Why Skating Needs to Keep Dancing


Cast of Let’s Dance (all photos by Grace Wiley)

What happens when you get a room full of creatives in the skating world and tell them to put together a show all their own?

No, this time it’s not Strawberry Ice.

You get “Let’s Dance” – American Ice Theatre’s spring gala performance that occurred May 31 in Chicago. The show, produced by Jodi Porter, featured pieces choreographed by contestants from Audrey Weisiger’s Young Artists Showcase, as well as special guest stars like Jason Brown (maybe you’ve heard of him), Ryan Bradley, Rohene Ward, Ashley Clark and Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Guiletti-Schmitt.

photo by Grace E. Wiley
Jason Brown

It’s safe to say it was a success (just being a bit modest, here folks). To a packed house, the show presented styles of classical to contemporary, solos to large group ensemble pieces, laughs and cheers, heart-felt emotion, breath-taking stunts and beautiful choreography.

Most of all, the show brought together a group of people choosing to skate the way their heart tells them.

The voice of criticism grows louder in and out of skating circles about skating’s current state. After the uproar of Sochi’s controversies and debacles, there’s a broken record telling us that skating is becoming irrelevant. This show proves otherwise. Here are some of the most commonly heard slams against skating today and how the joined forces of AIT and YAS are helping change the conversation with a show like this one.

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Skating all looks the same.

Cookie-cutter. By the book. Repetitive. Those are some of the unfortunate words routinely said. Whether it’s because of the IJS or not. skating is in a rut (hehehe) as its missing what made it unique in the past – the personalities, the creativity, the wow-factor.

   What people want is something FRESH. 

“Madness” performed by Ice Art, choreographed by Amber Van Wyk

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying we shouldn’t still appreciate and thrive for skating’s historic past (I am such a sucker for the days of John Curry and Janet Lynn) but “Let’s Dance” enabled a special something that made skating seem real, modern and relevant again.

In our ever-changing, constantly evolving, crazy-fast-text-100-words-a-minute world, skating has to keep up. And hate to say it, but we have sorta-kinda REALLY sucked at doing that lately ( #cinquanta #ISU #epicfail).

The show was so refreshing because it didn’t seem like there was a checklist to keep track of. There was no ticker half-way through the program on the upper left hand corner of the screen.  Its cast of characters were filled with personalities that the audience related to, rooted for and enjoyed watching for every second they were on the ice. It was pure skating.

©GraceWiley©AmericanIceTheatre059 (1)
Stephanie Chace Bass, Yebin Mok and Mauro Bruni

Skating is too one-sided. Competitive figure skating is the only track believed to be viable.

While most skaters enter into the sport with aspirations to make it all the way to the colossal five-ringed spectacle, the likelihood of that happening is preeeeety slim (sorry to break it to all you youngings reading this right now). Even for many competitive skaters who go on to represent their country in international competition, they exit the sport feeling dejected and forlorn after years of feeling less-than, second best and under the radar.

Competitive skating is not the problem, it is the lack of alternative opportunities deemed legitimate when a skater first puts on a pair of skates. This type of show and collaboration with AIT/YAS is special because it brings together choreographers and performers — all with different styles, talents and approaches — and provides an outlet for their passion. It is our hope that this type of show will continue for years to come and spread throughout the country and abroad.

Skating is too corrupt.

The politics don’t seem to change. And while we should make every effort to stop cheating and back-handed deals in the sport, the inevitable factor is there will always be someone trying to manipulate something.

Rohene Ward performs to “A Path to Solace” choreographed by himself & Deneane Richburg

I used to get riled up about who won, who lost and who got screwed, but at the end of the day you realize it’s not the placements you remember, but how that skater made YOU feel. The depth of emotion travels much further than the tangible sensation of a score card.

In the world of AIT and YAS, the biggest take away is its foundation in community. We have the common goal to further the joy and love of skating to the masses, but we can only do it together.

More and more the skating world is realizing it craves something more meaningful. There is a desire for intentional skating with the question “why do I love to skate in the first place” guiding how we glide.

For those who were lucky enough to be part and witness “Let’s Dance”, I can’t help but think they came away saying, “oh yeah, that’s why I love skating.”


The AIT/YAS show is now complete, but the revolution is only beginning. What do you think is going to keep skating relevant for today? How can we work together to bring this type of artistic skating to more massive appeal? Please share your thoughts below … let’s get a good discussion going! This show is a launching pad — we have a whole big bad world to reach!

Visit www.americanicetheatre.org to learn more about our revolution on ice through performance and education and www.youngartistsshowcase.net to see performances from the past four seasons and info for the next.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the great article. There is and has been many alternatives to competitive skating… However the time is now to SUPPORT those outlets before the general public puts skating to rest for good. Now is the time for #revolution

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