Archive | May, 2014

Nichol, Carroll talk shop at PSA Conference

29 May

By Liz LeamyFrank

Choreographer Lori Nichol and coach Frank Carroll, both members of the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, shared their thoughts on skating during a panel discussion at the recent PSA Conference and Trade Show in Palm Springs, Calf.
Renowned coach and cho reographer Scott Brown moderated the discussion, which took place at the Rancho Las Palmas Omni Resort and Spa on May 24.

What do you love about skating?LoriNichol2013

LN: “I love the feeling of gliding, flying and just skating every step imaginable.”

“The life it has given me. It has given me so many friendships and through all the ups and downs, it has been incredible.”

FC: “I like the frictionlessness of skating. I also love the feeling of flying and the push and sound of the blade against the ice.”

“Everything about it appealed to me as a youngster, even falling. It’s a feeling and is restorative.”

“Skating has been good to me. It’s opened up a lot of opportunities and I’m grateful it came into my life.”

What careers would’ve you pursued if not for skating?

LN: “Architecture or interior design.”

FC: “Probably law, my dad had pushed me in that direction.”

What’s the most important thing you think about when working with a skater?

LN: “Self-worth. I try to make the skater’s experience magical and beautiful and give them information that will empower them.”

FC: “I try to teach them perseverance and that they have to earn success and be gracious in life.”

“I also try to teach skaters what they can accomplish, and that it’s not about winning, but about the process.”

How do you spend time away from the rink?

LN: “I like to travel and I also enjoy reading.”

FC: “I love to sit in my backyard and read. I’d rather read than watch a movie on a flight and usually bring two or three books when traveling to a competition.”

“I also like to go to the gym and exercise.”

What do you consider your biggest success?

LN: “I define success as a choice. Frank has supported me 100 percent [since I started doing choreography] and working as hard as I did and achieving what I have is all about having a choice in life.”

FC: “Evan winning the Olympic gold medal. I had long given up on that so when Evan came along, it was really all about training and doing well.”

What’s the most difficult situation/obstacle you have faced?

FC: “The situation with Christopher Bowman. I had coached him from the time he was 4 years old and we spent 18 years together. It was an impossible thing for me to help him [with his situation] and knowing how talented and charismatic he was and to watch him fail was the hardest thing for me.”

What are your favorite programs?

LN: Carolina Kostner’s “Ave Maria” (Franz Schubert) short program from last season. “She’s my Heidi and is as sweet and pure as you see on TV. She has a pure heart and to see her overcome every challenge and skate lights out in Sochi was great.”

FC: Michelle Kwan’s “East of Eden” (Lee Holdridge) short program from the 2000‒2001 and 2001‒2002 seasons (she also used it for her exhibition number during the 1994‒1995 and 1995‒1996 seasons). “It’s such an uplifting, gorgeous melody that Kenny Congemi had initially recommended.”

Michelle Kwan’s exhibition program to “On My Own” from “Les Misérables”(Kaho Shimada) from the 1997‒1998 season. “You could swear when you saw Michelle skate to it, it was like she was singing and was at one with the music.”

Who has influenced you the most?

LN: “My mom was a concert pianist and my dad, a businessman, could sing.”

“The creativity wasn’t born, it had to be trained.”

“My longtime coach, Don Laws, had me work with other coaches and choreographers during the summers and one of the people he had me work with was Ricky Harris, who opened up a whole new world for me.”

FC: “My dad was an incredible artist and could capture an image beautifully. He was also a musician and we had a violin, tom toms and other instruments around the house when I grew up and I would play them.”

“Maribel Vinson [his coach] would take us to the theater and expose us to musicals and performers. She had even brought us to see a ventriloquist. She wanted us to learn about things like the timing and pauses and was way ahead of her time.”

What do you never do as a coach?

FC: “Never lie to a student or pull the wool over [his or her] eyes, be fair and truthful.”

“You have to look at the skater’s strengths and weaknesses.”

“If they [the skaters] stick to the principles and what they’re building on, they will succeed.”

Notable Quotes from the PSA Conference and Trade Show

27 May

Marina Zoueva (Photo by Liz Leamy)

By Liz Leamy

Marina Zoueva, coach of Olympic ice dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, picked up Coach of the Year and Paul McGrath Choreographer of the Year awards at last weekend’s Professional Skaters Association Conference and Trade Show in Palm Springs, Calif.

Here are some memorable quotes from the event:

Lori Nichol on choreography:

“Use all the different emotions and forces from life and use them with your music.”
“Just like the skills coaches use to teach a jump, break artistic elements down into components.”
“Choreography is not something where you get on the ice and wave a magic wand.”
“How you get in and out of positions is what matters.”

Marina Zoueva:

“Again and again, I would like to thank Meryl and Charlie.”
“All my career I wanted my work to be about more than skating.”
“Every minute and second in a program counts; I [think of this] because I’m doing so many programs and there’s so much for them [skaters] to express and say.”
“I always want skaters to be in a process of feeling things and to be in the moment.”

