S. There are amazing teams from France and Spain pushing the envelope. I really think people need to start a conversation about it here. It is a discipline that is truly for every single skater young and old, and I feel like it is still flying under the radar. It’s invaluable experience that exposes you to every aspect of skating. I was able to travel to world with Theatre On Ice. I have competed abroad in two Nations Cup's and one just recently in Spain last May. I think if skaters truly understood the caliber of competition and the legitimacy of the discipline both nationally and internationally Theatre On Ice could make a greater impact here in the U.S.

Q: Figure skating is really such a mental game. How do you deal with the stress and pressure of competing on an elite level in a healthy way?

A: Luckily for me, Stasia is a rock solid competitor. She is always super focused in competition and that really helps to calm me down. I have gotten better about relaxing and just letting my muscle memory take over, but usually I just pick a song for every competition and jam out while I am warming up. I was listening to a lot of Macklemore's “White Walls” in Boston... haha.

Q: Speaking of healthy, let's go in a completely different direction... What are your favourite unhealthy foods?

A: Ice cream! I have been known to destroy many pints of Ben and Jerry’s. Stasia is also a phenomenal baker. So, I have a weakness for anything and everything that she makes.

Q: Who are your three favourite ice dance teams of all time and why?

A: Meryl Davis and Charlie White - they constantly push the envelope of what you think is possible. They come back every year with amazing material, and as I fellow competitor it demands your respect. They have done incredible things for Ice Dancing as a sport and along with Belbin and Agosto I feel like they have paved the way for American ice dancers in the future. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir - they are always perfectly stylized. They have a kind grace and ease to their skating that I would kill for... haha! Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon - they were the first team that really caught my attention and I just remember watching their program to "Somewhere In Time” over and over again. I loved their maturity and their ability to tell a story with their skating. It’s so cool to travel to competitions and see them there as coaches. Stasia makes fun of me because I get too nervous to say anything to them!

Q: What is one thing about you most people don't know?

A: I feel like there are a lot of things... haha! I am very passionate about coaching. I have always wanted to be a coach, and that desire has only grown for me. My true dream is to have my own dance program, and become one of the few truly American ice dance coaches. When I am not training, I am coaching. I generally coach about 30-40 hours a week. At the moment I am working with four synchro teams in Maryland at Collegiate, Intermediate, Pre-Juvenile, and Beginner levels, I have students in the National Solo Dance series, and I have a Pre-Juvenlie dance team that I coaching with my girlfriend Isabella.  

Q: What is one thing on your "bucket list" that you want to cross off in 2014?

A: One thing that I have always had a fascination with is curling and I have always wanted to try it! So, this year we already have plans to rent out a curling rink in Maryland with a bunch of friends. I will be watching the curling in Sochi very closely, and when the time comes I will be on top of my game!

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