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Young Artists Showcase Inspires Aspiring Skating Choreographers
by Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz, special to U.S. Figure Skating

When Anna Cobb decided to take the plunge and participate in the Young Artists Showcase (YAS) last fall, little did she know that she would not only win, but also find herself part of a huge creative family

"I've followed YAS from the very beginning," said the Flint, Michigan skater. "Every year people would tell me I should do it but I thought it was something other people did, not me."

Cobb, who competed for 15 years through the senior level, began her professional career three years ago, and in April will be skating for Royal Caribbean Cruises on the Freedom of the Sea.

Cobb loves choreography and the unique Young Artists Showcase competition intrigued her.

"I felt it would be good for me to push me out of my comfort zone," she said. "After talking to some close friends who were past YASers, it really inspired and encouraged me to do it."

The Young Artists Showcase competition was founded by Coach Audrey Weisiger in honor of the late choreographer Brian Wright. The Young Artists Showcase fosters and encourages young ice skating choreographers by giving them experience through a series of challenges and guidance from an expert panel of artists, skaters and choreographers.

Weekly challenges are reviewed by a panel of elite guest judges and online viewers also get to vote. The top two finalists move on to the final show where they must each choreograph a program to the same piece of music using the same skater. They must also create and present an original program using a skater of their choice.

Katie Stewart of Traverse City, Michigan was the other 2014 finalist. Stewart also competed in singles and currently coaches at her hometown rink in Traverse City coaching all levels and ages.

"I had just completed my Masters Choreography Techniques certification through American Ice Theatre when the applications for Young Artists Showcase were due," Stewart said. "I had a few friends who previously participated in the competition that were very encouraging and I saw it as a great opportunity to continue pushing myself choreographically, professionally and mentally."

Stewart approached the entire competition without any expectations but admitted placing her work out there for critique was a little nerve wracking.

"I give so much credit to all past, present and future YAS participants for taking on such a challenge," Stewart said. "It's not easy. I worked to keep a positive mindset and take all of the information as an opportunity to improve and grow in my work. It's not every day you get such detailed feedback from so many accomplished professionals and that for me was more than worth the effort."

Weisiger is pleased in the competition's growth and would love to see it broadcast someday on an arts television network.

She also said that she would like to do an all-star cast of previous winners with a few qualifiers, having the talent selected from a fantastic list of performers.

"Each week they would rotate through the talent which would consist of a singes lady or man, a pair's team, dance team and ensemble group. The skating world would love it."

Both Cobb and Stewart treasured Weisiger's enthusiasm during the competition and found the best part was the friendships they formed

"The connections and friendships are priceless," Cobb said. "Katie and I had never met before YAS. We are both from Michigan but we didn't know each other at all. Now she is one of my best friends. It's not just a choreography contest. It's a family. It's a community of people that share the same love for artistry and skating and want to share it with the world, together."

Stewart also treasures the memory of that live final.

"Audrey has created such an amazing platform and supportive environment for aspiring creative's through YAS," Stewart said. "She will be the first to tell you that everyone involved in YAS becomes part of the YAS family and she is one hundred percent correct. It's a big, crazy, inspiring, talented family that I am so proud to be a part of."

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