By Kate McSwain

Until recently, young figure skating choreographers had few opportunities to expose their work, promote progressive creative ideas, or connect with elite artists in the field. However, with the increasing popularity of websites such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook—as well as the development of pioneering programs like Audrey Weisiger’s  “Young Artists Showcase” and Jodi Porter’s  “Master Choreography Techniques for Figure Skaters,”—more artistic opportunities are now available to young choreographers than ever before in the history of the sport. A new wave of young artists in the figure skating world are rapidly emerging, and with these fresh faces comes a vigorous desire to connect, create, and  share their work.

“…with social media and so many other new program opportunities readily available, promising young choreographers can gain reputation and influence in skating choreography simply by staying innovative and involved.”

Social media has facilitated the steps toward freeing the stage so young choreographers could come forward.

  • Facebook has become the world’s gateway to connecting with people; and it’s the online networking system for this sport, as with many others.  Choreographers have an unprecedented opportunity to list their accomplishments, as videos or pictures of their work. Colleagues and peers can communicate across long distances and can share their artistic vision with one another.
  • YouTube’s all-video website is at the core of a choreographer’s new ability to self-promote. By uploading videos of their work, an artist’s choices in movement, music, and expression can automatically be shared, and their vision can be more clearly understood.  And the public has the opportunity to easily respond via comments, “likes,” and shares.
  • Similarly, even with the 140-character limit in one tweet, Twitter offers a young choreographer the ability to market their work on YouTube, or even their personal website, to a group of followers who have selected themselves for interest in the sport. They can also build a following, stay up-to-the-minute on news in figure skating, and connect with other likeminded peers and institutions such as USFSA, PSA, or figure skating clubs nationwide.

Examples of young choreographers using social media to their advantage, especially on YouTube and Facebook, include Tommy Steenberg, the winner of the inaugural Young Artists Showcase; Adam Blake, the second champion; and Garrett Kling, a second-round contestant.

Two interactive cutting-edge programs are also leading the way for figure skating choreographers pursuing careers in the field. One program challenges its contestants to stay creative and share their work weekly, while the other teaches students to identify and understand the fundamental elements of movement.

  • The “Young Artists Showcase,” or YAS, is an international competition for budding choreographers, wherein they can display their work for some of the leading artists in skating.  Kurt Browning, Sarah Kawahara, Doug Webster, and Cindy Stuart have all served as judges for YAS. This program provides the ideal platform for young choreographers to gain exposure and receive constructive criticism for their work.  Audrey Weisiger founded YAS in honor of one of the most talented choreographers in figure skating history, Brian Wright. Audrey’s goal is to challenge young artists to pursue creativity and to help them connect to the rest of the skating world. The Young Artists Showcase website quotes, “YAS offers the opportunity for selected choreographers to participate in an online contest which will be a series of challenges as designed by top choreographers to help the young choreographers develop their craft.”  With the third annual competition approaching this summer, Audrey has successfully built a reputation for her project; this time around, the young contestants chosen to compete in the five weekly artistic challenges online are expected to have YAS’s largest audience yet.
  • Another groundbreaking platform for emerging young choreographers is Jodi Porter’s distance learning class, “Master Techniques in Figure Skating.”  This is a live web-based master class offering 20 weeks of course study. Jodi developed this class to educate skaters in the foundational techniques of choreography. According to Jodi, “The main objective for this course is for [my] students to gain deep knowledge of compositional elements and advanced choreography techniques as they relate to figure skating.” At the end of the semester, each student who completes the curriculum receives a Certificate in Choreography for Figure Skaters. Unlike future classes, who will be able to pay for entry, the inaugural class was invited from among the ranks of young artists with an established commitment to choreography.  Their class’s focus has been on the use of cross-over techniques to apply concepts of movement in dance to movement on the ice. Jodi hopes to see her students elevate their demands of themselves, both in skating choreography and the creative process.  She is helping to yield a younger generation with higher standards in movement on the ice:  movement with no boundaries and with a more progressive, complex, and contemporary vision.

In the past, young skaters with the goal of becoming elite choreographers depended wholly on word-of-mouth marketing and waited patiently for years to gain greater exposure. But at present, with social media and so many other new program opportunities readily available, promising young choreographers can gain reputation and influence in skating choreography simply by staying innovative and involved. The art of figure skating is evolving into an increasingly advanced form of dance movement, and with so many outlets and platforms to promote their work, a new surge of skating choreographers have the potential to push artistic expectations even higher, and now, thanks to these new opportunities, more efficiently.

Kate McSwain
Photo by Sarah Brannen

Kate McSwain travels to choreograph for competitive skaters, perform in professional ice show productions, artistic seminars with her business, ‘Sk8tivity.

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