John and Cassie Rich pose while practicing dance skating at Hansen’s Eastlake Skating Center, Warsaw. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union.
John and Cassie Rich pose while practicing dance skating at Hansen’s Eastlake Skating Center, Warsaw. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union.
NORTH MANCHESTER – A North Manchester couple have been competing in dance roller skating for approximately three years and have no immediate plans on stopping.

John and Cassie Rish are in the 65+ category and have won four medals, “nothing less than second,” as Cassie said.

The couple started competing for several years. Then they quit for approximately 25 years, John said.

When asked what made them get back into skating, Cassie said she was eating pizza at a pizza place one night with her daughter.

“And she says, ‘I miss roller skating,’ and I said, ‘So do I. Let’s just go rollerskating.’ And we did and here we are again,” she said.

The couple now practice two hours on Thursdays and two hours on Saturdays at Hansen’s Eastlake Skating Center, Warsaw.

Both started skating at an early age.

Cassie said she started skating at about 5.

“Pretty soon, (my parents) found another rink nearby that was bigger that gave lessons and we started taking lesson and by the time I was 10, we owned that rink,” she said. Her father taught dance skating and that’s how Cassie got into it.

“He didn’t teach the jumps or the spins,” Cassie said.

John started skating at 10. He started skating on the sidewalk “with all the other kids.”

“We skated because it was fun,” John said.

John started skating on a rink at the Honeywell Center, which was two blocks from his house in Wabash, in the sixth or seventh grade. That year, John said, everybody got shoe skates and they used those to skate.

“It was just a fun thing to do,” he said.

He got into dance skating at Rock Lake Rollercade in Akron, the rink Cassie’s parents owned.

There was a teacher that was teaching at Rock Lake Rollercade and the teacher convinced John to start dance skating.

While the couple said that’s where they met, Cassie said since John is 10 years older than her, she wasn’t one of the girls that was on his radar.

In 2018, they participated in meets in Memphis in February and Warsaw in?March.

“We did not go to regionals or nations because we were not prepared for that,” Cassie said.

This year, the couple have gone to Union, Mo., and Aurora, Ill., to compete.

There’s usually one competition available every month.

“And if the dances are something we think we can have ready in time, we like to do everyone we can,” Cassie said. “But if we’re not ready, we’re not going to go out there and stumble around.”

“We’re not looking for a goal at the end of the year type thing,” John said, also saying they are just looking to have fun.

At the last competition all the couples in the match hugged each other at the end of it.

“We make friends, we all go out to eat,” Cassie said.

The type of skating John and Cassie do requires them to learn new dance techniques.

“The rules are all written of where you have to be on the floor and what your steps have to be and all that,” said John. “We’re not just skating together.”

“You have to know music. You have to be able to toe waltz and do the tango. You have to be able to stay on time with that music. You have to learn the steps and memorize them. You should be able to read a diagram of the dance, but if you don’t, someone can usually teach you it out on the floor. Some dances have more steps so they are bigger and some have fewer steps, so they are smaller,” said Cassie.

“It’s all diagramed out. There’s books with each step in it with what the tempo has to be,” John said. Cassie added beginners never have to go backward.

Some skaters do solo skating, “which is a lot easier because you don’t have to keep in step with anyone or match anyone,” Cassie said.

“In our class, we don’t have any backward dancers,” John said. Cassie said it varies how many couples are in each meet.

“It’s growing little by little,” she said. They went and watched nationals and there were about a dozen couples there.

The couple have seen some changes in dance skating over the years.

“It’s more competitive,” Cassie said. “I mean, the skaters are much better.”

“They may be more competitive, but there’s fewer of them,” John said. Cassie said she’s seen people have a tendency to wait until they’re really good until they start competing and then “all they have to go is down and then they quit.”

“There’s not as many rinks as there used to be and that’s part of it,” John said. Most of the rinks would have a club associated with it with  a band of skaters who were looking to compete.

There are some skaters that used to skate, but it would be great if they came back, John said.

For the meets, the couple send in an entrance fee and paperwork, said John.

“Initially, you have to prove your age,” Cassie said.

“Some meets are invitation only,” John said.

As you win, you then get bumped into a higher classification of who you’re competing against.

John and Cassie are still in the beginner classification. Cassie said there are two classifications above them before they can get into the classifications that go to the world competition.

The couple said there are benefits to doing dance skating.

“It’s great exercise,” John said, and a social experience.

“You can do it for the rest of your life,” Cassie said.

“It’s like a like a lot of things. When you’re not physically able to, you have to quit,” John said.

Cassie said they’re not at that point yet. John said there are some days that are better than others physically.

“We don’t do anything hard enough to make us fall,” Cassie said.

“Don’t be misled about our age. There are some people skating that are really good,” John said. “They would be leaving us in the dust.”

“And we would be smiling,” Cassie said.