TRAVERSE CITY — The Traverse City Figure Skating Club was rooting for one of its own Tuesday night when NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” aired the first of its Las Vegas auditions.
Traverse City native and professional figure skater Joel Dear appeared briefly on the episode with his group, Aerial Ice, as they advanced to the live show rounds in New York City. The Los Angeles-based group is the first to skate on the show and the first skating act to combine adagio, dance, theater and circus aerial arts into one exciting performance.
“I think what they’re doing is bringing a whole new aspect of skating that people aren’t used to seeing,” said Laurent Masse, director of the Traverse City Figure Skating Club, where he coached Dear for about three years. “It’s exciting for skating and great for the sport that they’re on the show and successful.”
Dear began to skate at 12 during recesses at Living God Christian School in Traverse City. Fearing he might get hurt on the nearby frozen ponds, his mother enrolled him in group skating lessons at the club.
Dear went on to train in Indianapolis with an Olympics skating coach, completing his last year at Traverse City West Senior High by way of distance learning. Over the next several years he moved and competed with two different ice dance partners, medaling twice in national competition.
After competing at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 2008, he decided to attend circus school in San Francisco to learn aerial arts.
“From the time I went to aerial school I planned on doing it with my skating, but it’s so difficult,” said Dear, whose main apparatus is the aerial hoop. “The things you do in flying — you step on an apparatus or use your feet to climb things — we can’t do because of our sharp blades. And then there’s the extra weight of the skates.”