When Ricky Harris decided to settle down in the mid 2000s, the chapter in her illustrious career conducting global workshops for thirty-plus years closed. Looking through binders and binders worth of material gathered over the years, she decided a new chapter needed to open—one where a fresh voice could bring her workshops to a whole new generation of skaters learning the concepts and methods she devoted her life teaching.
“I felt that the workshops should be developing more and more,” said Harris, 91, who holds an M.F.A. in Dance and Ph.D in Choreography.
Harris began thinking about who could continue her workshops and use her extensive amount of material.
“I wanted to give all my journals to somebody who would really do something with them,” she added.
Harris decided the perfect candidate was someone she had mentored for almost 20 years, Jodi Porter, founder of the American Ice Theatre.
“There was something about her that I could see was just like me,” Harris said. “She is someone who goes in and accomplishes what she’s passionate about.”
Starting this month Porter will relaunch the Ricky Harris Choreography and Style Workshops by presenting the same material Harris taught by offering the necessary tools for skaters to develop their own distinctive style on the ice.
“I’m passionate about continuing her legacy,” Porter said. “I’m so excited we can bring these workshops back into figure skating at such a critical time for the sport where it really needs the artistic component to maintain and flourish.”
Harris has been a mentor to Porter since the mid 1990s. While studying dance at the University of Utah, Porter recalled that many of the same concepts she learned in dance were central to Harris’ book on figure skating style and choreography she had read as a child. Porter began emailing Harris asking her advice on her own choreography and career.
“We really bonded,” Porter said. “We had the same vision of how we wanted to help figure skating.”
When Porter got the call from Harris last summer asking her to carry on the workshops, Porter was shocked and overwhelmed.
“I am just so honored that she would even think of me,” Porter said. “I want to do it for her and want her name to live on.”
Last September Porter traveled to Harris’ home in San Migel de Allende, Mexico to gather all the materials needed for the workshops. They spent days going over Harris’ multiple three-inch binder journals.
“I kept track of everything I ever taught,” Harris said. “That was the best thing I ever did because that way nothing was lost from all my work.”
Before Porter left with all the journals in hand, Harris gave her a nugget of advice worth a piece of gold.
“I told her, ‘read them carefully, follow them and you will have a lot of success with them,” Harris said.
Founded in 1974, Harris’ workshops became a global sensation as figure skaters all over the world learned her unique concepts like “energy balls” and using musical terms to teach skaters movement.
“I wanted all the skaters to know the basics of choreography so they could apply it for themselves,” she said. “The biggest thing I strove for was that not one of my students looked like the other.”
Her prestigious clientele include Brian Boitano, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, Linda Fratianne, Scott Hamilton, Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek ed-nederland.com.
Porter holds a B.F.A. degree in Modern Dance and held a full-time position at Ballet San Jose as the Associate School Director. Now living in the Chicago area with her husband John and two sons, she is also a PSA rated choreographer, USFS gold medalist, a former touring professional and continues her work with the American Ice Theatre.
“I’m so happy that I feel I chose the right person to continue the workshops,” Harris added. “She’s really enthusiastic about it.”
The first workshop is set in Wilmette, IL on March 25. To hold a Ricky Harris Workshop in your location visit www.americanicetheatre.org