Remembering a Legend

Today we pay homage and remember a true legend in figure skating — Ricky Harris. She passed away at her home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico at the age of 95. She is referred to as “the mother of choreography education in figure skating” and is known for her work with skating stars such as Scott Hamilton, Michelle Kwan, Evan Lysacek, Tai Babilonia & Randy Gardner,
She mentored AIT Founder Jodi Porter and they developed a friendship that lasted more than 20 years all through Ricky’s final days. In 2013, AIT gave Harris a Lifetime Achievement Award for her pioneering efforts to revolutionize figure skating choreography to allow choreographers to be more recognizable, established and appreciated in the figure skating community. In 2013 she also received a Lifetime Achievement Award through the Professional Skaters Association and in 2014 she was inducted into the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame.
Thank you Ricky for your amazing career! Her legacy lives on through so many continuing on her methodology and passion.

Read AIT Founder Jodi Porter’s tribute to Ricky

Listen to an interview with Ricky by the Manleywoman SkateCast

Buy her book “Choreography and Style for Ice Skaters”

Buy her book “The Coach’s Manual on Choreography and Style for Skating”

 

 

AIT performs in the U.S. Open

American Ice Theatre Boston performed in the 2017 U.S. Open in Nashville, TN on May 23.

Performing to “Promise” by Ben Howard, the piece created by AIT Boston’s Kate McSwain explained the theme of the piece as “in life there are those moments where someone or something slips through your fingers. It can be sudden or it can be slowly over time, but it’s always painful. This piece explores that emotional journey.”


The ensemble includes (from left to right) Robert Mauti, Victoria Craw, Ashley Wyatt, Garrett Kling, McSwain (choreographer), Stephanie Chace Bass, Meg Lamarre, Sean Marshinski, Su Wagner-Jackson, Liz Schmidt.

Stay tuned for more photos and video of the event! 

AIT Presents First Ever American Artistic Skating Festival

Boston —- American Ice Theatre (AIT), a contemporary ice dance company, is pleased to announce its first annual American Contemporary Skating Festival June 10-11. The event, held at the Veterans Memorial Ice Rink in Somerville, MA, will be a gathering place of over 40 professional skaters, coaches and choreographers passionate about expanding the art form of skating.

This event is a platform for choreographers and skating artists to share their own philosophies and learn from their colleagues,” said Kate McSwain, AIT Boston Co-Director and event organizer. “We are creating an open space environment for all artists to have their voice heard.”

Continue reading

Why Take an AIT ‘Mini-course’?

my-floor-barre-pics-300x300The new year is here! It’s a clean slate to stop procrastinating, get in better shape, and become the person you’ve always wanted to be!
Okay, all of those things we like to tell ourselves and then by mid-year we fall into a hole of self-pity because well, WE DIDN’T DO THEM.
But thankfully here at AIT, we’ve provided accessible ways to help those looking for improving their careers as a coach, teacher, choreographer and performer. The Ballet for Figure Skaters online mini-courses provided by AIT are a wonderful way to do these things. Here are just a few reasons why you should take a course.
  • Choose from an extensive variety of subjects. These include “Introduction to Ballet for Figure Skating”, “Introduction to Classical Ballet Pedagogy”, “Music Theory”, and “Choreography Basics”.
  • Taught by a master teacher. Annette Thomas has dedicated her life to the art of dance, choreography and pedagogy and has a passion for combining those with figure skating. She is classically trained at Carnegie Hall and the San Juan Ballet Company and tea
    ches ballet using the world-renowned Vaganova method.
  • In-depth college level classes that don’t dent the budget like a typical university course.
  • Individualized lessons in your own home at a time/day which is convenient for you. You set your own schedule with Annette and have the opportunity find the most comfortable place to take class over your own personal electronic device.
  • Each mini-course earns  AIT credits towards full “Ballet for Figure Skaters” teaching certification.

Check out this link for more information on finding the right class for you and how to sign up. You can email Annette at attdance@gmail.com for further questions. Happy New Year!

 

 

2017 Update: Ballet for Figure Skaters releases digital DVD

I like to think of ballet and figure skating as friends. In fact, I would even guess they’re related — so let’s say they’re cousins. I can see them both having a great time catching up over casserole at the family reunion potluck. They commiserate over grotesque growths on their heels and ankles, share a laugh while executing a perfect split, and can hum the tune of the Nutracker’s Pas De Deux by heart.

16959_254096422578_1019100_nBoth ballet and figure skating require immense body awareness, balance, muscle control and strength. Yet there are obvious differences — such as surface area, climate and bedazzling sequins — that glaringly separate the two worlds. Ballet has long been a highly favored off-ice conditioning tool for figure skaters, but I believe more and more coaches are favoring other conditioning methods over ballet such as plyometric training due to the higher technical demands of the sport.

Unfortunately this mentality is a terribly misguided choice as correct ballet teaching provides a skater with the correct body alignment, positioning and strength to lower the risk of injuries. Ballet provides the foundation of movement and trickles out to every part of skating whether it be the body alignment and quick snap for going into a double axel or interpreting a piece of choreography with full body movement.

This is why I am so thankful for Annette Thomas and what she is doing to bridge the gap between ballet and movement on the ice for figure skaters. A dancer and choreographer for over 30 years, she has dedicated the past 20-plus years to educate the figure skating community on the most effective ballet curriculum for figure skaters’ specific needs. Her new “Ballet for Figure Skaters” digital DVD puts the first level of her curriculum onto the screen for skaters all over the world to see. Continue reading

Aliens, Animals & Artists of the Autostadt: A backstage pass to the German outdoor ice show

On any given night at the Autostadt, its ice show Urmel Aus Dem Eis presents all the ingredients of a professional production – effortless triple jumps, soaring back flips, high-flying bounce spins and fast-paced ensemble numbers. But this show is anything but ordinary.

