We never actually retained a choreographer when my daughter was skating: she already had enough to learn, plus her coach seemed to have the instinct for promoting rink coverage and expressiveness. As I've watched tons of other skaters over the years however I've noticed that most of them seem to be stuck in unglamorous rink-coach mode. Although their programs do their best to match their music they seem to lack imagination. Targeted toward squeezing in the required elements, they fall short of making an artistic musically coordinated statement.
You know, you can retain a choreographer. Since I had no clue how you go about such a thing I contacted Kate McSwain (www.kmcswain.com) from Boston to find out more. Hopefully in the next couple of posts I can summarize her information well enough to fill us both in.
Early learn-to-skate programs focus on form and balance. Edges, arms up, stroking, posture. Many six year old skaters hit the ice for a show looking like tiny robots. Once your kid gets her balance and stops falling every time she runs through her program, it's likely time to loosen her up a bit. You can start this as early as FS1, when a skater is seven years old or so.
Check with your kid first and then chat up her coach. Does your coach know a choreographer? Sometimes this is a delicate conversation and you may have to be more firm: some coaches may dissuade you from bringing in someone who they may view as an impediment to their own influence. Push harder. Or casually check with another coach at the rink, or chat up other skate parents. Choreographers generally don't market themselves directly to skaters -- they all work through coaches. Your role as a parent is to get everyone onboard.
The good news is choreographers charge pretty much the same hourly rate as regular coaches. If your rink doesn't already have a resident choreographer then you can expect to reserve time with a visiting one -- many of them travel around. Kate said she plans on spending an hour of time with a skater for each minute of her program. For your typical skater (say with two programs running) getting your programs designed comes out to approximately 6-8 hours of choreo per season, so certainly affordable. After you've got your programs all layed out figure you'll want an additional 6-8 hours of advice over the course of the season for stylization and polishing your routines to perfection.