Audrey Weisiger is a woman in need of no introduction.
She possesses a multitude of titles: Olympic coach, radio talk show host, Young Artists Showcase Founder, Grassroots to Champions President, public speaker, choreographer and mentor. The list goes on.
But I like to call her Aud Mama. Affectionately coined by choreographer Amber Van Wyk, it is a title that may just describe her the best.
As AIT welcomes Audrey onto the Advisory Board, I talked with her about the upcoming season of YAS and her visions of where skating will be going in the future.
Q: You created the Young Artists Showcase in 2010 and now it is about to enter into its fourth season. What is different about this year than the previous three?
A: This year there are more theatrical type of challenges. The first challenge is a piece based on ethnic culture. The fourth challenge will be a piece based on a mythological creature. Challenge five is all about using a set of unconventional requirements like skidding, heel work and basic school figures. Tommy Steenberg and I cooked out the stuff that they are going to do. When we first started I had no idea what kinds of challenges or creations the choreographers were capable of concocting, but now I’m aware that more choreographers are welcoming the idea of doing something so out of the box.
Q: A budding choreographer is interested in doing YAS, but they are completely and utterly mortified. What do you tell them?
A: Choreography has to be about the joy of creation. I always go back to watching Cain’s Arcade, because no one told him to make the arcade; it was something he felt in his being that he wanted to make. Skating has to be like that. You go out there by yourself and you make something. Those are very personal moments when you get lost in your creation. That’s the essence of YAS. I tell this to the kids all the time – if you like what you created, then it was worth taking the time to make. It has value because it is done.
Choreography is very personal. I want to encourage choreographers to be creative and to become themselves without fear. I actually think in this day and age with so much visibility and social media, it’s so much more important for kids to stand up and be themselves. YAS really becomes a part of your toughening shell as much as it is an outlet for creativity. There aren’t many opportunities to experience creating something that is different than conventional skating.
Q: As you mentioned, there are limited opportunities for skaters seeking a way to express their artistic sensibilities. What do you think are the setbacks to this?
A: I went to the rink the other day on a freestyle session and noticed something was wrong. None of the kids are playing music to skate along with anymore. They don’t put on music to improvise; it’s essentially just background music. When I would come to the rink it would be my outlet for expression. It was my dance floor all day, everyday. This new generation of kids don’t skate to music. That idea has become so unimportant. A question I ask kids all the time is, “Why did you start skating in the first place?” It needs to go back to the joy one feels when they step on the ice and feel the glide and feel the crunch.
Q: The qualms of those saying competitive skating today is “cookie cutter” and generic has become a broken record. Why do you think so many people feel this way?
A: I remember back when Michael (Weiss) competed there were so many characters in the field. Along with him there was Elvis Stojko, Philippe Candeloro, Todd Eldredge, Ilia Kulik. I think individuality is being bred out of kids. My philosophy is that you have to get an audience emotionally involved. You’ve got to get people to clap for you on your footwork or give the audience a gesture that draws them in. Unfortunately now you can’t tell apart the typical IJS developed programs.
A good friend of mine and I were talking about this past year’s nationals and were discussing that there was some very good skating. It’s true that there were some very accomplished competitive programs, but I still don’t see that connection. I’m not talking about those who were raised in the old way of competing, like Jeremy Abbott. It’s the the little juveniles who are coming up right now and are being told that they don’t have time to work on musical interpretation because of time limits. The soul of the artist doesn’t look at it with time limits – they just skate.
Q: What do you hope your legacy will one day represent?
A: I joke that the Young Artists Showcase will be on my tombstone. I hope that it can go on for another 100 years. YAS was born to give people an opportunity for further self-expression and in the end I hope it gives them those moments of joy that can be shared.