Here you will find life-sized space ships, Tyrannosaurs Rex’s, meat grinding machines and remote controlled couches. You will see skaters as chocolate tortes and cherry souffles, pandas and parakeets, nuns and priests, runway models and bullfighters, farmers and Carnival showgirls, baroque waltzers and Star Trekkies.

And don’t forget, lots and lots of pyro.

Under rain, snow, sleet, torrential winds and even melting ice the outdoor show must go on. Located in Wolfsburg, Germany, the Autostadt is widely known for its museums of Volkswagen automobiles, but its ice show is the biggest attraction of the holiday season running until Dec. 28.

The entire experience is a whirlwind of rehearsals and performing. An ensemble of 22 skaters collectively learn 46 numbers over a three week rehearsal period in Bad Sascha, Germany. Stephanee Grosscup, the show’s choreographer, sometimes teaches up to four numbers per day in order to finish all the productions.

“We never let up. Everyone starts to get overloaded with steps and stories [however] these young, athletic, creative and talented skaters are a constant source of inspiration to me,” she said. “There is a spirit amongst [them] that is so unique. We are trained athletes first and foremost, but we are dancers, actors, characters, musicians, muses.”

Once they arrive in Wolfsburg, the skaters perform twice each day and open a new show every Sunday over four weeks. Installation for the following week’s show takes place late at night, often in less than favorable weather conditions.

“We have exactly five days [for installation each week] to clean and add huge props, attempt to get everyone through insane quick changes, add numbers to the show if necessary, drive cars, trains, helicopters, ride on fish, fall in ponds and wells, cast spells, have pyro on skates, disappear, reappear, be a dragon, walrus, panda, the list goes on and on,” Grosscup said, who is in her fifth year as choreographer. “In the end, it is over the top hilarity!” Continue reading

Dance2Ice Barre: Moves in the Field

AIT is all about bringing dance to ice.

The Dance2Ice Barre class teaches the foundational tools needed to apply full body movement to figure skating maneuvers. Once a skater has gained proficiency executing skills in the basic two-dimensional realm (linear movement), D2I teaches how to engage the core while moving through three dimensional space (using all levels of the body).

By learning this skill set, a skater establishes an entirely new vocabulary of movement as they gain body awareness and increased mobility. This type of movement is especially important as skaters begin leveled step sequences where they must use full body movement to receive their desired level.

Alongside AIT’s D21 curriculum (promo vid here), another aspect of the program is taking Moves in the Field patterns and revolutionizing them by applying these newfound principles.

In a Level 1 demonstration video below, skaters use a preliminary MIF pattern — the alternating backward crossovers to back outside edges.

Notice the skaters using their core to initiate the movement as they use all levels of their body with their arms, mid-section and knee bend. This not only increases the difficulty in performing the movement, but also adds interest to the audience witnessing the maneuver (a win-win for all involved!).

For some other demonstration demos, check them out here:

Level 2 demo:

Level 4 demo:

Have you tried these Dance2Ice exercises? What other MIF patterns can you make Dance2Ice style? Film your own today and we will feature them on AIT’s Facebook page!

 

 

 

 

 

PROFILES: RICKY HARRIS

By Renee Austin

Each person has an individual way of moving which becomes a part of his or her personality and uniqueness of communication. It is my purpose to help the skaters appreciate their uniqueness and discover the differences between themselves and other skaters through self-awareness and self-analysis. – Ricky Harris

It wasn’t until Ricky Harris entered the profession in 1972 that choreographers for figure skaters started to become the norm. Harris worked full time exclusively with competitive skaters such as Scott Hamilton, Elaine Zayak, Brian Boitano, Linda Fratianne, Michelle Kwan and the ice dance team of Michael Siebert and Judy Blumberg. The renowned coaches she worked alongside include Don Laws, Frank Carroll and Linda Leaver.

Harris (far left) sitting in the 1984 Olympic Kiss & Cry with Scott Hamilton & coach Don Laws.

Harris (far left) sitting in the 1984 Olympic Kiss & Cry with Scott Hamilton & coach Don Laws.

Harris did not grow up on the ice however. At 18 years old, Harris’ talent and enthusiasm caught the eye of Eugene Turner who first gave her ice lessons. Her ice show career started at the age of 21 with Shipstad and Johnson’s Ice Follies, then to Sonja Henie’s show before marrying and having two children. During that time she went to the University of California, Irvine, obtaining a B.A. in Drama and an M.F.A. in Dance. After a traveling tour as professor of dance aboard a university ship and head of the Dance Department of Chapman University, Harris re-entered the figure skating profession as a choreographer.

In those early times she was often the trendsetter. During freezing cold practice sessions skaters wore nothing over their skating tights for warmth. In the dance world leg warmers were commonly used even in hot studios to keep muscles warm during long hours of practice.

“I pulled out a pair of leg warmers from my bag for a skater to use. The skater did not know what they were, and was afraid her coach would disapprove,” Harris said. “I said I would accept the responsibility. When the coach saw his skater on the ice he was deeply disturbed. I explained that it was not healthy and could be injurious for skaters not to keep their legs warm until they felt their bodies were completely warmed up. I suggested to the coach to check with a doctor to confirm this,” she noted. “It all culminated in a notice that went out to all skaters at that rink to wear leg warmers from then on. Soon there was a company specializing in leg warmers for figure skaters.”

Movement akin to the dance world that Harris choreographed for the ice shocked many within the skating community. She then attempted to educate them on what was going on in the world of performing arts. As part of the coaching team she assumed she could take her place with the coaches at competitions while the skaters with whom she worked practiced and competed. This was not always accepted by others, but she persisted and eventually it became norm. Continue reading