U.S. Figure Skating Online will feature a different club-related story every couple weeks in the Club Spotlight.
For Coach Jodi Porter the decision to take on and continue the work of renowned skating choreographer Ricky Harris was an easy one.
"I felt so honored and excited to continue the work Ricky had inspired me with so many years ago," Porter said. "Ricky has been a very generous and giving mentor for me for almost 20 years. I felt I had to give something back and continue the workshops for her."
Harris mentored Porter through e-mail contacts and Porter was thrilled Harris chose her to continue her work.
"I gave her all the information I had," Harris said. "I kept a record of everything I had ever taught, in journals, and when I explained to Jodi that I wasn't going to do this anymore, and would she be interested in the journals and work with them, she was very excited. I'm sure she is going to do a wonderful job."
Porter spent time with Harris going over each journal and the Ricky Harris Workshops began.
Harris helped create skating champions through her unique choreography combining movements that express music and tell a story. The mother of "choreography education for figure skating", Harris has been integrating dance concepts into the sport for more than 40 years.
Harris choreographed and worked with many skating greats including Brian Boitano, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, Linda Fratianne, Scott Hamilton, Michelle Kwan, Evan Lysacek and many others. She also published two books for figure skating, "Choreography and Style for Figure Skaters" and "Coaches Manual: Choreography and Style for Skaters".
Harris's technique helps the individual create their own style of skating and teaches the skater to express themselves to the music in a very powerful way.
"This is so relevant today with the IJS program components where the skaters are required to interpret the music with their whole body and connect with the audience," Porter said. "Ricky has developed exercises and tools that are used in professional dance and applied them to skating. The tools work now as they did twenty years ago because they are universal and have stood the test of time from the beginning of professional dance. Ricky Harris Workshops help the skater reach their potential in performance on the ice."
For Harris, first and foremost, it is all about teaching the skater about the music.
"I taught them about the music first and then how to turn that into movement," Harris said. Harris believes skaters need good choreography in today's programs, and even the hardest jumps and spins can be enhanced with movement.
"I felt it was very important not to just jump, but maybe have a special movement going into a jump and coming out of it, a certain turn or look that says ‘look what I just did?'" Harris said.
All workshops are individually tailored to students. Each student is on their own track of development. Progress of each student is recorded so new concepts are learned once they master the material.
"We have ten years of material to work from so each workshop is fresh and yet students who return can continue to build their skill set year after year," Porter said.
The one day workshop focuses on four to five elements that are explored to both individual and group study. The two day workshop takes these skills to the ice.
"There is demonstration, music, movement and critical thinking involved, but most of all the student walks away empowered and excited to sign up for the next one," Porter said. "We focus on creating an energized and fun environment where the skaters can grow."
Porter believes Harris's work needs to be continued in skating.
"For Ricky's extensive dance education and career she was able to see what was missing in the performance of skating and create exercises to improve performance techniques," Porter said.
The workshops are recommended for ages 8 and up from beginner to professional and are available worldwide. They are also adapted to the skater's needs.
Clubs and programs interested in hosting a workshop can contact Porter at www.americanicetheatre.org.
"As Ricky did, I hope to give the gift of creativity and artistry to skaters and create a larger community of skating artists," Porter said.
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