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Regoczy and Sallay: A Special Blend of Talent


By Mark D. Director

Fluid movement and smooth transition from action to action are some of the most notable characteristics of a talented ice skater. Achievement of that fluidity is difficult, though, and comes only with tremendous practice.

Imagine the difficulty involved in attaining such a smooth progression, multiply it by two, and you begin to get an idea of the work involved in developing a successful ice dancing team. Ice dancers must be perfectly in time with one another, keeping their own movements coordinated while simultaneously matching them to the actions of their partner.

It is an arduous task, but when ice dancing is performed well, it is perhaps one of the sporting world's most dramatically graceful spectacles.

This weekend, under the spotlights at Watson Rink, Christina Regoczy and Andras Sallay, three-time Hungarian Ice Dancing Champions, will show the crowds at the Jimmy Fund Show what ice dancing is all about. The pair have traveled from Budapest to take part in the eighth annual "An Evening With Champions," and they bring with them a wealth of talent and a unique relationship.

Regoczy has been skating for 11 years: she started just before teaming up with Sallay. He has been on skates for the last 18 years, starting on the ice when he was but six years old. The two say they are looking forward to skating in the Jimmy Fund Show, because it is a retreat from the pressures of competition.

"We enjoy exhibitions a lot more than competitions," says Regoczy, "because you can skate easier and freer. Nothing happens if you sit down."

"In competition," Sallay explains, "you can't do anything wrong, and your moves are limited. But in a show like this, you are skating to please the audience alone and can do anything you like, just so long as it's with the music."

The two have had their share of competitive skating, though. Aside from the Hungarian title, Regoczy and Sallay were the silver medalists in the 1977 European Championships, the fourth-place team in the 1976-77 World Championships, and the fifth-place team in the Montreal Olympics, competing in ice dancing in the sport's first year at the Olympic games.

But for the successful team, competition is not always the glamour that many make it out to be.

"It is very difficult, because we fight against another East-bloc country," Sallay explains, "so we are caught between the politics of the judges. We just have to go out and do our best."

"Skating is a sort of Persian market," he adds. "You sell and buy everybody."

What Sallay speaks of is the tremendous political bias in judging that has come to light in the past few years. Sallay says that Eastern European judges pull for Russia, Western judges pull for the British, and the American pull for the Americans. It leaves the Hungarian due without a friendly judge.

"Occasionally we get a friendly Canadian or American judge," Sallay says, "but in general, there's just too much politics in the sport."

"We're doing it for the sport, not the politics," Regoczy says.

"A good example of the problem is when three weeks before the European Championships one man said to us that our style was the way everyone should skate," Sallay recalls. "Then, at the competition, the same man said our style was old-fashioned."

But take away the judging, and you're back to a question of how well two individuals can act as one. The ice dancing team must develop a very special relationship, and Regoczy and Sallay have found a superb one.

"We're like sister and brother," Sallay says, "but it is very hard to exactly explain this relationship."

"We grew up together, and when I was 15, we went to London by ourselves to train." Regoczy says. "Andras is very protective though. He takes care of me. Even now, he wouldn't let me go to London alone."

The two skaters spend much of their time together, performing, competing, and traveling, but they say they still have their own lives to a degree.

"At one time we had a love." Sallay says. "That was when we first started together. That's how we got together. But now, we just like each other very much. We get along so well. I would go in the fire for Christina. But we do have our own private lives."

Such cohesion is necessary, though, because of the time involved in the sport.

From November through early January, the pair works on the ice from twelve to two in the afternoon and from "seven or eight until we can't stand anymore," as Regoczy says, with a smile. During that time, the team develops their four-minute competitive routine.

"When we get the music, we listen to it maybe a hundred times," says Regoczy, who is a second-year student at a Budapest medical university. "Then we frame out what we want to do and try to do it all out on the ice. Once we have a frame, we break it down into maybe five-second segments and really dress everything up."

The process is one of constant revision for the two, developing what they think will be a beautiful and winning dance routine. The toughest part is getting the two halves, male and female, together.

"It has to be absolutely together," Sallay says.

Improvising and getting the opinion of outsiders and their trainer, England's Betty Callaway, Regoczy and Sallay develop a routine for the ice. Then they are ready for the competition. (Incidentally, Callaway taught the pair most of their very fluent English.)

"Through mid-March," says Regoczy, "we work maybe four to five hours a day on the ice. The November to January period is the hardest physical time, when we develop the routine. But with the competition, we get the roughest mental time."

Competition means travel, and the Hungarian pair have done plenty of global touring. They say they have no problem leaving Hungary if they are traveling to skate. They add that even as private citizens, they have little problem traveling to Eastern European countries. But this is only their second visit to the U.S., and both skaters like what they see here.

"Harvard is really fine," says Sallay, who works with an antique distributor during his time off the ice and says he is very interested in interior decorating. "I just love England; it's like a second home for me, and this place reminds me of England very much."

"It seems like the right place to study," Regoczy adds. "Everyone is so warm and friendly. They all say 'Hi."

Throughout their travels and their 11-year partnership, Regoczy and Sallay have managed to keep the relationship that adds so much to their success as a dance team.

Perhaps Regoczy characterizes it best when she says, "When we go to a party, the first dance is always mine. But after that, well, we have enough dancing with each other on the ice."

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