Figure Skating: From the Boards

Sensations of Skating – Top 5 Choreographers September 22, 2010

Two quick things: I miss Evan and Anna, and I’m tired of being sick!

Once again, I apologize for the delayed post. Seriously, this head cold has me up and down and up and down…every time I felt like writing something, just that fast I felt terrible again. I’ve got some medication now, though, so hopefully I’m on the mend. (But I didn’t say that out loud!)

As for Evan and Anna, of course I’m talking Dancing with the Stars. I’ll admit it…I’m one of THOSE people. I Love that show. I think it’s a breath of fresh air, generally speaking. Most of the time, people come on the show and it’s not overly dramatic, it’s not entirely scripted, and it’s not cut-throat and nasty. Besides, it’s ballroom. That adds a touch of class to just about anything, especially reality TV. But this season, I’m just not sure these stars are going to cut it. They certainly won’t live up to previous seasons, and there’s certainly no Evan Lysacek. Or Kristi Yamaguchi.

That said, I’m still somehow interested to see who will pull this off, although the favorites seem to be clearly set already.

What do you think? Are you watching the show? I’ve got to say, watching this show gave me a whole new appreciation and understanding of ice dance, which I’ve come to love over the last several years.

(You like that seamless transition to skating? Anyway…)

So, the Hidden Heroes post won the award for most popular blog post ever! I want to thank everyone for reading it and passing it around – that day was my biggest day at From The Boards thus far! You guys are awesome. 🙂

It’s always hard to follow something that’s so great, but here’s my attempt. We talked coaches, now let’s talk choreographers. This one was a little harder for me in some ways, but easier in other ways – namely, the fact that there are really two choreographers right now who are dominating the world of skating: David Wilson and Lori Nichol.

Time out here, just to say that the new judging system (how long do you think it will be the “new” system?) really put more pressure on coaches and choreographers, because with a more defined points system (a defined at all system!), things had to be more particular within the choreography. Initially, this seemed like a difficult transition, and in my opinion, choreography suffered. However, now that the system has been worked over and skaters, coaches and choreographers are all accustomed to the new demands, artistry is working its way back into elite competition, thanks in part to choreographers like Nichol and Wilson who seem to have it down to a science.

However, they’re not the only magicians on the scene. And this season, we’re seeing some new faces who have made the jump from competitor to choreographer and I’m thrilled to see what they bring to the ice.

So, without further ado, my top 5 choreographers in skating today.

5. Jeff Buttle and Stephane Lambiel

Yes, I’m aware of the fact that #5 is actually two people. But here’s the deal – these two have just recently begun to choreograph for some top tier skaters, and I’m beyond excited about it. Buttle has worked with Yu-Na Kim and Jeremy Ten, among others, and Stephane has choreographed Diasuke Takahashi’s new short program for this season. What’s so exciting to me about these two is that they both understand what makes up a great program – highs and lows, transitions that actually make sense with the music and the story you’re telling. They are truly “Skaters’ skaters” and I think they will translate that into their choreography very well.

4. Nikolai Morosov

I have a feeling this might be a controversial choice because most of what Morosov is known for is simply footwork sequences. And that is true. But, post 2002 he was all the rage. It was like if you weren’t getting choreography from Nikolai, you were simply at a lesser level. Morosov works as a coach as well, but his step sequences put him on the map – as well as putting a few other skaters there as well. He worked with U.S. stars such as Sasha Cohen and Michelle Kwan, the Chinese pairs team of Pang and Tong, and of course his world champion in Miki Ando. I feel like his effectiveness in the system has worn off in recent years, but his impact is still felt by the structure and complexity of step sequences these days.

3. Tom Dickson

Clearly, this man’s choreography skills are worthy of mentioning. He’s been the USFSA’s choreographer of the year four times, most recently in 2006. He’s worked with Jeremy Abbott, Rachael Flatt, Yu-Na Kim, Brandon Mroz, and Caroline Zhang. He’s one who can work the system, but also work with the skater to get the best out of them. And as great as he is, in the last four years, he’s been a tad over shadowed by the top two.

2. David Wilson

This was tough. Splitting these top two is like splitting hairs. In fact, I had it the other way around, but then decided to change it. I’ll do my best to explain why. David Wilson is magic on ice. The way he translates and idea to reality is mind boggling. He gets skaters to take hold of an idea and make it their own. He transforms them every time he gets to work on something new, and he never seems to run out of ideas. The list of athletes he’s worked with is remarkable: Jeremy Abbott, Miki Ando, Jeff Buttle, Sasha Cohen, Alissa Czisny, Denney and Barrett, Dube and Davison, Dubreuil and Lauzon, Christina Gao, Emily Hughes, Midori Ito, Brian Joubert, Yu-Na Kim, Adam Rippon, Joannie Rochette, Johnny Weir…to name a few. He just gets it. How to move, how to perform, how to incorporate technique…he gets it. And the best part is, he makes sure his skaters get it, too.

1. Lori Nichol

Ultimately, my number one spot had to go to Lori Nichol. David Wilson may get there in my book, but for now, so many iconic programs belong to Lori. Think Michelle Kwan (most of her career!) and “Lyra Angelica” or the Rachmaninoff short program from the Olympics (1998 and 2002). Think Shen and Zhao’s “Meditation” from the 2006-2007 season, or their Olympic short to “Who Wants to Live Forever.” Think Patrick Chan’s “Phantom” or Evan Lysacek’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” There are so many moments in skating that have made lasting memories that all start with the imagination of Lori Nichol. She’s now creating similar moments for Yu-Na Kim and Mirai Nagasu, as well as Chan and Abbott, among others. Because she’s had the same longevity as some of the skaters she’s worked with, and she’s still at the top of her game…still at the top of her sport. And I’m not the only one to notice. There was a fabulous article a while back about how she works and how she creates programs for each skater…you should probably check it out.

Now, I know there are so many others – Lea Ann Miller, Sandra Bezic, Kurt Browning, and on and on and on. But as with the coaches, I tried to key in on those who are making the biggest mark right now in skating. That said, feel free to disagree! I’d love to know what you think about the who’s who in choreography today as well.

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter for all kinds of tid bits there: twitter.com/fromtheboards

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4 Responses to “Sensations of Skating – Top 5 Choreographers”

  1. I really admire Jennifer Grey’s tribute to Patrick Swayze on DWTS. Last night was just special. They got to dance to a song that is so iconic and it triggered great memories.

  2. Y Says:

    Canadians are the best choreographers!

    I’d put Shae Lynn Bourne ahead of Lambiel and Buttle as a more accomplished and acclaimed up and comer.

  3. Amy chack Says:

    Michael Chack living in San Francisco is the new generation of choreographers


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