Scott Brown on step sequences:

“Everything happens in layers.”
“There’s a real balance between requirements and being creative.”
“Footwork shouldn’t just look like turns and steps but have relationship to music.”

David Glynn — coach of U.S. silver medalist and Olympian Polina Edmunds:

“I like how jump repetition was a focus and the idea of getting the skater to keep trying.”
“I think U.S. Figure Skating and the PSA are great and keep making strides every year toward raising the standard.”

Rohene Ward — choreographer for U.S. silver medalist and Olympian Jason Brown:

“It’s my first conference and I’m really enjoying it. The best thing is seeing everybody in a noncompetitive situation come together to work in a collaborative manner and help each other.”

Mauro Bruni — former U.S. men’s competitor and New York-based coach:

“This conference is such a wonderful tool for coaches. It’s amazing to see the best coaches in the sport doing what they do best.”

Todd Sand, developmental coach of the year award winner with wife, Jenni:
“It’s been an incredible journey and we look forward to doing more.”
“We feel honored to influence young people every day.”

Frank Carroll at the jump seminar:

“I like very quiet shoulders, with the force and strength on the skating side, with the free side very controlled.”
“I’m always stressing a fantastic landing position; try to get [the skater] there every time, it makes [the jump] look like a million dollars.”

Coach Ken Congemi on the conference and influence of coaches:

“I think everyone is here because they love learning and there are always so many great things to take away.”
“There’s such a great deal you get from coaches that goes beyond just technique; it’s a pretty big thing.”
“Coaches have such an impact on their students. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of some of the things my coaches taught me. Their words become part of you.”

U.S. Olympic Committee Director of Education Chris Snyder:

“Coaches hold the power of authority and you can dial it up or dial it down.”
“The USOC wants to recognize the education the PSA does [with its coaches].”
“The PSA was the first one [of the governing bodies] that we passed with flying colors [for its educational program] and the USOC will use the PSA as a role model for educating coaches in other sports.”

PSA Executive Director Jimmie Santee:

“We try to provide the best education we can give coaches to help make the skating community better and stronger.”
“This has been a great environment for everyone and they seem very invigorated. At the same time, relationships are being formed and strengthened.”
“The acknowledgment from the USOC that our programs will be used for other (USOC) sports is a big feather in our cap. It says a lot about what we are and where we’re at.”

Carroll delivers powerful, inspiring message at PSA Conference

23 May

By Liz Leamy

Frank

Frank Carroll

Magic happens if one has a mindset of confidence, determination and commitment.

That was the message Frank Carroll delivered to the 400-plus coaches in a keynote speech at the 2014 Professional Skaters Conference and Trade Show in Palm Springs, Calif., on Thursday.

The coaching icon, who has taught some of the sport’s biggest stars including Michelle Kwan, Evan Lysacek and Gracie Gold, brought the crowd at the Rancho Las Palmas resort to its  feet with an emotionally charged story about his rise to the top of the sport.

Describing his journey from the first time he started skating as a young boy growing up in Worcester, Mass., through his climb to becoming one of the sport’s most decorated and successful coaches, Carroll spoke with humility, heart and candor.

“My career has been very long and it’s been wonderful,” he said. “It’s also been a bumpy ride and you know what? I wouldn’t change a single thing.”

For many years, he spent most of his time at rinks around the Los Angeles area teaching from the wee hours of the morning through the evening in order to cultivate his skaters.

“There were no windows and I wouldn’t see daylight all day long,” Carroll said. “I [just wanted] to be the best coach I could be.”

Carroll said he has been most influenced by his former mentor, the legendary Maribel Vinson, the nine-time U.S. champion and 1932 Olympic bronze medalist, who lost her life along with her daughters and the entire U.S. figure skating team when Sabena Flight 541 crashed en route to the 1961 World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

“She was a teacher who I owe all of my success,” he said. “She based her teaching on intelligence, technique and theory and explained there was a total science behind everything you did.”

From the moment he set foot on frozen swamp pond behind his childhood home, Carroll said he had loved the whole concept and feel of skating. He began training and competing at local rinks, yet was told by some people he would never be good enough to make it as a successful competitor. Rather than be deterred, however, this only made Carroll more determined to achieve success and he wound up winning two U.S. junior medals, a silver and bronze.

“I was a very determined young man,” he said.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Holy Cross University, where he majored in education, Carroll went on to tour with the Ice Follies for several years before settling in the Los Angeles area to coach full time.
“I learned a lot about skating and performing from the Ice Follies,” he said.

By age 37, Carroll had become known as a premiere international American coach who had been responsible for helping his talented young skater, Linda Fratianne, the eventual four-time U.S. champion and 1980 Olympic silver medalist, qualify for the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team.

From that point on, Carroll’s coaching career remained on an upward trajectory. During the mid to late 1980s, he helped the late Christopher Bowman win two U.S. titles and two World medals. He went on to teach Kwan, Lysacek and dozens of other top U.S. and World contenders. Last season, he helped Gold clinch her first U.S. title and Denis Ten of Kazhakstan claim bronze at the 2014 Olympics.

