On Thursday, November 9, 2017, I heard the sad news that one of the greatest ice dancers of all time, James Sladky, had passed away.
When I was a young ice dancer, I looked up to the ice dance team of Jim Sladky and Judy Schwomeyer “Jim and Judy.” They were amazing and I wanted to skate like them! I was in the audience at the 1975 World Figure Skating Championships in Colorado Springs when they demonstrated their original pattern dance which became a standard international ice dance, the Yankee Polka. It looked so hard and I couldn’t wait to learn to do it too!
A year later, my partner and I were featured in the Broadmoor Ice Revue and we got to wear the actual costumes that “Jim and Judy” wore in Ice Follies! What a thrill for me to wear the costumes worn by ice dancers I idolized!
Many decades later, when I became a skating author, I was delighted to interview Jim Sladky. The article I published after that interview is included below.
My condolences to his loving wife Fay Kelley and to Jim’s family and friends. I feel honored that I have been in touch with Fay and Jim for many years now and considered Jim a special friend. He was always so encouraging and supportive of the writing I did during my 10 years as About.com’s Figure Skating Guide-Expert and he is included in my book MY SKATING LIFE: Fifty Plus Years of Skating.
Rest in peace, Jim Sladky.
Jim Sladky – Biography of the Famous Ice Dancer
Jim Sladky and Judy Schwomeyer, an outstanding American ice dance team, demonstrated ice dancing at the Grenoble Olympics in 1968. That demonstration resulted in ice dancing becoming an Olympic event. Jim shares the story of his skating career in this article.
“I have been involved in nearly every aspect of figure skating during the last 50 years. I was fortunate to have an excellent dance partner, Judy Schwomeyer Sladky. Over the years I have had the privilege of coaching both beginning students and gold level skaters and have delighted in working with Special Olympians. I enjoy passing on to my students the things I have learned from the many wonderful coaches I have had the privilege to know. I particularly enjoy skating with my wife Fay. It is fun to help each other learn to do things that we have not been able to accomplish during the past.
I started out at the age of 7 and enjoyed learning to skate with Connie Jamieson, Billy Kipp, Mary Jane Stong, Skip and Mary Lou Butler, Lew Elkin, John Rodway, Muriel Reich, Diane Agle, and Don Laws. I developed my freestyle with Gustave Lussi, my school figures with Howard Nicholson, and my pairs and dance with a renown coach by the name of Ron Ludington.
As a young skater I was lucky to have used MacLaughlin blades and learned about blade design and sharpening directly from those who manufactured them. I have sharpened skates since I was 15 years old–for myself, for other skaters who trained alongside me, and for the casts of ice shows in which I have skated. Even competitors who skated against me in competition have entrusted me with their skates.
I have always edited my own music, and since my teenage years I have done so for many other skaters as well. I enjoy expressive interpretation and it’s marvelous to watch a skater perform to various pieces of music which have been chosen and edited to enhance his or her personality, style, and ability.
I particularly enjoy rearranging various phrases of music and choreographing a program which fits the required parameters of length and style. Editing music effectively and designing unique choreography is an integral part of the art of skating.
Other genres that have contributed to my coaching effectiveness include training in stroking exercises, improvisational skating, self hypnosis, imagery, and formal training in music and ballroom dance.
After our amateur career, my dance partner and I joined the professional circuit and did ice show tours for eleven years making many wonderful friends throughout the world. During my performing career I not only skated but was, at times, the ice engineer and the company manager as well.
My partner, Judy, and I were also fortunate to be among those teams who demonstrated ice dancing for the IOC (International Olympic Committee) during the Grenoble Olympics in 1968. That demonstration resulted in Ice Dancing being accepted as an Olympic event. The Yankee Polka, which was our OSP in 1970, was accepted as an international compulsory dance after winning the initial round of that year’s world competition. It is a unique thrill to be among those choreographers who have the lasting recognition of being inventors of compulsory dances.
Through the efforts of many USFSA members, the Hall of Fame Committee elected me and my partner to the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame. How fortunate that these things have happened and how supportive everyone has been along the way.
- USFSA Hall of Fame 92
- Demonstrated Ice Dancing for Olympic committee 68
- Co-invented International Compulsory Dance 70
- World Medalist 69-72
- World Team Member 67-72
- North American Champion 71
- US National Ice Dancing Champion 68-72
Former Training Centers include Skating Club of Wilmington, Olympic Training Center, Lake Placid, NY, Olympic Training Center, Squaw Valley, CA, Canadian Training Camp, New London, Ontario, Detroit Skating Club, MI, Summer Training Camp @ RPI, Troy, NY, Summer Training Camp @ RIT, Rochester, NY”
Jim Sladky © Copyright
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