Picture a competitive version of the Ice Follies, with skaters 25 to 65 years old, and you've got adult precision skating. It's part competitive sport and part performance, but best of all it fosters active adult divisions, where skaters can enjoy their sport in a stimulating atmosphere for many years. Bonny Kellerman is dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former ice dancer. She has been skating on the adult precision team, Esprit de Corps, in Lexington for two years. She's seen many women join the team who did not start skating until they were adults. ``I think that's been an inspiration for other adults who have seen [precision skating] and said, `Wow, I can do that, and I can get into that kind of experience even though I didn't start younger,''' Kellerman says.
Marjorie Nickels is one of those people. She had been skating only four years when she joined the team in 1986. Speaking of the reluctance older people have to learning a sport, she says, ``The mind-set is `Well, nobody does this.' I think we need to change that - just by doing what you want to do - not saying, `Well I'm too old for this.'''
Some adults have been able to return to competitive skating by way of a precision team. Pam Perry, who entered many events as a young girl, joined the Esprit group after she'd married and had a family. ``It's terrific exercise,'' she says, ``and just having a little competition really pushes you and moves you on.''
Right now, teams in all age divisions, starting with the 11-and-under category, are sharpening their blades for the national championships in Tulsa, Okla., tomorrow and Saturday. Last year's competition, held in Boston, attracted 1,500 skaters and was a remarkable success, given the sport's brief history.
Precision skating originated in Canada during the 1960s, and just started gliding into the United States during the last several years. Next February, it should achieve even greater visibility as a demonstration sport for top skaters (generally teen-agers) at the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta.
In competition, teams of 12 to 24 skaters perform synchronized maneuvers and formations to music. The routines are judged on composition and presentation. The colorful costumes and flowing movement make for a lively show, at times resembling a human kaleidoscope.
Teams are predominantly female, but co-ed squads exist at all age levels, says Anne Fauver, precision chairman of the US Figure Skating Association and one of seven grandmothers on the Esprit roster.
Her involvement in skating is a family affair. Three of her daughters have been serious competitors in figure skating and ice dancing, and her son, Bill, competed in the pairs event in the '76 and '84 Olympics.
Fauver used to compete in figures and now skates on the Esprit team with her daughter Jane. They travel two hours each way from Portland, Maine, to get to practices, which are usually held once a week and involve one hour of floor work and two hours on the ice. The ice time, travel, and equipment can cost about $1,500 a year.
The competitive spirit is alive in precision skating, but most skaters agree that the atmosphere is less serious and intense than in singles skating.
Barbara von Rosenvinge and the coach, Shirley Holdsworth, used to skate with the Ice Follies. ``This is sort of re-living what we used to do professionally, only it is sort of more for fun,'' von Rosenvinge says.
Holdsworth, who skated with the Follies from 1951 to 1957, coaches the team partly as a way to repay a sport that has given her so much pleasure. ``When you've done something you've enjoyed and felt is important, you want to give back to it,'' she observes.
Then, too, the sense of striving for excellence, fostered by the team, appeals to her. ``Everybody leads a busy life,'' she says, ``but there's a true commitment to do something with the skills that you learn; there's an incentive to improve.''