Despite his rousing level of success, Carroll has remained humble, which was apparent as he reflected on his career.

Over the years, Carroll has been dealt some major blows, including an incident in which a student had lost her life in a car accident en route to the rink, a teenage skater who had succumbed unexpectedly to bone cancer and the shock of discovering a good friend who had sadly ended his own life. Shaken by these incidents, Carroll has managed to view these tragedies as a means to continue to work harder and gain greater wisdom.

“I was told [to] teach and teach and teach,” Carroll said. “I did that and I think teaching and hard work saved my sanity.”

Carroll also talked about his experiences as the longtime coach of Kwan. He mentioned the media frenzy the two experienced during the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics and the poignant exchange Kwan had with President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, during the Goodwill Games, where they had gone to watch her.

During this time, Carroll said Kwan had become such a huge star that they had to travel to events with an FBI security guard named Larry, someone he described as a “wonderful guy.”

One of Carroll’s fondest memories was when he overheard a mom telling her daughter at 1996 Skate America that she had “witnessed one of the greatest athletes ever” [Kwan] and “never forget that experience.”

Through his incredible journey, Carroll has attained amazing insight, wisdom and compassion, while remaining as steadfast to his true passion of skating.

“I love the feeling of being out there skating,” he said. “If there’s one song that is the basis of this keynote address, it’s ‘I’m Still Here’ from Stephen Sondheim’s musical Follies.”

Tweeting for Meryl

20 May

The votes have been cast, all that is left is to name a winner. Social media will be big in deciding if Meryl Davis will take hope the top prize in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and the Olympic champ had no lack of support.

Michael BuckleyJennifer LopezAlex Shibutani  Johnny Weir Gabby Douglas  Marissa Castelli Gracie Gold Jason Brown and Mikaela Shiffrin Charlie White Evan Lysacek Kristi Yamaguchi Ashley Wagner

Maia Shibutani

American Ice Theatre’s “Let’s Dance!” set for May 31

12 May

American Ice Theatre (AIT) will debut its first production in Chicago titled “Let’s Dance!” on May 31 at 7 p.m. Set to take place at the McFetridge Sports Center, this one-time premier event will be fun for the whole family.Jason Brown

Tickets can be purchased at http://americanicetheatre.org. General Admission is $30 and VIP Seating and reception with the skaters is $60. Along with the AIT ensemble, the show features work from finalists in the Young Artists Showcase (YAS), an online international figure skating choreography competition. Guest stars include 2014 Olympic Team bronze medalist Jason Brown, 2011 U.S. champion Ryan Bradley, 2013 U.S. champion Harmony Theatre Company and U.S. novice silver medalist Paige Ryberg.

AIT is a non-profit “dance on ice” company comprised of accomplished and nationally recognized figure skaters performing with a mission to infuse the art of dance to the ice by presenting contemporary and sophisticated work.

“My goal for American Ice Theatre is to be accessible enough that people on the streets of America know and appreciate what ice theatre is as they do for ballet,” AIT Founder and Director Jodi Porter said. “It is a model that can extend the life of a skater and allow for more career opportunities. There are talented national and world level skaters that don’t make the Olympic Team yet are beautiful to watch artistically. We are an artistic outlet for skaters to continue to grow and perform.”

“Let’s Dance, a celebration of artistic figure skating” takes the audience on a journey through classical, cultural, and contemporary dance on the ice. American Ice Theatre brings the best of ice and dance together in its inaugural production in Chicago.AITphotoPress

“AIT was built from my personal education and professional experience in dance and professional figure skating,” Porter said. “I have been actively educating others about the art and processes taken from dance and its translation to the ice. I see this fresh enthusiasm growing tremendously thanks to YAS and artistic skating seems to be a perfect fit here in Chicago.”

The performance is sanctioned by U.S. Figure Skating and supported by the Windy City Figure Skating Club. For additional information call Jodi Porter (847) 920-4262 or email jporter@americanicetheatre.org.

Photos courtesy of Marla Brown

Presidential Conversations

9 May

In early April, members of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team headed to the nation’s most famous address, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to meet with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. In addition to the responses seen in SKATING magazine, here are how the conversations went for Nathan Bartholomay and Marissa Castelli.

Nathan Bartholomay:

POTUS: Nathan, it is an honor to have you here.

N: It’s a privilege to be here sir. Truly an honor.

P: My wife and I are very busy but we did get to see some of the figure skating, we are so proud of you and Felicia.

N: Wow thank you sir, I can’t tell you what that means coming from you!

P: Thank you for representing your country so well at the Olympics.

“Short and sweet”

Marissa Castelli

“I talked to Obama about my medal,” Castelli said. “He touched the medal and said ‘that’s so heavy, I am star-struck'”

“Then I saw Michelle (Obama) and she said ‘Oh, you’re a pair skater!’ Castelli added. “We then went on to talk about trusting your partner and how she would never be able to do it.”

“It was a fun conversation.”