Twins Hope to Revive British Ice Dancing
Candice (Candi) and Phillipa (Pippa) Towler-Green, both 20, hope to renew British interest in ice dancing that has been on the wane since the retirement of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. They are the twin daughters of Diane Towler-Green, ice-dancing champion at Europeans and Worlds from 1966 to 1969 with Bernard Ford. The sisters finished fifth and fourth at the British Championships in December 2003: Candi with long-time partner James Phillipson and Pippa with new partner, Phillip Poole.
The twins and their partners hope to compete for many years. “Our main goals are to become British Champion and compete in Europeans and Worlds,” Pippa stated, with Poole’s agreement. “We would like to place as high as we possibly could.” “I just want to do as well as I possibly can,” Candice stated. “The way I see it is as long as I am enjoying myself, Europeans and Worlds would be a bonus and if I got to Olympics it would a jackpot.” “I just want to go as far as I possibly can,” Phillipson added. “As long as I am enjoying it, everything else is extra.”
All of the skaters have graduated from high school, but have not gone on to university because they want to concentrate on skating. Only Candice is interested in further study, perhaps in sports science and physiology. Phillipson said. “I did not like it there and I am happy as I am now.”
As for their post-competitive careers, all of the dancers hope to do shows and stay involved in helping to build British skating. “I want to teach and I would also love to do ice shows,” Pippa stated. “I would like to coach but I find the choreography aspect of skating more interesting,” said Candice. “You can be very creative and original with your ideas.” “I definitely want to coach,” Phillipson emphasized. “I find the teaching side to be much more interesting.” Poole added, “I eventually want to coach and choreograph too.”
Currently, the dancers work full-time to support their training. Pippa and Poole teach skating, while Candice and Phillipson work at a local market. “Unfortunately there is little financial sponsorship of the sport in this country,” Diane Towler said. “My dream is to raise sponsorship to enable our dancers to train full time so that we can achieve for ice skating what has recently been achieved in rugby.” A fund has been set up to fund the teams, the ‘Team Towler-Green’ Fund.
The sisters started skating in 1991. “My mom took my sister and I along for fun and we loved it and we have never looked back since,” Candice said. “I wanted to be a pair skater but I could not get a partner so I switched to dance for a partner in 1995.” “I just enjoyed it so much I got addicted to the sport,” Pippa added. “Now I could not imagine my life without it.” She started dancing in 1993, explaining, “I find it to be more interesting working with someone than on my own.” Both twins competed in pairs at Nationals with Pippa placing as high as third in primary pairs with Robert Burgerman and Candice second in novice pairs with Grant Sibley. The couples were also British junior and novice ice dance champions.
Phillipson started skating in 1992. “My dad took me to try to stop me being so hyper and burn off some energy and I loved it,” he said. He started dancing in 1996. “I enjoy dancing more,” he related. “You can move your body more than you can with figure skating.” He began dancing with Candice in 1999. Poole was the earliest of the skaters to start, back in 1986. “I went to see a Torvill and Dean show and I loved it so much I said that I wanted to skate like that,” he remembered. “I competed as a singles skater and I was successful enough to be the Novice and Primary champion on the national level. I did figure skating and dance at the same time for a few years but then I started to prefer dancing more to jumping.” He started dancing in 1997 and was paired with Pippa in 2003.
Diane Towler does all the coaching and choreography for her daughters. “It is great,” Candice said. “She has a lot of knowledge and when she is on the ice she does not treat us like her children. She has always said ‘I am your mom off ice, but while you are on the ice I am your coach.’ It works well.” “Some people think it is hard to work with your mother,” Pippa added, “but I enjoy it. It is a completely different world while we are on the ice.” Each team trains for three to four hours on the ice and one to two hours off ice, six days a week, at Streatham Ice Arena in London.
