Angela Blocker-Loyd began figure skating at 9 years old. She was one of the youngest skaters at the Berkley Ice Arena and Recreation Center at the time, so another young skater decided to take her under their wing.
“Angie was the little skater and I was the big skater,” said Candice Tamakloe, who was 14 at the time. “We were also only two of a few African American skaters at Berkley, and I had been skating there for a few years, so I took her on as a little sister.”
Now, Blocker-Loyd and Tamakloe have decided to take on all the young, aspiring figure skaters as their little brothers or sisters.
On Saturday, Dream Detroit Skating Academy (DDSA) launches the city’s first female-owned figure skating academy. Currently, DDSA is the only Black-owned figure skating club in the state of Michigan, Blocker-Loyd said. The academy will be run by Blocker-Loyd, Tamakloe and Crystal Stewart. It will provide classes for skaters with no experience all the way up to advanced skater. Things will kick off from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Adams Butzel Recreation Center-Jack Adams Memorial Ice Arena, 10500 Lyndon St., on the city’s west side near the Littlefield neighborhood.
“There has never been a skater at the national or international level to come out of the city of Detroit,” Tamakloe said. “We want to bring that quality back into the city.”
That mission is stated clearly on the groups website, dreamdetroitskate.com: “Exposure facilitates many of our youth’s interests. Interests are the seeds that inspire dreams, and dreams fuel our drive for success. Unfortunately, figure skating is an opportunity to which few Detroit youth are exposed, but Dream Detroit is working to change that.”
Launched to provide affordable and accessible lessons to low-income youths in Detroit, the academy offers offers both group and private figure skating lessons to those ages 4 and up, with skill-building opportunities starting from “Learn to Skate” classes to competitive and ice show performances. Two classes will be held on Fridays and two classes on Saturdays. More information and demonstrations will be available at the soft opening Saturday.
The Olympia Skating Club was the very first figure skating club in Detroit. It started in the 1940s and later moved to Bloomfield Hills after changing its name to the Detroit Skating Club.
In 1987, the Renaissance Figure Skating Club started at the Jack Adams Memorial Ice Arena.
“That’s where I started at when I was 9,” Tamakloe said. “But my mom moved me to Berkley because my coach at the time said that if I wanted to go further in ice skating I had to go outside of the city.”
From there, Tamakloe went on to skate competitively through high school. From there, she skated through the junior level and tested through senior freestyle, which is like the highest level in skating.
“That is basically the skaters that you see on television,” she said.
Blocker-Loyd, who also is the owner of Studio Detroit Dance Center in Hazel Park, said that while she never made it to the senior freestyle level herself, she, too, was a competitive skater as a teen.
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However, she said the thing she enjoys most about ice skating, besides it keeping her in the “best shape of her life,” is the freedom it gives her.
“I think, for me, it’s just another outlet or sense of freedom,” said Blocker-Loyd, 34. “And being able to express myself creatively … yeah, that’s really what it is for me. And it’s just, it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun to do.”
Eleven-year-old Jadyn Simpson, said she agrees with Blocker-Loyd, who she affectionately refers to as “Coach Angie.” She has never had any figure skating experience before, but is very eager to give it a shot.
“I just can’t wait to start ice skating,” Simpson said.
At practice on Wednesday, Simpson practiced some of the basic techniques on the ice. She had a bit of nervousness on her face when she first entered the rink, but quickly overcame it.
“If Coach Angie and my cousin say I can do it, then I can do it. I trust them,” she said.
Blocker-Loyd says she tells her students who are afraid of falling when they are on the ice, that it’s normal. But just like with any other obstacle, you have to get back up and try again.
“Skating is like life,” Blocker-Loyd said. “So, you know, at the beginning, just be prepared to fall, a lot. But also be prepared to get back up. And, as long as you’re not afraid to fall, you’ll be fine.”
For more information, go to dreamdetroitskate.com.
Jasmin Barmore was born and raised in the city of Detroit. She covers the city’s neighborhoods and communities using her passion as her drive to give the voiceless a voice. You can reach her at [email protected] or by sending her a message on Instagram or Twitter at @bjasminmare.