Solo Q&A: James Koszuta


On-ice Photo by Melanie Heaney

In this Solo Q&A, learn more about James Koszuta, a former Team USA ice dancer and 2023 European Championships competitor for Norway. He recently finished fourth at the 2024 Washington Picken International, the first international solo dance event held in the U.S. 

Tell us about how your skating journey began. What drew you to the ice? Do you have any special memories?
I started out playing hockey around the age of 5. My mom saw the figure skaters on the ice before my practices and had me sign up for lessons to make me a better skater for hockey. After years of doing both, it turned out skating was my true calling. A special memory I have is the time my former partner and I won U.S. Nationals at the Novice level. It had been our first season together and we had only been skating for seven months as a team, so it was a whirlwind but such an unforgettable season for me to experience. It really solidified my own belief in myself as an ice dancer who was meant to be there among the best in the nation.

When and why did you choose to do solo dance?
I have been doing partnered dance for about 10 years. After my last partner and I split, the market for eligible partners was slim and I ended up working on refining my solo skills. As this season started and I was still without any luck in the partnered world, I figured solo would be a fun new opportunity for me that would also keep me motivated and on the competitive scene. 

What do you like most about Solo Dance? What kind of music to you like to skate to the best? Why?
I love that I can truly make something of my own in my programs. I can examine every nuance and truly personalize the program to fit my personality. I love blues, rock and some older hits from the 70s and 80s. This season was the perfect change to showcase my taste in music that I also feel suits my skating style.

Tell us about your training site. (Location, facilities, dance mates, classes, coaches, etc.)
I am currently training in Nashville at the Ford Ice Center with a world class team of coaches. What I love most is the talent and diversity among the skaters and coaches that keeps the atmosphere in the arena unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Every day I come to train it’s a positive and inspiring environment that cultivates success. Being able to see high level ice dancers and freestyle skaters is truly amazing and I am grateful to be able to train amongst them.

Who choreographed your programs? What do you like best about dancing them?
Wesley Campbell choreographed my free dance and Rob Peal did my rhythm dance. What I love is the two very different styles they brought to the table that worked perfectly with their given pieces. Rob helped me achieve that high energy rhythm dance that contrasts from the melting and more casual feel of my free dance with Wesley.

Solo Dance is now an international discipline this season? Share your thoughts about this change.
I think it’s incredible for the skating world. I love that there is another avenue in skating for skaters to achieve a high level of success and promote more competition within the solo dance community. I have noticed the surge in growth this past year with the change to international, which also came with great timing personally for me to jump on board.

In skating, what are you most looking forward to this season? What will be your biggest challenge(s)?My biggest challenges will for sure be the new elements in solo dance that I really never took the time to work on as a partnered skater. I love that it’s pushing me outside my comfort zone and making me a better skater. I’m looking forward to seeing the growth at the end of the season compared to when I started.

What do you think makes solo dance a special discipline?
There aren’t a ton of traditional tricks that you see in pairs, ice dance and freestyle. You really have to work the choreography to make something special without the highlight of a cool lift or jump and it really forces you to be in tune with your skating, music, and overall performance.

If you could have a lesson with any ice dancer past/present, who would it be? Why?
There are so many that would be incredible to work with and just observe them in their element. One dancer I would love to have a lesson with is Zach Donohue. I feel that he was such a powerful skater like myself and I would love to get some insight on further drawing from that strength. 

What are your favorite off-ice activities?
I love our group classes at the arena with Kori Ade. She always finds a way to make a traditional workout interesting and interactive which keeps you on your toes and always challenging different muscles. I also very much enjoy hot yoga, it is a huge reason I was able to expand my flexibility and strength hand in hand the past 10 years, as well as hone in my mind and keep me grounded. I do believe it’s one of the best things for your body regardless of what you do and has helped keep me healthy and nimble.

Please share anything else you would like our readers to know about you as a skater.
One thing I feel I bring to the table is that I have never been the traditional skater, which I love about myself. My body was anything but natural to skating, and I’ve had to work at transforming myself into a more well rounded skater. From playing hockey and skating together I’ve always drawn from my physical strength and had very powerful programs. I started getting serious about ice dance at the late age of 15 when I met my coach Bianka. She turned me from a recreational freestyler/dancer to a full blown refined ice dancer. It’s been a slow and at times tedious road to train myself to that point, but I’m grateful I bring a different style and body type to the skating world.

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