Finding music is a group effort. “We try to listen to a variety of music and whichever we like the most we try,” Candice said. “If it doesn’t work well after a while, then we try something else.” “We just keep on looking for different music and whichever we feel happiest with we try,” Pippa added. “I don’t really mind what kind as long as it is music that I like and makes me feel good.” “If I could it would always be fast, upbeat music because I prefer it and the crowd gets behind you too,” Candice noted. “I love that feeling.” Phillipson said he’d skate to “pretty much anything thing as long as I enjoy it, but I must admit something upbeat and lively always wins me over,” while Poole said, “I like to skate to any type of music as long as I am enjoying performing to that piece.”
This year, Candice and Phillipson are using a quickstep and foxtrot for their original dance and a Tom Jones medley for their free dance. Pippa and Poole are also using a quickstep and foxtrot for the original with Grease for the free. The dancers do add something of their own to their programs. “We try to add a few bits and bobs in to our programs,” Phillipson said. “Our coach does not mind if we change some things around just as long as it feels right to us.”
When it comes to the compulsory dances, the twins have different tastes. Candice’s favorites are the Blues, Silver Samba and the Paso Doble, while Pippa likes the Argentine Tango, Paso Doble and the Austrian Waltz. Poole also likes the Paso Doble the best, while Phillipson likes the Quickstep, Yankee Polka and the Cha Cha Congelado. Candice finds the Midnight Blues to be the hardest dance. “I like the dance but I find some parts a bit awkward,” she said. Poole and Phillipson both thought the Golden Waltz was the hardest, while Pippa didn’t express an opinion.
None of the dancers are musicians, but all of them listen to popular music off ice. Candice said, “I like to listen to pretty much anything but my all-time favorites are Bon Jovi, Scorpions and Queen.” “I am pretty varied with my music tastes,” Pippa noted, “but mainly Evanescence, Britney Spears, Outkast and Celine Dion.”
Off ice, Pippa said, “I like to take jazz dancing lessons at the Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden and of course every girls favorite, shopping (something all four enjoy).” Candice enjoys talking to her friends online, listening to music, dancing, taking the family’s five dogs out for walks, and reading novels and magazines. Pippa doesn’t read as much, and then only magazines. “I am always on the computer,” Candice said. “My mom is always shouting at me to get offline because I am on there so much. While I am on there I am mainly talking to my buddies in America and Israel. But I like to look at reviews of competitions and things like that too.” The other dancers also go online for email and web surfing, once they can get Candice off the machine.
For movies, Candice said, “As long as the films are action ones or funny ones, I am happy!” Pippa likes comedies, while Phillipson enjoys horror and action films. Poole’s favorites are Billie Elliot, Grease and Notting Hill. In addition, “I like to play snooker with my friends,” said Phillipson, while Poole noted, “I like going to the gym to work out.” As for other sporting interests, the twins both used to ride horses and swim for their school. “I have played golf since I was young and I still fit the odd game in,” Phillipson said. He also enjoys cycling. Poole noted, “The only thing I have been interested in is skating.” Surprisingly, none of the dancers collects anything.
All the skaters love to travel. “I think it is one of the perks of skating,” Candice enthused. “We get to go to different countries to represent our own country and meet other skaters too! I loved all the trips I have been on but I have two favorites. The first one was the European Youth Olympic Festival. It was such a fantastic experience. There was a whole team from Britain for skating and for skiing and we got to do the whole opening and closing ceremony thing like the big Olympics. The second time was when we competed in Skate Israel. It was our first senior international and we were skating against Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski who are in our favorite skaters list. It was so good.” Pippa’s favorite trips were to Israel, Ukraine and Norway, while Phillipson and Poole both enjoyed Israel the best.
For holidays, Candice said she likes to go “anywhere hot. The weather in England is not exactly great.” The others agreed. “There is a lot of rain over here,” said Pippa, while Phillipson noted, “I like somewhere hot and full of sunshine as we don’t see a lot of that over here.”
Hopefully, they will see more sunshine in their careers, perhaps from the top of the podium. They got their first chance this season at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany in a rink where the sun shines through a wall of glass overlooking the mountains. Pippa and Poole took the bronze medal while Candice and Phillipson finished fifth.