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Skating’s flight and glide to be celebrated at Dick Button Artistic Figure Skating Festival

By Kat Cornetta, Team FSO Contributing Writer

Why do figure skaters love skating?

Doug Webster argues it is the “flight and flow” that pulls people in and keeps them on the ice.

“They get to experience the wind against their face,” said Webster, the Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Ice Dance International.

A longtime colleague in the skating community agrees.

“Skating appeals to the Peter Pan in us,” agrees Moira North, Founder and Artistic Director of the Ice Theatre of New York. “It appeals to the flying part of us.”

It is skating’s flight and glide is being celebrated Saturday at the second annual Dick Button Artistic Figure Skating Festival. The festival, which is being held at the Skating Club of Boston for the first time, is a series of workshops and an evening performance on Saturday, October 14th that honors two-time Olympic gold medalist Dick Button. Paul Wylie, the 1992 Olympic silver medalist whose skating was regularly celebrated by Button, is the co-founder of the event, along with Curtis McGraw Webster of the Lisa McGraw Figure Skating Foundation.

Creating an event that celebrates Button and the aspects of skating he appreciated the most is important to Wylie. Button’s initial contributions to skating may have been his technical prowess – landing the first double Axel and triple jump in competition – but what he truly treasured was the glide and the flow now more often shared by artistic skating companies.

“(Button) had a hand in creating both Ice Dance International and Ice Theatre of New York,” said Wylie. “He has been an advocate for artistic skating for many years.”

North’s Ice Theatre of New York, the first non-profit artistic skating company in the U.S., will present four pieces at the festival, including Of Water and Ice, a piece on climate change choreographed by the founder and director of Time Lapse Dance, Jody Sperling. Another piece, La Revolte Des Enfants, is a “visually playful” one, per North. It was choreographed by Alberto Del Saz, a former Spanish national champion and the current artistic director of the Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance. He previously choreographed for U.S. Champion Nicole Bobek and two-time Olympic bronze medalist Philippe Candeloro.

North is excited that such an opportunity exists for her company, as well as others, and that it is sponsored by someone outside of the groups themselves.

“I think this event is really important,” said North. “It is very important that someone outside of the companies arranges it.”

Webster’s IDI will present four pieces at the festival, including one on loan from ITNY. Dare Greatly, a piece commissioned in 2009 commemorating the life of former U.S. national junior champion Will Sears, who tragically passed away at the age of 20. It is based on a screenplay he was writing while a student at NYU, where he addressed “daring greatly” in the face of adversity. Choreographed by Webster and owned by ITNY, it will be skated Saturday by two-time U.S. champion and 2010 Grand Prix champion Alissa Czisny, former Team USA ice dancer and acclaimed author Karina Manta, and Ukrainian and U.S. competitor Kseniya Ponomaryova.

“It’s about finding the courage to challenge yourself,” said Webster. “So many different skaters have skated it, and it resonates with people. We wanted to bring that to the festival.”

Webster’s IDI will also perform Three Smokers, a piece choreographed by longtime New York City Ballet dancer and former director of the Miami City Ballet, Edward Villella. Inspired by his marriage to 1969 Canadian champion Linda Carbonetto, he got involved in skating and helped found IDI.

“This is an amazing opportunity to promote what skating can be,” said Webster. “We want to build a bridge between sport and art.”

In addition to ITNY and IDI, the Next Ice Age, American Ice Theatre, Joy Skate Productions and the Lexettes synchronized skating team will perform during Saturday’s exhibition.

“The Next Ice Age is rooted in the John Curry style,” said Wylie. “While AIT is more extemporaneous. They have these approaches that differ.”

All involved are hopeful this festival continues to grow and inspire, eventually becoming skating’s version of the Edinburgh Festival, a renowned international arts festival.

“Hopefully it becomes a global festival,” said North.

“I hope that it brings new ideas that help people understand skating differently than the rules of competition,” said Wylie. “There is an artistic side to it.”