In thinking back over time about some of the great alliances I have been fortunate to be involved in during my career, the one that I think of first is the ten years I spent working with Carlos Fassi at both the Broadmoor rink in Colorado Springs and at Ice Castle in Lake Arrowhead, California during the late 80s and 90s. This was a very productive and creative time of growth for me due to Carlos’s complete trust and confidence in me as a coach. He always let me do my job unencumbered by micromanagement. However, the greatest alliance of all time for me was working alongside Frank Carroll and Lori Nichol at Ice Castle from the mid-90s through 2012. It was fabulous to watch and coach during this magical time in figure skating history.
During this time same period, Rafael Arutunian joined our staff. We worked side by side for about 15 years. This was a thrilling time at Ice Castle with many great skaters and coaches all working under one roof. We had ice a plenty and boarding for the skaters. We were gifted with a state of the art ballet studio and a gym. There was a wonderful opportunity for the skaters to perform a lot in our themed Hot Summer Nights Shows in which I was the Artistic Director. It was a perfect learning environment for the serious figure skating athlete.
Last year, Rafael and Vera Arutunian sent me several skaters to choreograph their new programs. We were testing the waters to see how renewing our relationship might work. Well, it worked quite well. We have already started to expand things for the coming season as Rafael recently sent me two of his top juniors. Eric Sjoberg and Audrey Shin have recently received new programs from me.
It feels like our alliance is growing and moving forward in a positive direction. It would be wonderful, educational, and inspirational if one day there could be a serious figure skating academy right here in Southern California; one dedicated to excellence and directed by Rafael. Every ship needs a captain and every orchestra needs a conductor. America would be wise to enable that possibility for Rafael to be the director of his own Academy where he picks the faculty and curriculum in order to produce more skaters like his protégé, Nathan Chen.
The following are a few small morsels depicting how my process has been developing as I created programs for their two skaters. It has been a most enjoyable process because of the trust they place in me.
You can see a few shots of us working in the studio before ever hitting the ice. I do this to allow them to critically analyze their every position in the mirror to bring a better product to the ice. Eric Sjoberg is built like a Balanchine New York City Ballet male dancer. He is tall with a chiseled cut physique, beautiful line and wonderful musicality. His program is Neo Classic in design with no storyline. I wanted to show an interesting program devoid of fluff or any specific story direction. Audrey Shin is young and beautiful and possesses an innocence and sense of frivolity that makes one’s heart sing. Her program is to music from Romeo & Juliet. She plays the part perfectly. This program has the actual story of Romeo & Juliet built in to take the audience back to Verona, Italy where my ancestors actually come from. I am quite appreciative that Rafael and Vera have placed their trust in me to choreograph for these two very different and wonderful skaters.
The session is over and the Zamboni is coming out.