Danny Ryan, born in 1929, was raised by his grandmother in Bridgeport, Connecticut, after the untimely death of his baby sister, mother, and father. Danny roller skated in high school, and while attending Catholic University in Washington, D.C., he won several national roller skating medals. He began ice dancing with Carol Ann Peters at the Washington Figure Skating Club and trained summers at Lake Placid. Coached by Lewis Elkin and Red Bainbridge, they won the 1950 U.S. silver dance title, introduced the free dance in competition, and participated in the first Worlds that included ice dancing, winning the bronze medal in 1952. Even though Danny served in the U.S. Army for two years, they won the U.S. gold dance title in 1953 and won the bronze medal at the 1953 Worlds.
Danny retired and moved to Canada, teaching at the Minto Skating Club. There he met and married fellow skating instructor, Rose Ann Paquette. In 1955, the Ryans moved to the Midwest, teaching at the Winter Club of Indianapolis. His national champions were 1958 junior pairs champions Karl and Gayle Freed and 1959 silver dance champions Larry Pierce and Marilyn Meeker. When Marilyn had a freak accident seven weeks before the 1961 Nationals, Danny and Larry decided to find another partner and brought in Diane Sherbloom from Los Angeles. Larry and Diane, with five weeks training, won the 1961 U.S. gold dance title. When Danny flew to Prague, he left behind his wife and five children, ages two weeks to five years old.